The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes Review – Demons of the Past
With the PS4 exclusive Until Dawn, Supermassive Games has expanded on its success and continued on it with The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes. The Dark Pictures was an effort to create an anthology of horror stories in the style of their most popular title, Until Dawn. While the initial game was mediocre at best, the succeeding ones began to show more potential as they began to accept player criticism and improve on the weaknesses of their games.
House of Ashes is the third story in the collection The Dark Pictures. It’s a brand-new narrative set during America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. It follows American forces as they seek Saddam Hussein’s alleged chemical weapons of mass destruction. While the game is set in an era ripe for political correctness, it mainly steers clear of it in favor of focusing on the human element.
The game is technically stunning. It has some fantastic graphics and character models that are quite detailed. They do begin to appear eerie owing to the animation, which I believe is the weakest link in the whole presentation. During some movements, they may seem rigid. Their eye and lip movements do not appear natural, which contradicts their realistic character models. Let’s just say that Naughty Dog should teach Supermassive Games how to properly animate their characters.
With a new difficulty system, House of Ashes seeks to correct some of the flaws made by its predecessor. It allows you to enjoy the game only for the plot, without having to worry about the QTEs, which require rapid reflexes and are sometimes the only decision between life and death for a character. This was a problem in games like Man of Medan, where if you inadvertently misread a vital QTE, you’d lose your character. You no longer need to be concerned because the time of their execution is determined by the difficulty setting.
The Dark Pictures Anthology has always been a game about storytelling. This means that other than viewing cinematics, there isn’t much gameplay to be had. Consider TellTale Games and its story-driven games. However, because there is 360-degree camera movement in House of Ashes, you have a greater degree of flexibility. You will also be in the dark for a longer amount of time, allowing you to utilize a flashlight to illuminate the darkest parts. All of this contributes to the game’s immersion, making it feel less like a movie and more like a game.
The game got off to a great start, in my opinion. Your decisions appear to have an influence as well. Even though there are no divergent pathways, events unfold differently, dialogue alters, and the characters’ relationships are changed. As a result, it’s a good contender for replay value. It is also, by my estimation, the longest game in the series, and should take more than six hours to complete if you watch all of the cinematics. Given that there are several variations of the story, such as the Curator’s Cut, and that you can also play it in co-op, this is a relatively reasonable game duration.
The real question, though, is whether or not the game is frightening. No, not at all. While there is a great adventure to be had here, you do not get to feel the game’s spookiness. It just seems like you’re participating in an interactive journey and are focused on getting to the conclusion. With a promising start and an intriguing midsection, the game, unfortunately, fails to stay to the landing, and the ending can be disappointing. However, there is a lot of fantastic character development, and while I disliked some of the characters, I admired others, such as Iraqi Soldier Salim, who seemed like the game’s only nice character.
Before I wrap off my review, I’d want to point out that this is the first game in the series to provide native PS5 compatibility, and it’s a terrific execution. Not only has the graphic quality improved, but the game also supports 60 frames per second, therefore practically all checkboxes are checked this time. Loading is also extremely fast, and it occasionally occurs in the middle of a sequence, but owing to the quick load times, it is no longer a distraction.
The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes Game Information
- Price: $29.99
- Publisher: Bandai Namco
- Developer: Supermassive Games
- Platform: PS5 (Reviewed)
- Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher