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amazon The Dark Pictures Anthology House of Ashes reviews
House of Ashes is a cinematic horror game developed by Supermassive Games, best known for its title Until Dawn.
Game releases worldwide on October 22, 2021, for PC, Xbox Series X | S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.
This is the third installment in the Anthology of Horror Games called The Dark Pictures Anthology.
Since the writer has not experienced the previous titles in The Dark Pictures Anthology, Man of Medan, and Little Hope, this article will focus on what House of Ashes has to offer, not what this game has done better.
House of Ashes is set in May 2003, when the first phase of the US invasion of Iraq is coming to an end. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Eric King and an elite unit of Marines are assigned to raid an underground chemical weapons facility under the Zagros Mountains.
When King and his crew arrived at the coordinates, they were ambushed by a local patrol led by Lieutenant Salim Othman. The two factions fire with each other, causing the land they were standing on to vibrate, opening sinkholes in the ground.
Both sides of the battle fell into the pit and when they awoke, they found themselves in the ruins of a buried Sumerian temple.
Hidden in the darkness of this temple are evil ancient creatures. They were almost unstoppable and their hunt had begun.
As a game “Interactive Drama”, the main value of House of Ashes is shown not through the action or stealth scenes.
Instead, the main value of the games of this genre is the choices it offers players.
However, when it comes to this game genre, many gamers will probably think of its common disease. It is “choice without meaning” also known as the “illusion of choice”.
Called that, that because, in many games (mostly Telltale’s), the player can’t change the story no matter how hard they try to manipulate it.
The House of Ashes has done a great job of curbing this. Throughout three rounds, the writer has seen the difference between the choices, even the small ones.
Game choices can be conversations, mission decisions, or even QTEs (Quick Time Events).
The distribution of picks is also quite good, with some early game picks – seemingly innocuous – affecting the late game.
Not stopping there, many of the game’s options can only be unlocked if the player spends time exploring the surrounding area.
Another factor that is also related to the choice is the personality of the characters.
For example, one of the characters that we will control is Jason Kolchek. He is a lieutenant who enlisted in the Marines after the 9/11 disaster.
Because of this, Jason will default to behave hostilely towards Salim Othman, Lieutenant of the Republican Guard.
When these two characters communicate, the player (as Jason or Salim) can attack the other, leading to some options being locked in the future. On the contrary, if the two unite, several new options will be opened.
Since the game has a lot of options and most of the choices lead to different outcomes, the replay value of House of Ashes is quite high.
Not only that, many options can only be opened if items are found during the exploration period, and these items are also relatively difficult to find.
In addition, House of Ashes also has a 5-player local or 2-player online cooperative game mode, which also leads to some scenes and conversations with added details.
where can you get a The Dark Pictures Anthology House of Ashes online
The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes – PlayStation 4: Buy it now
The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes: Buy it now
The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes (PS4): Buy it now
Finally, there’s the Curator’s Cut mode. Simply put, this is the “Director’s Cut” version of the game, adding new scenes, new perspectives, and of course new options.
For example, at the beginning of the game, instead of controlling Lieutenant Colonel Eric King, we will be playing the role of his wife – agent Rachel King.
Or in the shooting scene between the US and Iraqi troops, instead of playing the members of the US squad, we will play that scene again as Lieutenant of the Republican Guard Salim.
As a game with a relatively short duration (nearly 5 hours a turn), a high replay value is essential.
One of the factors that make horror work scary is the fact that the main character is not able to cope with the forces that hunt them. The feeling of helplessness in the face of the enemy and the imminent death is what worries the writer.
For example, in the game Tormented Souls, the main character is a normal woman with limited weapons, which increases the feeling of terror every time an enemy is encountered.
Or Resident Evil 7, when Capcom chose the new protagonist as a civilian because the old characters (like Leon, Chris, or Jill) are now too skilled and experienced.
The main characters of House of Ashes are special forces, and soldiers, with equipment to their teeth. Every time an enemy appears, their first reaction is to shoot bullets and use tactics to cope.
Indeed, guns are not effective at killing monsters, but the fact that the characters we are so good at and do not panic have made it difficult to convey the feeling of fear to the player.
The second reason is that House of Ashes is designed to ensure most of the time can be played online with 2 people, this also means that the characters are often paired with each other.
Exploring a dark, narrow area is quite scary… if you go alone. If going “together”? There’s nothing to worry about.
The third reason is the way the game lays out the segments.
More specifically, the game will be divided into two parts, roughly called “exploration” and “action”.
“Explore” is when the player freely controls the character and the camera is placed behind the shoulder. We’ll go find a location or find the materials and/or supplies needed to keep the game going.
“Action” is when the game shifts the camera angle continuously like an action movie, preparing the player to make quick decisions or perform QTEs.
The problem here is that while some exploration segments put players in tight spaces to feel scared, just playing through once is enough for the writer to realize that nothing will happen.
There will be no surprise QTEs, no jumpscare, and no enemy attacks. These narrow and dark streets simply go from point A to point B.
The final cause is the design of the monsters in the game. They are quite… normal and do not cause fear. If I had to describe it simply, they are like the parademons appearing in Justice League, the Chitauri army of the Avengers, and the Man-Bat character in Batman: Arkham Knight combined.
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