Reviews - Updated on March 30, 2022

On October 22, the third part of the anthology The Dark Pictures from Supermassive Games is released – one of the few horror games this year. It is all the more interesting to find out what kind of story turned out, both predecessors of which deserved “Prohodnyak”. We went through the prologue of House of Ashes and now we are sharing our first impressions of the latest attempt by the authors of Until Dawn to repeat the past success.

Horrors of war

Ash House takes place in 2003, at the end of the Iraq War. A squad of American soldiers are looking for a chemical weapons depot, but due to an earthquake, along with a couple of Iraqis, they fall into an ancient underground temple.

There are several playable characters, as always: CIA agents Rachel King, her ex-husband Eric, Marines Jason and Nick, and Iraqi officer Salim. Already in the first hour, the relationship of the former spouses is tested for strength, but the rest of the characters, it seems, will be revealed later.

The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes: Press Release Preview

The unhackneyed setting allowed the developers to create a very unusual atmosphere of a military thriller. At first, House of Ashes resembles Spec Ops: The Line rather than horror or youth slashers, except that they don’t let you shoot outside the cut-scenes. Another association is Uncharted: it is also interesting to explore ancient tombs here. Moreover, at the very beginning, the player enters a location that is large by the standards of the series with a large number of items to explore.

The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes: Press Release Preview

One of the starting locations is a huge hall of the tomb, which can be walked up and down.

Work on bugs

From the first hour, it seems that House of Ashes is a step forward for an anthology. First, in terms of gameplay: the game has difficulty levels for those who found QTE in previous parts too merciless, and the camera can now be rotated 360 °, as in traditional third-person action games. The rest of the gameplay remains the same, but now it’s a little less annoying.

The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes: Press Release Preview

The classic answer interface hasn’t gone away either.

Secondly, the first hour of the game is staged much better than previous The Dark Pictures. The quality of the camera work has grown significantly – in the introduction there are many interesting shots and angles that were almost never seen in Man of Medan and Little Hope.

The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes: Press Release Preview

Perhaps the most beautiful frame of the prologue.

It was the cinematography that made one of the gameplay sections a little more intense. The heroes move over the narrow threshold, and the player must perform a QTE to prevent the character from tripping over a stone. After a couple of seconds, a similar stone is shown close-up. The finger trembles over the QTE button, but this time nothing happens, and the glow drops sharply.

The behavior of the characters this time is also spelled out much better than before: in the prologue, only a couple of scenes cause laughter, which is already quite modest compared to previous games in the anthology.

The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes: Press Release Preview

Due to the setting and camera work, House of Ashes at times resembles adventure films in the spirit of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft.

A little more, a little more

Despite the increased overall quality, the House of Ashes anthology does not seem to get rid of some of the sores. Hero models have gotten slightly worse and now more often cause the effect of the uncanny valley, and some moments are still strikingly stupid. One such scene generally resembles not “Aliens” or “Predator”, which inspired the developers, but the comedy “Operation Dead Snow”, although it obviously should scare.

The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes: Press Release Preview

Unsuccessful claims of the creators of photorealism sometimes generate very strange shots.

So far, not everything is perfect with the gameplay either: occasionally the camera gets stuck in uncomfortable angles, and the characters are still very slow and clumsy. Outside of the cut-scenes, it seems that the stairs are the main enemy in the game: the heroes walk on them so slowly.

In addition, the new setting played a cruel joke on Supermassive Games: when you play as a professional military, you are no longer so afraid of monsters darting in the dark. For the first hour, House of Ashes does not seem to be trying to scare. Man of Medan and Little Hope did not succeed at all, but I want to believe that further House of Ashes will be scarier.

Variability during this time is also not easy to assess – in the prologue, a failed QTE radically affects further events only once – this is just the second intro scene, which does not seem very logical.

It is very difficult to evaluate the new Supermassive Games project by its intro – the rest of the game may turn out to be completely different. But the prologue gives hope that the developers listened to the opinions of the players and tried to correct their mistakes: the characters do not pour inappropriate, meaningless phrases, and the controls have become a little more convenient.

Some of the anthology’s problems remain, but House of Ashes seems to bring The Dark Pictures a little closer to being a worthy successor to Until Dawn. And the setting, unusual for horror, makes the game a little more interesting than its competitors, which this year are already few in number.

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