I'm not currently in the market for a husband, but if I was it would mainly be for the purposes of losing him somewhere mysterious so I could go on a cracking adventure to try and rescue him. Call of the Sea is Firewatch meets Lovecraft meets The Shape of Water, all led and narrated by a spitfire of a woman named Norah Everhart who travels to the South Pacific on an expedition.
Norah's husband – the Dean of Archaeology at Miskatonic University – has gone on the search for a cure to her mysterious and debilitating illness, evidence of which you can see in the dark, blotchy spots on your character's arm. His expedition has gone missing, and Norah is determined to find him, traveling to a lush island and following the trail his group left behind. There are photographs, audio recordings, diary entries, and letters, all of which can help you piece together just why dear old Harry never made it home. These are scattered among abandoned camps, the interior of a shipwrecked boat, and the strange occult ruins that dot the island.
Sun, sea, and secret rituals
Something about the feel of it, a lonely – but beautiful – landscape and a story slowly unfurling feels very Firewatch, but the Call of the Sea dodges any walking simulator tags with puzzles that are just the right side of tricky. Doors need to be opened by recreating constellations, murals decoded, and power resupplied to essential equipment to continue on your way. The puzzles are beautifully balanced too, not so complex you immediately head to YouTube for a solution feeling like your math teacher was totally right about your failures, but not so easy they feel like last-minute set dressing.
The pace is slow but never boring, and in these cold winter months feels like curling up with an Agatha Christie novel, only the glow is coming from 77 inches of OLED television instead of a blazing fire. It's a great story, told with heart, and the perfect narration provided by Cissy Jones.
What I really love, and which I'll try desperately to avoid spoiling, is just how weird it all gets. Not all at once, but as you make your way down the rabbit hole of mysteries, it becomes much more than just a period piece of adventuring. Even better, you'll be so attached to Norah by then that the shades of the supernatural only make her story all the more intriguing, and you'll be internally cheering on her voyage of self-discovery even as you're pondering strange claw marks on the walls of stone huts.
At the end of your adventure, the game gives you a choice, one that I stressed over more than I have about some actual serious real-life decisions. Of course, I immediately went back to an earlier save to see just how different the consequences were if I had chosen differently, and I'm still not sure which one I preferred. All I know is that both left me emotional. You'd be forgiven for missing Call of the Sea until now, it was released on PC and Xbox One in December, right as the Cyberpunk 2077 drama hit, but now is the perfect time to discover it.
The Call of the Sea is out now on PC and Xbox One. It's also included as part of Xbox Games Pass.