When I was little, I remember watching The Mummy (1999 film) for the very first time. Like many, I was spellbound by the creepiness of the entire thing but especially the amount of time the characters spent walking around an ancient and dark tomb. For a couple of days, I had the same claustrophobic nightmare that I was trapped in a dark tomb and a mummy was following me around each corner. Luckily, as years have gone by and many adventure games such as Uncharted and Tomb Raider have provided these lovely experiences, I thought I got used to the notion. Then, I was sent a game to review, and all of sudden I was cast into the dark abyss of nightmare fuel, and yes the dreams are back. All thanks to the brilliantly crafted House of Ashes from The Dark Pictures Anthology.
Developed by Supermassive Games and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment, House of Ashes is the third installment in the series and oh boy does it deliver. Very much like its predecessors, the game follows a character choice-based narrative with QTE action sequences that affect the multiple outcomes of the plot. The difference from its predecessor (in my opinion) is that this story is far more involved and kept me engaged the entire time. The cast and narrative are well put together and although there is some spotty dialogue at times, everything flows very nicely. Who doesn’t wanna have Ashely Tisdale, who plays CIA officer Rachel King, yell at you while in a cave? There are also some recurring actors from New Hope as well.
Without giving too much away, the main plot revolves around a group of Marines and CIA operatives heading into an Iraqi base in 2003 where they believe Saddam Hussein has chemical weapons stored. While on the other side of the argument, we have Iraqi soldiers trying to defend their land, and finding themselves in the crossfire. An all-out battle ensues when the ground gives way and most of the people above ground are thrown into the darkness of an ancient Sumerian temple. I’ll leave the rest to the imagination but let’s just say they aren’t alone down there. The characters find themselves strewn across this temple which is half cave and half architectural wonder. As you travel, sometimes you will have nothing but the light of your gun or a lighter to guide you through the maze-like structure. The beauty of this game is that you never know what is around the corner and just how each decision is important to the next.
Just as in the previous games, you are given a few seconds to point a compass needle towards the words of your choosing. There are three options for dialogue, in which one will always be to say nothing. The dialogue choices will also affect the relationship and options between the characters. For example, one character wants to work on their relationship and the other may not. Depending on your choices, the future of their relationship will be determined and play a role in the storyline between other characters as well. Always trust your instincts with this game and remain true to yourself. It allows for a more immersive experience and truly makes you feel like you are with them in this situation. Each character has a menu in which you could see their characteristics and view their relationships with the other characters. They will react and remember how you were towards them, so always be mindful of that.
Also in the menu, you will see categories titled Bearings, Secrets, and Pictures. Bearings are story sequences that develop based on your decisions; a bunch of little crows will fly across the screen when this is activated. Secrets are things that you can find by walking around the environment, you can pick up or read things that might advance your decision process. Pictures are super useful because they give you a glimpse of a future deadly scenario that might happen based on your actions. There are multiple plot paths so don’t feel discouraged when things occur that you never intended. There are quite a few action sequences that require QTE interactions. If this is something that you might struggle with, the accessibility menu has a couple of options that will make your play-through experience better.
Two of the things that I loved most about this game were the graphics and multiplayer options. I played the game two separate times on my next-gen console and it looks incredible. The way the light shines off the stone walls and the third person over-the-shoulder camera perspective made me feel like I was watching a live-action movie at times. The haptic feedback on the remote allowed for even more jumps and immersion within this creepy tale so that was a plus. Having played the previous game on the PS4, I know you can expect high quality even with this new game on your console.
The multiplayer aspect of this game is one of its strongest selling points. You can play with a friend online via the shared story option, or with a group of friends in person titled “Movie Night.” Playing solo is fun and all but there’s something very thrilling about leaving some of the control in another player’s hands and seeing how their decisions progress the plot as well. When another person is playing, they will take control over multiple characters at separate times. You may not even be in the same scene and your friend will be in an entirely different situation all happening in real-time. For example, my character would be with another character searching for an item, while my friend is playing an entirely different character who is alone and trying to find me. Every decision and element of the multiplayer gameplay flows exceptionally well so tell your friend to pick up a copy too.
With a playthrough time of about 6 hours, the game keeps you on the edge of your seat and you’ll easily forget how much time has passed. As I was playing this, I was thinking “This could have easily been a top 10 movie on Netflix” but that’s just because the story is that gripping. I love the interactions between characters and the fear of uncertainty and mistakes. You feel as though you are really battling for survival and you want your characters to live. I wished more people played these kinds of games. Even now, I’m telling my friends to download it, and with a price of $29.99, it is basically a steal of a game. If horror games aren’t for you then don’t worry. This story is not super scary. It plays more on the fear of the unknown and the action of survival that in itself unlocks some sort of bravery. The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox series X/S. Will you survive what lies below?
This review was written based on a digital review copy of The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes for the PlayStation 5 provided by Supermassive Games and Bandai Namco Entertainment.