The Dark Picture Anthology: House of Ashes is the third chapter of Supermassive Games’ horror anthology, we find out in this review how much the series has evolved compared to the past
Supermassive Games returns again this year with a new chapter of the horror anthology called The Dark Pictures Anthology. We are already facing the third title of the saga published by Bandai Namco, this time entitled House of Ashes, which we will tell you about in this review. The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes comes out just in time to celebrate Halloween on PS4 and PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series S / X and PC. Those who have already played the two previous titles, namely Man of Medan and Little Hope, will find themselves faced with a similar game structure with some small changes and a new horror story to live alone or with friends. So let’s go and discover in this review of House of Ashes, the horrors of this third chapter of the horror anthology.
Awaken the beast
The narrative experience is the fundamental point of this type of titles, and even in House of Ashes we will find ourselves embroiled in a story in which we will control five protagonists just like in the two previous titles of the anthology. Again there will be a parallel story set in the past that will serve as a prologue. In this first section we will check a character of the ancient Mesopotamia in the era of the reign of Naram-Sin. The people feel they have been cursed by the gods with wars and famine, and the king to appease their anger decides to build a majestic temple, but, as expected, the outcome will not go well.
We therefore return to the present, or rather to the 2003 during the Iraq war. Here we will see a conflict between American and Iraqi forces regarding the alleged presence of chemical weapons hidden underground. The weapons will not be there, but in return the soldiers of both factions will be sucked into the bowels of the earth in an imposing cave where the ruins of an ancient temple are found. Also on this occasion we will find ourselves checking five protagonists: Rachel King, CIA agent played by actress Ashley Tisdale, sent to verify that there are chemical weapons in Iraq; his husband Eric, army engineer; Nick, soldier friend of the couple; Jason, a captain of a squad of soldiers e Salim, captain of the squad that will attack the American soldiers. The group will be forced to cooperate when a menace made up of monstrous creatures begins to slaughter the men of both factions.
As in the previous titles of the series, also in this case there will be multiple endings based on the choices made by the player. The five protagonists can all survive or die in the course of the plot. Longevity stands at 5 or 6 hours, but you will be tempted to replay the entire story to see a new ending, perhaps this time accompanied by one or more friends, thanks to the return of the multiplayer mode. Also in this case, in fact, the title will allow you to play locally, associating each player with one of the five protagonists, or online. It is interesting to see that in this case we will be able to play parts that in the single player campaign there will not be, precisely because at that moment another character was being controlled.
The story of House of Ashes is interesting and manages to captivate the player up to an intriguing final revelation. The plot seems more impactful than the previous titles and also hints at deeper themes, such as the uselessness of war and the equality between men of different nations highlighted even more by such a unique situation. However, these issues are only hinted at, and for the rest the game prefers to follow the tracks of a classic horror. Also this title, like the previous ones, is inspired by a certain type of horror, and in this case it is clear that the source are all those films in which humans are hunted by a fearsome monster just like it happened in the saga of Alien. In fact, there will be many quotes related to this type of film, and certainly cinema fans will have fun catching them all.
Storytelling based gameplay – House of Ashes review
As stated earlier in this review, House of Ashes is mainly a narrative experience. The title wants to make you live a story by sacrificing a bit the gameplay part. Mainly in the game we will be able to explore the various environments and deal with QTEs just like in Man of Medan and Little Hope. Unfortunately, some QTEs are still too sudden and decisive, since sometimes it will be enough to press a wrong button to see one of our characters die. In House of Ashes, however, they have been introduced well three difficulty levels that will only affect the speed with which you have to press the keys in the QTEs, so as to meet even those who do not have particularly quick reflexes.
Exploration has now improved thanks to the ability to move the camera 360 degrees, eliminating the still screens of the previous two titles. Sometimes the camera gives a little trouble especially in the tightest of spaces, but overall it’s a great addition. However, the exploratory part always remains rather linear, with only a few crossroads that will mostly serve to find some collectibles. Ultimately, the gameplay of House of Ashes works if you are passionate about narrative titles, but after the third title linked to this formula, perhaps it would be appropriate to rejuvenate the system a little while maintaining the roots that gave life to this anthology of ‘horror.
Like in the movies – House of Ashes review
For this House of Ashes review we played on one PS5, where it is possible to select between two graphic modes: Quality, which guarantees a higher quality of lighting and native resolution (in 4K) at the expense of frame rate, and Performance, which instead lowers the graphics quality for a smoother frame rate. Not being a title where action reigns supreme, both modes are more than valid, depending on the player’s preferences. The Quality mode impresses with the presence of a rather successful ray tracing in the rendering of lights and shadows, making the experience much more cinematic.
However it is evident the cross gen nature of the title, since not everything is perfect. There are still some rather woody animations and some environment textures are not up to par with the rest of the game. Even the expressions of the characters are not always convincing. The DualSense is supported, but not properly exploited. The haptic feedback will intervene in some scenes giving more realism, but the support will end there. The title is entirely in italiano even in dubbing.
At the end of this review of The Dark Picture Anthology: House of Ashes, it’s time to take stock. The third installment of the series is in some ways the most successful, both for setting and as a story. The gameplay is not too different from the past, although there are some interesting additions, such as the possibility of being able to freely manage the camera. The title is therefore addressed to all those who love horror stories and prefer the narrative aspect of a video game over the hard and pure gameplay, and in this aspect House of Ashes performs well. So if you loved Man of Medan and Little Hope, then you will also like this third episode of the horror anthology, otherwise move on.
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The anthology of videogame horror
Points in favor
- Good setting and plot
- Several small additions that enhance the experience
- The presence of multiplayer is always welcome
- After three chapters the gameplay needs some substantial changes
- Not perfect animations and character models
- Free camera to improve