The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Review

Imagine walking through a tunnel in the underground ruins of the ancient Sumerian Empire. The camera focuses hard behind your back, adding to that feeling of claustrophobia and dread as you clumsily move through the caverns. Suddenly, you hear the distinctive screams of famous High School Musical diva Sharpay Evans from up ahead. You know that you are about to encounter a fast-paced fight against a God-forgotten terror that is sure to put your fast-time event skills to the test.

That’s what it’s like to play every game in The Dark Pictures Anthology series, and his latest tale, House of Ashes, is no different. If, like me, you think that Until Dawn was one of the most interesting games to come out of the last generation of consoles and you haven’t minded the growing pains that Supermassive Games has had to try to anthologize the series, House of Ashes is your Best job since Until Dawn in 2015. However, if you got bored with the formula or never liked it, the latest story probably won’t change your mind.

In a way, that’s the problem with this entire review. Supermassive hasn’t done any, well massive changes to the way your games are played or viewed outside of the new difficulty options. The facial capture is still mostly excellent, although at times the necks of the characters appear to be made of liquid. Environments look stunning at times, while others will remind you that Supermassive no longer works on a big Sony budget. The movement is clunky even though we now have full control over the camera while scanning. Most of the gameplay in House of Ashes’ roughly six hour runtime comes down to making decisions and performing different types of QTEs. It’s a formula that Supermassive has used with varying success in its last three Dark Pictures games, but in the right circumstances it’s still worth it.

Without getting into spoilers, House of Ashes is a step up in storytelling compared to the previous two games in the Dark Pictures series. Both Man of Medan and Little Hope tried to subvert expectations in ways that were never felt in the spirit of Until Dawn. House of Ashes sets back the pendulum of history and ends with the prospect of an entirely new direction for the series. After the reveals in Little Hope, I was fascinated to see what the team would do next. That’s not because it’s continually pursuing the excellence that is Until Dawn, but because the direction the franchise could take next is as interesting as The Dark Pictures Anthology has always been.

However, I don’t want to overstate the story. There are still cases of weirdly strained dialogue and certain aspects of the plot don’t really pay off in any meaningful way. Also, the idea of ​​a game set in the middle of the Iraq war with the Marines entering a secret compound to search for Saddam’s biological weapons can be off putting, knowing what we now know about how that particular conflict turned out.

The characters are still the weakest part of The Dark Pictures Anthology.

There is also the possibility that character bows feel undeserved or very clichéd. I mean, you can probably guess what could happen when a young Marine and an Iraqi soldier are forced to work together. Of course, it can change depending on your choices, but it never feels like Supermassive is breaking new ground with your character work. If anything, the characters continue to be the weakest part of The Dark Pictures Anthology, although the participants in House of Ashes are a small step up from what we’ve seen in Man of Medan and Little Hope, with Salim being the most notable.

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What House of Ashes does well is the same thing that made Until Dawn so special. Supermassive excels at generating tension at its best, and subtly uses the environment to help achieve this. For example, House of Ashes mainly takes place in an underground ruin. Think of movies like The Descent as a solid benchmark. In both that movie and this game, the creators use tight camera shots as the characters sneak through tunnels to add an additional feeling of claustrophobia, adding to the fear factor. You never know what’s going to happen around the next corner, and Supermassive is great for mixing up both jump scares and other ways to stay on your toes.

And for fans of the bloody deaths seen so often in horror games, new difficulty options make QTEs even more difficult. Of course, you can switch things to easy mode for a fun night out with friends. In that sense, we must mention that the cooperative mode is the best way to play these games. Whether in the same room via Movie Night or online, this is a scare you’ll want to share. If you want to take things up a notch and really see some blood and guts, the more difficult difficulty options will force you. I played mostly on the medium difficulty (Challenging) and didn’t have too much trouble, but uploading things to Lethal put me to the test, as it should.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Screenshots

In addition to all the good things about House of Ashes, there is a central mystery that is a return to Supermassive form. After two back-to-back intermediate finals with Man of Medan and Little Hope, this one nailed me. That’s not to say it’s groundbreaking or guaranteed to blow your mind, but it’s more in line with what many expected to see come out of Until Dawn. Plus, again, the implications it has for the future of the franchise are more than intriguing. Without spoiling much, it’s safe to say that I’m just as excited as I’ve been about the series since Supermassive first announced that it was making more horror games. If you can stick with what’s set, we could be on the verge of The Dark Pictures Anthology becoming a force in horror games.