Suspense and Arcane Horror in Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Crystal Palace One-Shot from Critical Role

 

(The show starts around the 6-minute mark, as it doesn’t seem to be autoplaying from there properly.)

Victorian London is holding its annual cat show at the Crystal Palace–an exhibition center made of glass, now fallen into disrepair. It is under the guise of this event that six enterprising professionals are hired to “procure” an artifact from the closed portions of the building for a collector. A world-trotting explorer, an enterprising daughter of Japanese ambassadors, an archivist from the British Museum, an engineer previously employed by Edison, a spiritualist, and a veteran now employed by the gentlemen collector paying for this enterprise–all of these people venture into the depths of the Crystal Palace to find much more than what they were looking for.

A cross between historical fiction and arcane horror, this is a role-playing adventure with a cast of professional voice actors. And it’s awesome.

The atmosphere is creepy and intellectual, with the vivid personalities of the characters adding so much to the charm of the story. All of them have their quirks and their secrets. As they begin their explorations, hints of those aspects of them come out a little at a time. The story is further enhanced by the obvious excitement of the cast whenever they find something and get another prop handed to them. And the audience is left wondering how much is left to discover, and whether it’ll be enough to save them from the inevitable nightmare in store for them further into the game.

The story had so many things to love:

  • Thomas Edison got trash-talked. Well deserved.
  • There were these clever moments of dialogue when characters would poke at the holes in each other’s backstories that just felt fun.
  • The scramble to figure out a way out and the time crunch before things got worse had this hectic, suspenseful feel. My heart was racing, and clearly that was true for the cast as well.

All in all, a great mystery with an eerie feel to it, and in time for Halloween season.