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Dark Pictures Anthology - House of Ashes - Part 3 in Supermassive Game's horror series


Doctor Shark
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This is out just in time for spooky season and it getting very good reviews, including a 'recommended' from Eurogamer.

 

Now, if you don't like the cinematic, QTE gameplay of Until Dawn, Man of Medan or Little Hope, there's Little Hope (ha!) you'll like this, either, as it's essentially the same gameplay and style.

 

However, if you do like the games (and I do), then you'll be pleased to know that each review seems to suggest this is a return to Until Dawn form rather than more lacklustre and slightly disappointing first two entries in the Dark Anthology series.

 

Starring Ashley Tisdale, this one has you controlling 5 characters who are trapped under an underground Mesopotamian temple during the 2003 Iraq War where they are stalked then hunted by monsters awoken by the chaos. Ashley Tisdale plays a CIA agent, there's some marines and even an Iraqi soldier to play as. As usual, you're tasked with making choices and difficult decisions that affect the outcome of the game - all five characters can survive or all five can die, or anything in between, based on your actions.

 

thedarkpicturesanthology-houseofashes-re

 

Why, I do believe that is Pazuzu, the Mesopotamian demon king that possesses Regan in the Exorcist.

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Loved Until Dawn, but found the story of Man of Medan really poor. Then I simply watched a playthrough of Little Hope and the story seemed even worse.

 

Shame really. Kinda wish they just put all their budget into making one big sequel to Until Dawn.

 

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1 hour ago, Gambit said:

Loved Until Dawn, but found the story of Man of Medan really poor. Then I simply watched a playthrough of Little Hope and the story seemed even worse.

 

Shame really. Kinda wish they just put all their budget into making one big sequel to Until Dawn.

 


Until Dawn had a far bigger, Sony backed budget. The Dark Anthology series (a series of 8 planned games!) are done more independently and lack the budget to really properly achieve what they want to. 
 

Also the next game, “The Devil in Me”, is the “final chapter” of part one of the anthology, so it might be for parts 5 - 8 they mix things up a bit. 

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Until Dawn, as well as the sony backing, was in development for years (at one point was a PS3 move title). Got a lot more time in the oven whereas these get a year between installments.

 

I think everyone likes until dawn best. I thought man of Medan was better than little hope and was worried the series had gone off track. Glad to see this is reviewing well.

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Yep, I am maybe an hour and a half in and the premise, action and characters are already way better than Man of Medan (I skipped Little Hope). Its really cinematic. I'm on PS5 and the graphics are excellent, although the framerate noticeably sucks at times. Uncanny valley is still in full force unfortunately, but the facial animations are a little better in general. Still jarring to have such lifelike faces look so off at times. The camera can be very sucky but at least you move less like a tank in this game and I've just come to some rather nice third person segment where the movement and camera control feel like a proper 3rd person game. The music is much better in this than previous titles, really feels like a big budget film score.

 

Gameplay-wise the formula is unchanged as you'd expect, but the QTEs come up with a handy warning of what type of QTE is coming up, and on normal difficulty the balance seems better than Man of Medan, although in the tutorial section is the dreaded heart beat mini-game which was awful in Man of Medan and lost me entire runs, so we'll have to pray its fairer this time!

 

The dialogue is much improved as well, its a lot more natural sounding, there's the occasional cheese-ball but on the whole its doing pretty good so far.

 

I'm early in the game and have already seen about 5 characters killed, some of which were implied to be due to decisions I made, so no perfect run for this time! Sadly one of them who died seemed like they could have been my favourite, but we'll see. No perfect run for me first go!

 

And as usual the premonitions so far are a joke, giving absolutely zero hints about how to go about avoiding the fates they portray. 

 

But overall once you grin and bear the uncanny valley this is very enjoyable so far, would recommend giving it a shot.

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So I ended up getting this. It's their best game since Until Dawn and far better than Man of Medan.

 

Spoilers for the whole game so beware:

 

Spoiler

Ended up with Rachel getting infected, so I asked Jason to shoot her. And fucked up the breathing when other army guy was setting the explosives so he died.

 

Loved the story and the characters had good story arcs (especially Jason who ended up being my favourite character). A nice mix of The Descent, Aliens, and then goes a bit From Dusk Till Dawn at the end. I loled hard when the eclipse happened but looked it up and there was a solar eclipse in 2003 so well done for accuracy I guess. Ended up with Jason, Salim and the leader guy surviving. 

 

The only criticism was the supposed love triangle had so little chemistry between the actors it failed to make me care even a little bit.

 

Will play the next one.

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I've finished this as well. It gets better towards the end. Overall I enjoyed it, the music, visuals and action really ramp up towards the end of the game. The first half turns into a bit of a slog with a lot of wandering and cringey conversations (still better than Man of Medan's awful dialogue though). The uncanny valley, bad scene transitions and tone-deaf dialogue plague the game, but to a slightly lesser extent than previous outings. The characters are pretty bad, there's only one or two that you'll actually care about, depending on your choices.

 

As for choices, this game suffered for me in that non-QTE decisions were way too ambigous about what their consequences were. They have the 'butterfly effect' system but I shouldn't need to go into a menu to see what choices affected what happened later in the game. I got 4 characters out alive but the 5th I am really unclear what I did wrong. Everything the game had told me to that point made my decisions at that moment seem rational. QTE's start off quite easy but get tough towards the end. What's nice though is they have more leeway, where you can fail one or two and not die. Characters accumulate wounds through the story and I suspect if you get more than one or two wounds it might be game over for that character. If so its a nice way to avoid the frustrating insta-death of earlier titles. I failed 3 or 4 QTES through the game but don't think that had a bearing on my outcome. Also, thank the lord, they made the heartbeat mini-game much, much easier than Man of Medan.

 

The music and cinematography is much better than previous titles, as well as the great lighting. It definitely feels like a proper horror B movie, The Descent is the best comparison, although there are a few other movies it heavily references towards the end. 

 

Overall I would recommend for a once-through popcorn experience. Don't go in expecting wonders, its still not up to Until Dawn standards and has a heap of issues, but its an entertaining ride. Unlike previous games though I really don't feel like replaying this one, I don't feel like much will change, except for less people making it to the end. I also found most of the secrets pretty easily, none of which are particularly revelationary. The first half of the game is a bit slow the first time around and I definitely can't be arsed going through it again. Maybe I'll just use chapter select to play the last few sections and see if I can get a perfect run.

 

The teaser for the next game looks interesting, a Saw/escape room premise from the looks of it. All for that!

 

Spoilers for my choices:

Spoiler

Rachel was the only one who didn't make it in my run, she got infected and all logic pointed towards ending her life, so I didn't plead for her life with Jason. If you are supposed to beg and doubt to save her, that will piss me off because Clarice clearly shows that's a terrible idea, and it goes against Rachel's personality too. Problem is that I have no idea if something I did made her infected, or other earlier choices would have made an impact here. The only thing I can think of is I failed one QTE when you choose to save Eric, where she reached for the UV lamp but I messed it up.

 

Talking of Clarice, I was kind but truthful to her about her condition, and at the rope swing I didn't betray her. She realised she was going to turn and went off into the shadows, leaving the rope hanging in the middle. On a Youtuber playthrough I've seen that how you act to her means you can actually bring her with you. Either way she always seems to show up during the escape scene already turned.

 

Joey I messed up a QTE at the farm but I feel like the outcome is inevitable, same with Merwin. 

 

For Nick's foray into the nest with the C4, I passed all the QTEs, and when he needs saving the other characters got there in time. I saw from the Youtube playthrough that he can still die here, seemingly triggered if the characters going to save him get injured earlier in the game.

 

The final fight up top was really cool, and made really stressful by having 4 people to keep alive, each with their own sets of very fast QTEs to deal with. It must be even harder with all 5 alive.

 

Oh and about the love triangle, I had Rachel be nice to Eric but ultimately draw the line and choose Nick, telling Eric towards the end of the game that it was over. I'm sure I'm not alone in not giving 2 shits about this love triangle, it was super awkward, cringey and the dialogue was terrible - and really not helped by the uncanny valley in full effect. Rachel looks like a satanic dead-eyed doll or robot most of the game which just makes you a bit incredulous either of these guys would be seduced by her weird soul-less facial reactions. 

 

For me, Salim was by a massive league the best character, followed by Jason, who gets better as he goes, and the way their relationship develops is fun to watch. Eric is either an arsehole or incredibly soppy depending on the moment. Nick is personality devoid aside from being a bit fucked up in the head. Rachel coud have been interesting but you end up seeing almost zero of her personality aside from her hard-ass side and the occasional triste with Eric or Nick. I actually wish Joey had been a main character as he already seemed 10 times more interesting than the main cast in Baghdad. Clarice was also a better character than most of the others. Oops!

 

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I put a couple of hours into this last night and it’s pretty good. I’m not sure just how much game there is in there - it jumps to cut scenes regularly - but I’m enjoying the story and making choices that will make everyone hate each other.

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Completed it. I don’t think it quite stuck the ending but I didn’t not see the third act* coming and mostly enjoyed the way it went

*

Spoiler

When it went HR Giger with the aliens.


I made it out with 4

 

Spoiler

Nick died because of the earlier injuries other characters sustained. I wanted others to die but wanted it to be from my own choices rather than failing QTE’s (which is more or less what happened because I didn’t react fast enough to stop said injuries - the characters injuries put blood on the floor and wake vampires up later in the game meaning you don’t make it to Jason in time.)

 

More decisions taken that got other people killed would have been my preference. I thought Eric running off whilst Nick was being attacked would doom one of them but sadly not)

 

Salim was a G. Jason I liked, hated, then liked again at the end.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 03/11/2021 at 23:45, Strafe said:

Completed it. I don’t think it quite stuck the ending but I didn’t not see the third act* coming and mostly enjoyed the way it went

*

  Reveal hidden contents

When it went HR Giger with the aliens.

 

Spoiler

I didn't get any of the alien stuff on my playthrough as i kept killing everyone! I only made it out with Jason and it didn't look good for his future either.

 

I thought it was decent but that first 90 minutes... it really was a slog. Like barely any control over the characters and i started to get quite bored but it really picked up about 2 hours or so into the game. 

 

Haven't played the other two, i may do sometime.

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13 minutes ago, Darhkwing said:

 

I thought it was decent but that first 90 minutes... it really was a slog. Like barely any control over the characters and i started to get quite bored but it really picked up about 2 hours or so into the game. 

 


If you didn’t see the bit (that you probably want to spoiler) you mentioned then you’ve probably missed a big chunk of the game. It’s a couple of hours ish I think.

 

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26 minutes ago, Strafe said:


If you didn’t see the bit (that you probably want to spoiler) you mentioned then you’ve probably missed a big chunk of the game. It’s a couple of hours ish I think.

 

 

Spoiler

Ah. okay - okay i didn't miss this, it was something else (if rachel is alive longer you see her from space looking down at earth with some alien ship incoming?)

 

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4 minutes ago, Darhkwing said:

 

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Ah. okay - okay i didn't miss this, it was something else (if rachel is alive longer you see her from space looking down at earth with some alien ship incoming?)

 


 

Spoiler

I didn’t get that either! I got everyone out bar Nick and had them all topside and rescued in the end

 

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On 24/11/2021 at 15:08, Strafe said:


 

  Hide contents

I didn’t get that either! I got everyone out bar Nick and had them all topside and rescued in the end

 

Spoiler

You get Rachel seeing a vision of the alien ship if she's alive until the 'music room' in the alien place, and then if she's infected she sees the vision. Maybe she only sees it if you don't save her from infection like me.

 

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1 hour ago, Alan Stock said:
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You get Rachel seeing a vision of the alien ship if she's alive until the 'music room' in the alien place, and then if she's infected she sees the vision. Maybe she only sees it if you don't save her from infection like me.

 


 

Spoiler

Oh yes! I did see that, I thought someone was talking about an ending where she gets taken up to the alien mothership for some reason 🤦‍♂️ 

 

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Are these Dark Pictures games linked story wise? Or can I just pick this one up and play it without playing the previous titles?

 

I’d heard the other ones weren’t as good, but if there’s a thread running throughout then I guess I’ll play them first.

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1 hour ago, Mystacon said:

Are these Dark Pictures games linked story wise? Or can I just pick this one up and play it without playing the previous titles?

 

I’d heard the other ones weren’t as good, but if there’s a thread running throughout then I guess I’ll play them first.

 

The only thread is the narrator who basically acts as "The Cryptkeeper" of the series. There is a shared location during one of the cut scenes in Little Hope and House of Ashes but it doesn't really play into any of the story at all.

 

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11 hours ago, Doctor Shark said:

Wait… I thought this was about 

 

  Reveal hidden contents

Vampires

 

 

Spoiler

They're Space Vampires. I think it's implied they weren't necessarily the pilots of the spaceship but instead they're like a virus that took over the crew. I think. They leave it quite ambiguous which is what I liked about it.

 

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I absolutely loved this, it was right up my street! I enjoyed it so much, that upon completion I bought both the previous 2 instalments and played them through back to back on Series X.

 

Think I’d put House of Ashes top of the pile, then Little Hope, and finally Medan…. Although it’s a close call for me between the top 2.

 

Really looking forward to the next instalment.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Finished this today. I think it's the best one. With each game they've grown in scale and improved the formula. Looked great in places too.

 

Felt longer than little hope. This is the first one since until dawn where I felt the characters were likeable and felt fully realised.

 

Twist in the final act reminded me of the last stop from earlier in the year, but was much better realised in this game.

 

Saved 3 of the 5.

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