Third installment of the video game anthology The Dark Pictures, House of Ashes explores new horrific genres and shows that the Supermassive Games studio is counting on this franchise to frighten lovers of chills every year.
After Man of Medan and Little hope, Supermassive Games is offering the third part of its anthology this year The Dark Pictures. The studio, to whom we owed the excellent Until Dawn, continues to explore the vein of horror through urban legends and terrifying myths to provide unique gaming experiences where our choices may or may not have it all. toggle.
Released on October 22, The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes turns out to be the most enjoyable of this branching video game series. After a shy Man of Medan and a more eye-catching Little hope, this third horrific plot heals its cinematographic side and its gripping plot, but does not avoid the faults of its predecessors.
“The Descent” in the underworld
Like the first two parts, inspired by legends or real events, House of Ashes lays the foundations of its main plot in a well-known setting and context, namely in the middle of the Iraq war in 2003. Here we embody soldiers of the American army launched on a perilous mission, which they did not fail to question to their lieutenant colonel of the United States Air Force.
In full search of a potential underground chemical weapons installation in the Zagros Mountains, the overtrained military unit will be confronted with the Iraqi army before finding itself trapped after a seismic shock in the remains of a distressing Sumerian temple.
But these ruins, forgotten for millennia, hold dark secrets, including dangerous supernatural creatures. We can only rejoice to finally see monsters in this anthology The Dark Pictures, which for the moment had focused on telling stories of ghosts, spirits and witches.
From the prologue, the tone is set since we are sent back to 2231 BC. JC in Akkad where King Naram-Sin sinks into murderous madness and makes sacrifices while thinking of stopping a devastating curse. This appetizer allows, for novices or the more seasoned, to learn and understand that, even when we make the right choices, death is sometimes inevitable.
For this new story, the studio once again appeals to the collective imagination of its audience with obvious but delicious cinematographic references. Besides the mention of the demonic deity Pazuzu, whose figurine frightened Father Merrin so much at the start of William Friedkin’s cult The Exorcist, it is the spirit of two other cult horror films that reigns in The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes.
The cursed labyrinth of deadly caves that soldiers explore contains bloodthirsty, bloodthirsty vampire monsters stricken with blindness and fearful of sunlight, reminiscent of creatures from Neil Marshall’s British nugget The Descent. These frightening and well-drawn monstrosities hide a more cosmic and devastating origin in the second part of the story, plunging us into an atmosphere à la Alien.
Still some flaws but memorable sequences
There where Man of Medan and Little hope offered a gallery of quite varied characters, House of Ashes is much more stingy. Only two women are present here, Rachel King, CIA field officer, and Clarice Stokes, computer genius, even if the latter quickly disappears from the landscape to leave the field open to the first bloody, nervous and very badass heroine.
Incarnated by Ashley Tisdale, known for High School Musical and the only big name in the cast of the game, Rachel King nevertheless allows to offer the most worked sequences of the game, between an infuriating twist and inspired survival scenes. One thinks in particular of a scene of a response with a submachine gun in hand and a long stroll in a river of blood.
If we appreciate the treatment of this character, we nevertheless regret that the rest of the cast, entirely male, is less worked and in-depth, even if the relationship between the American soldier Jason and the Iraqi soldier Salim is relatively well constructed and even touching if we chooses to follow this voice.
In terms of the dialogues, they are better written and more varied than in the previous opus. However, the main problem with this anthology The Dark Pictures remains present in this new part: despite this illusion of choices that influence the course of the story, it is very difficult to leave the main narrative thread and explore many branches in just 4 or 5 hours of play, even in new rounds.
But to counter this lack of punitive effect and real anguish on the fate of his characters at the slightest rout, The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes offers 3 levels of difficulty making it possible to spice up the gameplay a little and the various manipulations to be done with the controller in hand during this bloody adventure, always narrated by the Curator.
Yes The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes fishing on some notions of writing, it is in his imagery that he totally convinces. Although we sink into a dark labyrinth, the sets are quite impressive with three very distinct atmospheres cared for by colors and very polished lights, which could very well have appeared in a horrific feature film.
Same story for the creatures, scary, realistic and quite well staged thanks to skillfully felt camera movements that will offer sacred jumpscares. Only the characters suffer from a visual problem, as on the old opuses of the anthology, concerning their postures and their emotions: a certain stiffness is to be noted and some realistic details on the faces and the body movements are still missing. call.
With an exciting backdrop, a stylized and referenced universe and striking sequences, The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes proves that the Supermassive Games studio is improving from opus to opus on this franchise without reaching the level of a Until Dawn. Small bonus for the twist at the end of the game which brings a special flavor to this pleasant and perfect survival horror for Halloween and which already makes you want to discover the fourth part, The Devil in Me, scheduled for next year.