The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes review
Medan, and a terrifying vortex in an isolated American village in Little Hope, the horror game series Dark Pictures now takes us to the deserts of Iraq at the beginning of the current millennium with the House of Ashes in which the developer does everything necessary To employ some well-known sources of inspiration in the usual interactive framework from the developer, which is no less than some large productions in the aspects of storytelling and artistic direction.
The game develops some of the earlier concepts we’ve seen in past entries, and the developer seems to be trying very hard to focus on keeping players alert and in a state of constant focus by letting them think and research the secrets and facts for themselves.
But at the same time, these options negatively affected some of the artistic and cinematic touches that we have always been accustomed to from the developer, as we will discuss today in this review.
House of Ashes game story
House of Ashes takes place in Iraq at the end of 2003, just a few days after Saddam Hussein was captured. According to Colonel Eric King’s analysis and based on satellite discoveries, the US Army sent a patrol of soldiers on a mission to locate some of the chemical weapons of mass destruction that the dictator had hidden. A group of Iraqi soldiers who have unwavering loyalty to the Iraqi Republican Guard, including one of the main heroes, Lieutenant Salim Othman.
A violent gun battle ensued that resulted in casualties on both sides, but like any horror movie, the situation worsened by some earth fissures started to open up in the area around them, causing sand, buildings and of course people to sink underground.
The survivors on both sides could not imagine that this would be the beginning of a real nightmare, deeply rooted in antiquity, related to a mythical kingdom under the control of a king who has no problem spilling blood in order to achieve his unknown goals.
House of Ashes follows the narrative structure applied in the previous instalments, which blends interactive video games and cinematic experiences with a cast of five characters who will take turns playing through dialogues, exploration segments, and chases until the completion of the story that takes 4-6 hours to see in its entirety.
Most of the game’s events this time take place in the ruins of what looks like an ancient temple, a cold and dark place made up of stifling and terrifying tunnels, inhabited by what looks like disfigured and bloodthirsty creatures.
On the one hand, one player alone can control all characters at the same time, collect hieroglyphs and collectables and press quick time actions at set times, on the other hand, the experience can be shared with up to 5 players at the same time locally or online through Loan the console or hold a group session online, giving each player the opportunity to choose the fate of the character he takes on through many separate paths and different sequences based on the player’s choices, and his ingenuity in controlling his emotions while exposed to everything that is terrifying and mysterious while roaming the tunnels.
Monsters are rarely visible in this game, and in fact, everything you see can be treated as a great review of the game’s most important sources of inspiration for claustrophobia, most notably the horror films The Descent and The Cave, as well as many different references to The Exorcist and Aliens and Mountains of Madness by acclaimed horror writer ET Lovecraft.
Development of game characters
There are really very few creative elements, but House of Ashes continues to amaze us anyway from start to finish, which is partly due to the way the plot is broken down and its development and very much based on the characters and the way they are used in this horrific mix of horrific and much-loved heritage.
This time, the developer, unlike previous entries, manages to make the characters interesting by presenting each one of them with plans, dreams and ambitions (many of which have not come true, of course) from the start instead of just putting them in the wrong place and time.
The characters’ mutual relationships also provide a lot of additional tension, like Jason, moved by the trauma of his recent past and a sudden confrontation with an enemy soldier whose whole worldview shakes him, or Eric and Rachel, an estranged couple who live in a tense relationship because of one of them’s betrayals, and then there’s Salim the Iraqi soldier who finds Himself in the lion’s den, it quickly turns out to be the emotional heart and central focus of the entire game’s story.
Choices during the game
One of the important themes in the House of Ashes is the line between friend and foe, which becomes very thin in intense circumstances. Is it appropriate to bury political and emotional grudges in the face of the greatest and greatest evil?
If it does, will it end up with the seed of a new, peaceful life, or does man not actually change his skin, as it is said? All these questions and more are asked here, and you also have the opportunity to answer them yourself in a fateful framework that makes the consequences of choosing (or not choosing) dire. With around 60 different ways characters die, there are plenty of life situations that will test the player’s toughness and consistency.
This also easily translates to the great replayability that this series of games specifically supports, and its versatility in getting players to pay attention and think for a good amount of time.
There are some welcome additions as well that Little Hope started with in the past, such as giving a quick and simple warning before a QTE appears on the screen, choosing from three different difficulties that control the amount of time you have to choose, and the need to press the button repeatedly or continuously Or touch it only once.
As for what House of Ashes does, it now allows you to be able to move freely while rotating the camera angles as you wish, but given that most environments are very enclosed and cramped, with little space to explore and manoeuvre, we found this addition to be useless, and in fact, we missed The fixed cinematic angle, which was used extensively in the past, has a terrifying and enchanting effect on the player’s psyche and sense of helplessness in many times, and we can say that this change greatly detracted from the cinematic expression of this game from the previous parts.
We honestly don’t really know why this new direction was taken because the environments are not complex at all and all the lanes are linear except for some that have only one crossroads. There has been no development regarding the design of the levels and their forms are still elementary and cliched. The movement mechanics also do not have any new ideas, and we understand that the developer may have done this so that players do not feel bored during long viewing sessions, but in the end, we think that in this way the game lost more than it gained, and it was better to settle on the cinematic side of the entire experience.
The cinematic scenes
The cinematic scenes used, of course, remain attractive, as we have always been accustomed to from the developer, and this is due to the outstanding artistic output and the impressive use of sounds, which of course uses Dolby Atmos sound processing technology for Xbox Series (the version that we tested the game on), to display the feeling of the great emptiness and the great depths of the earth, Disturbing noises, airflows, bat squeaks, thunderous sounds and a whole gamut of effects you’d almost hear in some other games, but here you feel them all together and know the exact position of their source even if you’re using regular headphones.
My personal opinion about The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes
All The Dark Pictures games have a full translation of the menus and texts, but the Arabic framework here makes a difference not only in the written words but in the dubbing as well.
The translation is very acceptable but the translator seems to have had some confusion in translating the nuances between the words and their nature in context, in addition to the fact that some characters use the Egyptian rather than the Iraqi dialect in speaking with Iraqis, and although this does not make a big difference, it was possible to increase Realism by employing a real Iraqi speaker to cover the dubbing deficit.
There is also all the content for the game industry and the Curator’s Cut mode that adds a new look and alternative options available since the first launch day of the game so you don’t have to worry about it being available in future updates coming, but unfortunately, this is only available to those who pre-ordered the game, but whoever purchased the game must He’ll have to wait for Curator’s Cut to be available in a future free update.
House of Ashes is a step forward in terms of scripts, ambience, character backgrounds and artistic perception of inspirations, but the gameplay takes a step back with improvements and resolutions that don’t benefit the game’s overall cinematic direction, sometimes negatively, but overall not We continue to respect the developer’s passion for horror, its originality, its fine detail, its ingenuity in conveying it and the selection of the best actors to help players immerse themselves in these terrifying experiences in a new and interactive way with friends.
Game review summary
The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes is a fun horror experience in which the developer’s ingenuity in conveying the sense of claustrophobia in multiple forms will leave you with some real moments of pain and tension, but the gameplay still requires some improvements to bring out the developer’s vision in the best possible way.
The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes Pros and Cons
- Characters with different depth and attractive political backgrounds.
- Multiple difficulty levels.
- The ability to move freely and explore some areas while playing.
- Recruit many sources of inspiration professionally.
- Supporting voices on Xbox Series raises the level of the experience.
- Not using a fixed camera angle affects the display strength of some scenes.
- Curator’s Cut is now available to pre-order.
- Uncomplicated and most of the time linear gaming environments.