The life of a chief newspaper editor is never an easy one. Not only do you have to juggle reporters heading into dangerous situations and locations for the sake of the truth, but you also have to deal with the likes of government censorship, your writers’ personal agendas, and the need to sell enough copies to put food on the table. How can it get any worse? Well, Daily Chthonicle has one idea. Add in zombies, insane cults, inter-dimensional travels, and the Old Ones themselves. It’s a novel concept – one that juxtaposes mundane business management with spine-tingling supernatural scenarios, but a clever idea can only take one so far. Especially with mechanics like these.
The first thing you should know about Daily Chthonicle is that there’s not much as far as story is concerned. The main mode of play, ‘long game’ just requires you to research randomly generated cases around town, and all the themed campaign modes don’t really have any setup. The only difference between a long game and one of the campaigns is the addition of a more concrete end goal – such as stopping Cthulhu from driving the whole city mad.
While there isn’t a greater plot, mini-stories do emerge throughout the game as your journalists dig through the randomly generated cases. One particularly memorable example had a reporter talking to a deranged suspect at the docks, before being suddenly and bafflingly ambushed by a gang of clowns, who dropped crucial evidence after being defeated. Times like these are when Daily Chthonicle is at its best, reveling in its absurd premise and mixing and matching different horror tropes together for great effect. If there’s another game where I can trail around a suspicious man, only to come across a fortified door with a group of bloodthirsty skeletons waiting on the other end, I haven’t heard of it.
Sadly, once you get past the conceptual level of the game, things sort of fall apart. Gameplay in Daily Chthonicle boils down to assigning journalists to different parts of the city and then giving simple commands when they come across any obstacle or item of interest. Sadly, this is when things start to fall apart, as encounters require specific equipment that often makes little to no sense. Why would I need a crowbar and a lockpick to get past a brick wall? Who knows, the game doesn’t even try explaining what the point of some equipment is – and that’s why you have a handy ‘auto-equip’ button before every encounter.
Once I got into the groove of auto-equip and sending my reporters off for encounters, I began to realize just how oddly boring and formulaic Daily Chthonicle actually is. Without fail, the gist of the game boils down to this – encounter obstacle. Click to either engage it or return to the office. Click to auto equip gear before engaging. If hurt, return to the office and recover. If not, continue. Rinse and repeat. No matter what you’re up against, be it a thrilling car chase or an eldritch portal to another world, this is the only way to interact with anything in Daily Chthonicle.
This lack of gameplay would be at least passable if handled properly, but Daily Chthonicle even goes as far as to mask the simplicity in one of the most needlessly convoluted user interfaces ever conceived. To get anything done, you’ll find yourself juggling all sorts of weirdly-angled text boxes and struggle with finding out what ‘continue’ means in this case – will pressing continue bring you to the next prompt, or will it send your reporter off to another scenario? Despite beating the game four times, I still don’t really know when clicking continue is safe – and when it will cause me to have to wait for my reporter to bring important evidence back to the office.
This strange UI and general lack of communication are really what made me realize what Daily Chthonicle is at heart – it’s a mess. It’s a mess that comes from a good intention and killer concept, but a mess nonetheless. It’s really just one big half-baked idea that shows potential and clear effort, sure, but that’s not enough to save a title that’s just as broken and scattershot as Lovecraft’s own unhinged protagonists.
Daily Chthonicle: Editor’s Edition was reviewed on Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
Daily Chthonicle: Editor's Edition is a game with a good idea and a lot of heart poured into it, but is crippled by substandard at best mechanics.
- Imaginative Idea
- Great Emergent Narratives
- Messy Interface
- Repetitive Gameplay