The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Review
House of Ashes is The Dark Pictures Anthology’s grandest entry to date, delivering an exhilarating action horror adventure with plenty of charm.
The Anthology of Dark Images has allowed developer Supermassive Games to release truly varied horror games since the series launched with The man of Medan. While responses have been mixed, Supermassive fans have nonetheless enjoyed the anthology so far, matching the tone and feel the developer has become known for. Now the third entry in the anthology, House of Ashes, is available in time for Halloween.
House of Ashes takes place during the 2003 Iraq War, and revolves around a group of US forces and the Iraqi Republican Guard who find themselves stranded in a mysterious Mesopotamian temple. The player controls five of these survivors as they are hunted down by fierce underground monsters. As things go on, however, it’s clear that there is more to it than it looks, and things are getting more Lovecraftian in nature.
It’s fair to say that House of Ashes isn’t the most subtle of horror experiences, but it works a lot in its favor. Supermassive has found huge success with Until dawn, which mixes the thrills of slasher movies with fast-paced events and binary choices, and House of Ashes works similarly, leaving little room for quiet contemplation. It works well for the fiercest characters in combat, although, as always, the restrictive nature of the gameplay doesn’t suit those who don’t want to play the equivalent of survival horror. Life is strange Game.
Supermassive has done a good job perfecting their choice-based play system, building each option to increase the intensity of the experience. Of course, the wider impact of player choices is always a facade when a game has a story to tell, but the player never gets a chance to peek behind the curtain and see how that. illusion is created thanks to its fast pace. . House of Ashes makes the player feel like their choices have an impact, even if it may only make a minor change to the story or result in one of sixty unique deaths.
These detours can be fun to find, with various branching paths that eventually meet on the other side. Some of those choices lead to a weird moment of idiosyncratic behavior on the part of the characters, like a previously loyal soldier wanting to ditch a comrade, but there’s nothing here that particularly breaks the player’s immersion. Between these paths and a variety of other secrets to uncover, there is quite a bit of replayability to be found.
House of Ashes is not a particularly scary horror game, using the action-oriented horror model as Aliens Where Predator while mixing the use of claustrophobia and obscurity seen in the likes of Lowering and No black. Even though it seems a bit tame, it’s still a well-structured horror tale, avoiding showing its creatures too much at first while also throwing up some effective jump fears. However, the animation of the human characters could be the scariest part of the whole game, due to a few unfortunate jitter issues here and there.
It might have been interesting to see a horror story with something to say about the Iraq war, but House of Ashes avoids broaching the subject. There are allusions to “we are not that different, you and I”, when the mission of the US Marines is primarily to try to find weapons of mass destruction that do not exist. There are occasional nods about how the characters shouldn’t be in Iraq in the first place, and the impact of that on soldiers who had no choice but to do it, but overall, it looks a bit like a missed opportunity.
It’s the same with the characters, with three of the five tracks stuck in a boring love triangle coming too far back in the midst of such a horrific situation. Fortunately, the other two characters more than make up for it, the nicer being Salim, a reluctant Iraqi soldier whose main motivation is to see his son and who spends most of his time in House of Ashes kill monsters with a piece of reused rebar. His time with Jason, a dedicated American sailor, is the most interesting aspect from a character’s point of view, and where the most interesting subtext comes from.
Globally, House of Ashes is a fun horror game. There is nothing subtle to be found here and the gameplay just makes it better, with thrilling sets and a fast-paced storyline. It has its problems, both technically and because there is nothing interesting to build within its framework of the Iraq war, but it is still a cinch.
More: Tandem: A Tale Of Shadows Review – A Great Scary Puzzle Game
The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes is now available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X / S. Screen Rant has been given a PS5 download code for the purposes of this review.
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