“House of Ashes” is the third game in Supermassive Games’ “Dark Picture Anthology” and the best game released by the studio since the PS4 exclusive “Until Dawn”. The game released by Sony just reached all the right notes, and it was a huge surprise when it was released. House of Ashes stated that the studio still has what it needs, but for whatever reason, it still hasn’t fully returned to the level that enables them to create horror video game classics.
For me, the biggest problem with “House of Ashes” has to do with what it seems to want: a movie and a video game. This is a video game, but it is one of the least interactive games I have ever played. It feels a lot like a 3D point and click adventure, QTE will occasionally appear, or you need to move the cursor to aim at the enemy. This is a game that anyone can play. This is something you can rarely say, but because of this, I found that its running time is already very short.
As a user-friendly game and encourage you to play with friends, the horror story told here is too long. Supermassive is undoubtedly keen to provide a reasonable length of battle, but as a video game, the basic mechanics are not fun at all for such a long game. Shorten the whole process to two hours and cut out the reflected scenes. This may be a wonderful interactive horror movie.
There are certain moments of excellence in “House of Ashes”. When you control one of the five core playable characters in a narrower area, the camera chooses to hover over your shoulder, and the game creates an atmosphere. This is claustrophobic and nervous, my brain immediately jumped to aliens and descended, but those moments here are basically your glass bottom boat from encounter to encounter. They are scary at first, but once you click you are okay, the fear disappears.
In “House of Ashes”, there is no battle. It is neither a button-pressing QTE (clicking a square to stab monsters) nor manipulating a wolf. Instead, in a console-style target shooting, you only need to loosely aim the cursor. Move to the target and catch fire within the specified time. In the process of making the game highly accessible, almost every moment of well-made horror can never reach its potential.
I haven’t talked about this story yet, because it’s a bit of a cliché to a large extent, especially in the opening stage. You get some background stories about the ancient horrors living under the Sumerian temple. Fast forward to the Iraq War and we will encounter a bunch of war movie stereotypes that you can only create a certain number of. Salim, an Iraqi soldier, is the only playable non-American character that stands out. He has the saddest background story and the most contradictory role in the incident, the key is not to be like a bastard.
The tension between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Iraqi soldiers was expected, but trying to make the whole thing feel less tense. Oorah looked a bit forced (the man was sad because he remembered killing an innocent civilian and beating constantly. “Home” The enemy of my enemy is my friend”). The game tries to touch on difficult themes, even 9/11, but it is quite superficial. Some Marines redeem themselves through the conclusion of the game, but fair In other words, acting is better than telling a story.
The House of Ashes, although I have questions about its length and lack of gameplay, it has many beautiful moments. Most of them are related to hurriedly pressing the button prompts on the screen. These prompts can easily be missed and have very dire consequences. These QTEs work well, but due to the aforementioned non-hazardous game sequences, they do not have enough horror support.
I also have a large number of people who want a lighter and thicker tone. This is a story that takes oneself too seriously. One of my favorite moments came late when a character rushed into the scene heroically with the line: “Hey, damn face, I have something for you!” It was perfect. This is what I want from such a game. However, in terms of the moment when “Americans began to cheer in the cinema”, this was the only moment I could remember that happened.
“House of Ashes” has a lot to like. It looks great (but also a bit clumsy in some ways), the performance is excellent, and your behavior (or lack of behavior) can really influence the story. However, the lack of game elements, which in turn makes the game sequence that you can properly control, ultimately lacks panic. This is a fun time, especially if you play online in a group or with friends, but I am more afraid of button prompts than monsters.
Disclaimer: Beta version: PS5. A copy of the game is provided by the publisher. It can also be used on PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC.