Image Credit: Afif Kusuma from Unsplash
This article will not include any plot spoilers for any of the Dark Pictures Anthology games but will provide a general overview of each game, with my own thoughts added.
House of Ashes is the third instalment in the Dark Pictures Anthology. A series of stand-alone survival horror games set for eight releases, working out as one every year until 2026. All Dark Pictures games so far include couch play but can be enjoyed alone and are developed by Supermassive games.
From a gameplay perspective, they follow a similar approach to the critically acclaimed Until Dawn, providing the player/players with various choices most of which will have story consequences. While the Dark Picture Anthology games are not as long as Until Dawn, they will each provide around four hours of complex, mind-boggling and intense gameplay on the first playthrough. As the player, you can decide how many of the playable characters die and how many you help survive, all while solving each game's mystery.
As I have already mentioned, House of Ashes is the third release in the series. The first, Man of Medan starts with a pleasure cruise hijacking gone wrong. The second, A Little Hope, explores witchcraft and the unfortunate fate of those accused of being in-league with the devil. The third, House of Ashes, throws you into the Iraq war as it comes to a close, but you will soon discover not everything is as it seems.
Now you have a feeling for what exactly the Dark Pictures Anthology games are all about, I’ll share why I enjoyed the three games that have been released so far.
For most gamers born around the turn of the 21st century, couch play will be a concept long forgotten, remembered only with the warm nostalgia of returning home from primary school to play couch Fifa, Pokémon, Golden Eye or Mario Kart with your best friend.
Of course, all the Dark Pictures games can be enjoyed alone, but for me, sweating over quick time events before passing the controller to a friend and watching them nervously trying to climb out of traps and avoid jump scares, only adds to the experience.
However, nostalgia is not the only reason these games keep me coming back for more. The intricate decision-making system rewards you for using perspective while punishing you for clicking without thinking, especially on timed decisions – something I learnt the hard way. In A Little Hope, we reached the end only to find one of our characters flattened by a burning building at the very last second. The same character I had been playing and worked so hard to keep alive now left me asking what I had done wrong. What decision had I made? Where was my mistake? If you haven’t gathered by this account, I was very upset and needless to say, I played the entire game again just to keep the squad of five players alive.
Each game has an amazing story arc, which is only enhanced by the ‘decision that leads to consequence’ mechanic, leaving players in shock when they finally discover the truth about each mystery.
Overall, my experience of these games has only been a positive one. All three titles that are currently available are well worth a buy. They can be picked up from most game retailers as individual titles or as a box set for no more than £50. A small price to pay for around 12 hours of gameplay the first time around. Each game is highly replayable, if not to keep your characters alive, then to uncover every ending each title has to offer. Now might even be the best time to buy, as an early Christmas gift, an excuse to bring friends together for a night of jump scares and cookie dough, or just because you have too much spare time.
Whatever your reason, you would be missing out if you didn’t give these games a try.
Also, look out for our in-depth review series on the Dark Pictures Anthology coming soon.