The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Review: Rocky Horror Game

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The Anthology of Dark Images had a difficult start. The man of Medan was a semi-turbulent start as Little hope, the second entry, deserved to be burned at the stake. House of Ashes is the third entry and takes the series to Iraq circa 2003. It’s a unique place and time that is ripe for a horror game and although it’s the best of the trio, it’s still a goofy storytelling filled game. technical shortcomings, particular rhythm and wobbly animation.

However, most House of Ashes‘the best parts are derived from its framework. Like the prior Dark images games have shown, horror is generally banned in spooky houses, ships or damp places. Putting a horror game in the dry deserts of the Middle East is almost unheard of, especially in video games, and this change of scenery is inherently intriguing. Different scenarios open up the possibility of different scares in the same way that tired environments open the way for tired scares, as seen in The man of Medanthe ghost ship and Little hopeis the cursed city.

But it’s time that gives more meaning to the place. House of Ashes takes place just after the US invasion of Iraq circa 2003, where the chauvinistic lies about weapons of mass destruction and the demonization of the peoples of the Middle East were still rapidly propagated by the slower idiots. Placing gaming at the center of this conflict positions it better to tackle real issues in one way or another, which is a far cry from games like 2019. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare who hide behind false names of countries to dive safely in the comfort of “fiction”.

House of Ashes veers right into non-fictitious territory with its premise. A group of US soldiers are believed to have found a Saddam Hussein chemical weapons silo and raided a small rural farm in an attempt to capture it. Bad news, a surprise Republican Guard attack and an earthquake disrupt the operation, and the soldiers collapse into newly opened cracks in the sand, tripping over an ancient underground Sumerian temple.

Running the game with a failed weapons raid is a straightforward way to draw parallels to the real world, and it generally works. As on the nose, the fact that something catastrophic is unfolding after said raid says a lot about the war in Iraq. One of the Americans, Nick, even repeatedly criticizes the war and their actions in different ways throughout the game, bringing the necessary nuances to the ordeal and ensuring that the setting is not just a hollow backdrop. free from the exam. Some past war crimes are weirdly brushed aside and some of the inhuman characters don’t have an arc, but there’s more than enough to avoid being a sanitizing of war.

Salim, the sole Iraqi protagonist, also brings a unique perspective to the conflict while avoiding the nationalism that war often brings. He’s one of the most memorable people because of it, which makes it puzzling why Supermassive hasn’t brought in even more Iraqi characters because it’s a point of view so rarely seen in video games.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Review: A rock horror game in an intriguing Iraqi setting

And as the characters sink deeper into the earth, the story also gets deeper, but it takes a while. After a well-edited and choreographed prologue that carefully presents them, the bat-like creatures become the main antagonist and add even more tension to the already tense situation. They’re carefully crafted and incorporate elements of monsters from classic movies without directly copying them, resulting in a familiar but different beast.

At first, they look like nothing more than a classic fanged monstrosity meant to maim the protagonists. Corn House of Ashes ends up entering their story in a way that recalls its themes and setting. Part of it is glossed over and not everything is done with grace, but it’s clever and shows how a well-designed monster can add significantly to horror on multiple levels if done right.

Learning about the bald gargoyles takes center stage in the final act, where the game is at its best. He’s starting to subvert expectations, showcase his best scenarios, and add gameplay mechanics that do more than just move forward without giving it much thought. But it takes too long to get to this point and loads up all of its most cliched and boring elements and turns the build-up into a chore.

Most of the game is about walking through a narrow hallway with a camera too close and obscuring the view. Tightening the point of view to make the player feel claustrophobic is one thing, but the heavy movement and wide bars at the top and bottom of the screen make it more frustrating than scary (although thankfully that doesn’t rest. too much on the scary jump time). And it happens over and over again and is never as tense as the game wants it to be.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Review: A rock horror game in an intriguing Iraqi setting

The characters are the most boring during the first two acts and while the writing is helpful, the animation for humans is choppy (although the animal animation for the beasts is amazing). Faces can come alive at times, but they often lack expression, which the game strangely notices when in slow motion. The character models are extremely detailed, but some have oddly shaped heads with swollen throats that make them feel like they have goiter, a bad case of mumps, or just recently unhooked their jaws and swallowed a whole rabbit. .

These oddly proportioned heads are associated with strangely animated bodies. A realistic performance will shine at times, but most of the time these lost souls look like a bunch of stiff models taking a acting class at a community college. The eyes also contribute to this robotic feeling, as the characters hardly ever look at who they are talking to. Combined with the line readings that immediately feel out of touch Bedroom and Supermassive has traveled so far into the Weird Valley that he’s starting to look more like the weird Mariana Trench.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Review: A rock horror game in an intriguing Iraqi setting

House of Ashes is also difficult in many other areas. Some scenes rely too much on the intersection in a way that completely erases its forward momentum. Its forced inclusion of simultaneous co-op means that solo players often only watch for longer periods of time. Switching between players in couch co-op is shocking, especially during action scenes, and the game will display the switch prompt even when that person is already playing. Load times appear in weird places and slow down further.

Faster load times on the PlayStation 5 (and possibly the Xbox Series X | S) can reduce some of the pacing issues, but the latest gen is a bit crippled by slower players that add an unnecessary commercial break to many scenes. And that’s doubly bad since the PS4 version (and, again, presumably the Xbox One) is much worse in most aspects, even when backward compatible.

The PS4 port is significantly more buggy than the PS5 version and full of annoying issues. Many textures were blurry or not loading. Some rocks glowed bright pink or orange. Weapons regularly floated in the air. The ejected casings sometimes float as if they were floating in space. Talking characters don’t always move their mouths. While it still looks relatively solid, it was a technical mess compared to its current gen iterations.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Review: A rock horror game in an intriguing Iraqi setting

House of Ashes improves some aspects of Dark images‘formula with its wealth of accessibility settings, three difficulty modes and a less intrusive aiming reticle. But he needs to take bigger steps forward, which means having more meaningful branches and not becoming so dependent on quick events. Repeated plays may make minor variations to some scenes, but going through them again will likely only emphasize the illusion of choice in the game.

Having more choices would make the game stronger, especially if those choices were incorporated into the more interactive portions. There are parts of the game that reward players for exploring and finding useful items, but these items are rare. A part even rewards players who pay attention to their steps. Both of these allow players to engage in the game more organically and change the story in a more involved way than just hitting the X button at the right time.

House of Ashes has a distinct setting with themes and twists that give it more meaning and style compared to its others Dark images brothers. This is unequivocally the best thing Supermassive has done since Until dawn. But that bar is pathetically low because the five console horror games that followed that unexpectedly successful 2015 were all either mediocre or downright terrible. House of Ashes gets close enough to the surface to see sunlight beaming through the cracked chunks of earth above, but it’s still stuck underground.

GOAL: 6.5 / 10

As the ComingSoon review policy explains, a score of 6 equals “decent.” It does not reach its full potential and is a mundane experience.


Disclosure: The publisher provided ComingSoon with a PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 copy of The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes for this review.

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Raymond I. Langston

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