‘The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes’ game review

Image courtesy of Bandai Namco Entertainment

game: The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes
developer: Supermassive Games
genre: survival horror
platforms: PC, Xbox One & Series X/S, PlayStation 4 & 5
release date: October 22, 2021
star rating: five out of five

review by Ainsley Cotherman

House of Ashes is the third video game in The Dark Pictures Anthology. Most of the story takes place with the characters trapped in a hidden, underground, ancient temple. The halls you traverse toward the beginning of the game feel very much like catacombs. This is, in my opinion, one of the most unsettling environments for a horror game. It is perhaps only topped by one scene in the game where a character is wading through a lake of blood. Playing with headphones especially enhances the experience, as you can hear mysterious creaking, splashing, and other unexplained sounds that make it feel like danger could be around any corner.

The two precursor games to House of Ashes had twist endings which revealed that the source of fear had been some hallucination/figment of imagination all along, making the characters’ experiences and deaths feel less meaningful. Many players were vocal about disappointment in these endings. The producers must have taken this feedback into account when creating House of Ashes because, in this game, the threat remained real the whole time. Additionally, the characters are generally more likable in this game than the previous games. Depending on your choices, the characters in House of Ashes can build some strong, endearing relationships amongst themselves. Through this, they can demonstrate a lot of growth in emotional development and moral character. At any point in the game, you can view the status of relationships between characters, measured with positive/negative bars, which is a fun feature.

When comparing The Dark Pictures Anthology to Life is Strange, another “choices matter” game series, The Dark Pictures Anthology has several advantages. In contrast to the Life is Strange games, which are more like interactive movies, the Dark Pictures games have quick-time events that require you to press a series of buttons under a time limit. They have some shooter gameplay as well, and you get to choose from three different difficulty levels. Additionally, the choices in the Dark Pictures games tend to have more significant and long-term impact.

In summary, I have nothing but positive remarks for House of Ashes and rate it five out of five. The game has so much that makes it re-playable. There are around 30 different trophies you can earn, with varying degrees of rarity. For example, the trophy titled “Scratching at the Past” is achieved by uncovering all secrets (items hidden in the game), and, currently, only 21.87 percent of players have completed it. On my first playthrough, I kept three out of five players alive, so I am ready to go back and save the other two!

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