Published on February 28th, 2022 | by Zorbz

REVIEW – The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes

The latest instalment of the dark pictures anthology once again tackles a different theme/setting to the previous entries in the series which is great to keep the horror series fresh, but can it deliver a truly scary and interesting experience?

Concept/Story: Known for being a sort of choose your own adventure style game, you will be tasked to make certain decisions throughout which have a ripple/butterfly effect throughout the course of the story and speaking of story, the game takes place during a war between the American and Iraqi people in the country of Iraq. You play through the story as a bunch of US soldiers apart from one Iraqi trooper. At first I was confused what this had to do with anything horror related but it just so happens that the US had intel that there was an underground silo and upon investigation get swept into a giant sinkhole filled with ancient underground ruins.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a horror game without some nasties down there so of course there’s some hellish beasts lurking as well as some other creepy surprises.

Whilst the story started at an incredibly slow pace, once the characters fall down into the sink hole things start ramping up consistently and i found myself deeply engrossed from that moment on.
The dialogue is simple yet effective and it’s more about the environmental storytelling and reading journal entries and other artifacts you pick up along the way to tell the deeper story.

I have to say I wasn’t sure what to expect during the first hour or so but I’m glad I continued through the slog of an opener as this turned out to be an enjoyable ride. I wouldn’t say it’s the scariest of the series at all but it’s definitely a well told tale.

Graphics: Ever since Supermassive released Until Dawn i have been impressed by the amount of detail that goes into the visuals, from character models to environments and lighting, to the amazing lip-syncing which so many games struggle to get right. This still rings true for House of Ashes but for some reason the characters eyes threw me off as they’re constantly moving about awkwardly, it sounds like a small gripe, but it does detract from immersion. Other than that as I stated Supermassive put a look of work into the visuals and the lighting in House of Ashes for the most part looks fantastic, as does the world they’ve created. There is the occasional scene that the lighting looks wrong or is too foggy etc but for the most part it looks top notch.

They definitely know how to create environments that just ooze atmosphere.

Gameplay: House of Ashes is once again played from a third person perspective giving you full control over the camera movement and flashlight as you look around the environment for clues and items to interact with. This is when you’re not taking part in the interactive cutscenes where you must be extremely quick to react to quick time events or else you could potentially kill one of the playable characters. I don’t know why but i feel this entry was less forgiving in the timing department, unless my reflexes are waning in my old age.

If you’ve played any of the other games in the series, you’ll know exactly what to expect from the gameplay, one thing I found annoying though is how zoomed in the camera sits behind the character at times to the point you can’t see properly in sections… It was just frustrating.

In terms of the technical side of things there’s the occasional hitches and frame drops which is weird because I was playing the PS5 edition. I wonder if playing the PS4 version on the PS5 would iron these issues out.
Characters can move around pretty slow which i understand makes sense for this type of experience, but a run option would have made a world of different in some sections. The animations can be quite stiff and rigid too which makes the slow pace feel quite sluggish at times.

Sound: The voice acting as always in the Dark pictures anthology is top notch which is funny because horror is known to be quite cheesy with poor acting but i never feel like I’m part of a B-grade horror, so that’s a big plus for making me feel engrossed in the story.

The other thing that truly creates a sense of foreboding is the music and effects used through the story which can have you lulled into a false sense of calm only to then have you nearly rocket out of your seat. What i also appreciate is the jump scares are used sparingly and instead the team opts for suspense building throughout instead of cheap thrills.

Awesomeness: What this series does best if offer some amazing replay value and not just in the traditional sense but offering a curator’s mode where you play out scenes from other characters perspective different to the first run through, giving you more incentive to replay the game. There are of course all the different choices you can make to either kill off characters or have them survive making for multiple playthroughs to see everything and unlock all the trophies.

What is probably the coolest feature introduced back in Man of Medan is the multiplayer mode where you and friends can take control of specific characters resulting in each person taking full responsibility of their choices which can also affect everyone else playing. This makes for a fun party experience between friends.

Final word:
Whilst House of Ashes is not as polished as I’d have liked in parts, i was still invested in the story and it never gets old trying to make the right decisions to keep characters alive. If you’ve played any of the previous Supermassive games and enjoyed them then you’ll feel right at home with this.

For newcomers you can totally play this without having played any previous entry and still have a great time, although I do recommend playing the previous titles as well as Until Dawn.

Now I’m looking forward to the finale of this anthology which has been a wild ride.

REVIEW – The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Zorbz

Out of 5 Bugs!




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