A bright spot for dark images

The Dark Pictures Anthology has now delivered its first three games in a series that, if Supermassive succeeds, could spawn eight in total. Conceptually, it’s a series I’m attached to. I wish there was a great horror anthology with something to look forward to every Halloween. The Dark Pictures has yet to look stunning just yet, and his latest entry, House of Ashes, isn’t the one that will take him there. This military horror, set against the interesting backdrop of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, makes huge strides as a game, but its movie-like storyline still lacks a few final pieces that would earn it the same praise. as a story.

House of Ashes Review: A bright spot for dark images

In House of Ashes, players once again take on the role of five different characters. Most of them are American soldiers using emerging technology that intends to help them find Sadaam Hussein’s legendary WMD. When, surprisingly, no ADM is found and the technology proves to be flawed, those responsible can hardly be reprimanded before the whole group finds itself sinking hundreds of meters underground. Ultimately, the shootout they had with the Iraqis above gave way to secret Sumerian ruins buried under centuries of civilization. It would be bad enough if they were just stuck in the dirt with no easy way out. It’s even worse when Republican Guard soldiers are there with them. Worse yet, something is lurking in the shadows and preying on the soldiers regardless of their uniform. This opening act is the strongest in the anthology to date. The choice to take the series back in time to 2003 and tackle something as controversial as the Second Iraq War is a bold one, and Supermassive uses it in good faith to tell a story about both sides working together. to defeat a common (and enemy of another world). However, these themes end up feeling a bit bland, as House of Ashes suffers from the same problem that all Dark Pictures games have: uninspiring characters. Like Shawn Ashmore and Will Poulter before her, Ashley Tisdale is the familiar face of this Supermassive horror story series, and while she manages to break away from her Disney Channel roots, none of the interpersonal drama is enough. intriguing in the players as much as the action itself. For a game that looks like a movie, that’s a problem. Tisdale’s love triangle story is built on early and often clichés. A melodramatic, melodramatic discussion of who loves who while the band fear for their lives sounds like absurdly bad timing. It could almost be taken as a comedy except this game is serious all the time. The rah-rah marines find an ally in one of the Iraqi soldiers stuck in hell with them, but it seems just as predictable. You’ll hear a lot about the unfair invasion, but it doesn’t get any further than a talkative segment between life insurance commercials. You’ll learn how the Iraqi soldier has a son, but it feels like a cheap shortcut to getting players to care about the character. Many characters suffer from similar tropes. You know right away which characters are just red shirts that won’t last beyond the first few minutes. Fortunately, the actual gameplay of House of Ashes represents the best of this series. If you’ve played any of these games (or Until Dawn) before, you already know the setup; it’s third-person cinematic gameplay with a heavy dose of QTE and tough dialogue decisions in a story where anyone can die. Where House of Ashes improves upon this familiar formula is in several places. On the one hand, the work of the camera is much improved. Previous games in the series have used fixed camera angles to better resemble a Hollywood production. House of Ashes ditch this for a smoother over-the-shoulder camera, albeit a little further back than other games. This greatly reduces the awkward, jerky movements that the series is sometimes known for. Now you can better see where you’re going – well, from a camera angle point of view anyway. It’s still dark in the caves, after all. Another improvement that Supermassive brings is to include better difficulty levels which can increase tension in fast-paced events and generally be less forgiving of your actions. I played on the default difficulty most of the time, but when that meant I beat the game without losing any of my characters in a game that reveled in its tough choices, I came back and tried hard again. , only to use my time a lot more because the stakes seemed insanely higher. Above all, the best thing that House of Ashes does differently is the way it implements its mechanics. So often in past games like this, your heaviest decision always came down to actions. Do you choose to save this character or this one? Are you telling the truth or are you lying? The choices in these games are always active choices that require participation. In House of Ashes, there are more opportunities to do something pivotal by committing to inaction. In my favorite case, my refusal to sever ties with a particular character, even though it seemed to doom another if I didn’t act, ultimately became the reason both characters survived my story. There are several examples of this. Not shooting a gun even if the game prompts you and gives you a short timer is another fun recurring inaction. If you can consider the context of a moment, not just its instructions, you will often be slowed down in the best outcome. It requires that you participate in the story, not just follow the onscreen prompts. It brings me back to my favorite scene in Little Hope from last year, only then did I do something wrong and kill someone. In House of Ashes, I feel rewarded for paying special attention and knowing when to exercise some trigger discipline, both literally and figuratively. Because it looks gorgeous – like in one of the prettiest games of the year – and it’s still fun to play in co-op, I find House of Ashes passes to replace your next one. horror movie marathon choice. . At around five to six hours per game, it will likely take more than a night to beat him, but a few character decisions that cause moaning don’t make him unplayable, just unsatisfied.

House of Ashes Review – The Result

Advantages

Improved, more thoughtful gameplay Better camera work dramatically reduces jank Beautiful visuals in every frame

The inconvenients

The characters aren’t intriguing The story braces for some interesting commentary, then drops into tropes Overall, House of Ashes feels slightly better than Little Hope, which certainly felt better than Man of Medan. This means that The Dark Pictures entries are, to my measure, on an upward trajectory, and I sincerely hope Supermassive will be able to do more. While I don’t think this series has reached its full potential yet, I think this is just a very good storyline for getting there. As a game, The Dark Pictures is now well placed. As a script, this third entry in the series goes for The Descent and ends only decently.
[Note: Supermassive Games provided the copy of The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes used for this review.]

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