The Dark Pictures Anthology – House of Ashes – Review
Follow Genre: Interactive drama, survival horror
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platform: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5
Tested on: PS5

The Dark Pictures Anthology – House of Ashes – Review

Site Score
6.5
Good: Cinematic soundtrack and triple-A quality voice acting, Atmosphere
Bad: Very bland at times, Useless gameplay segments, A lot of graphical bugs
User Score
4.5
(2 votes)
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Rating: 4.5/10 (2 votes cast)

The Dark Pictures Anthology has been getting a lot of attention the last few years, even if the two first games were not received with stellar scores. The games of this so-called anthology try to create an interactive experience by giving the player the power to actually change the story. In Man of Medan we found ourselves on an abandoned ship that had been lost at sea for nearly fifty years, while Little Hope took us back to the witch trials of the village that bears the same name as the game. Now, House of Ashes has been released, and we find ourselves scurrying around an ancient temple in the presence of bloodthirsty monsters that hide in the dark.

Story

House of Ashes takes us back to 2231 BC to see the downfall of a mad ruler who resides in his temple, disconnected from the normal world. After that, we are taken to 2003, in the midst of the Iraq War. The main protagonists of the story will be American soldiers, where two of them used to be happily married. Nonetheless, it seems that the interpersonal relations are getting complicated, as Eric (the husband) wants to reconnect with his wife Rachel, who is actually already having an affair with one of the soldiers, Nick. That being said, Eric is also there to oversee a mission, as one of his satellites picked up a possible underground weapons depot. When things go south, they tumble into the old aforementioned temple, with monsters lurking around every corner. The soldiers will have to work together with Iraqi soldier Salim, to hopefully crawl out of this tomb alive.

As is always the case with the games from The Dark Pictures Anthology, the story is the most important aspect of the game. You’ll have to make choices, which will determine the flow of the story, and you even get to decide who lives and who gets left behind at certain points in the game. We did like the story a lot, but it felt slower than the previous entries of the series.

Graphics

Graphically these games are seemingly getting worse when it comes to optimization and animation quality. The game offers a lot of stunning backdrops within the limited area the story plays out, but sadly these are all static environments. When you start looking at the characters themselves, things are a bit underwhelming. We had to go through several hours of poor lip-syncing, texture popping, lack of textures, invisible walls and even complete character spasms when the scene changed. The latter made guns disappear out of thin air (or just float in thin air) or even make it seem like characters snapped their faces (and necks) into place for the next scene. There’s a lot of work to be done here to iron out the kinks.

Sound

Even though the graphical aspect of the game may have been found lacking, the sound design of the game is superbly handled. The voice acting is of triple-A movie quality and the cinematic score sets the tone just right. We also love that Salim speaks Arabic in the game, as this adds a certain authenticity as to where the events of the game are unfolding. We mentioned this in our Far Cry 6 review as well, that the world is ready for different languages than solely English in their games, as this just sounds better than opting for an unnatural accent with a few words of a language thrown in sentences to make it sound more exotic.

Gameplay

House of Ashes is, like its predecessors, a survival horror game in which you can choose the flow of the story. While we call it a survival horror game, it’s more a horror FMV, rather than an ‘active’ game. From start to finish, you’ll go through many cutscenes, which present you with choices to make, QTEs and a few button mashing sessions. Outside of these cutscenes, you are allowed to walk around a tiny bit, where you just interact with a few items before the next cutscene begins. If you were not done exploring and just walked a tiny bit too far, you’ll sadly lose the opportunity to scout your surroundings any further as the game will then automatically progress.

Choices aren’t that clear in the game, as some may result in something totally random, making you regret picking the option you did. This also goes hand in hand with the wonky controls and the overall unpolished feeling the game emanates. We still very much enjoy this idea behind this series, but it feels like these games are rushed or that the developer also doesn’t really know what they want to do with the series. This game had better camera movement, but the overall controls feel sluggish and for a game with soldiers who constantly hold rifles, you don’t even get to shoot them properly. Shooting is also done via QTEs, where you often have a few moments to just direct your crosshair towards an incoming monster and then just press the correct button.

Conclusion

House of Ashes feels more as if the game should have been a movie, rather than a game where you have to occasionally mash buttons or complete a QTE and hope for the best. Out of all three games so far, House of Ashes also had the least likable characters, making it hard to actually care what happened to most of them. Of course, this can also be turned into one of the game’s strengths, as you can opt to kill off characters in different playthroughs to see how things play out. If you liked the previous games, you’ll still enjoy this one, but beware of many bland story scenes, a lot of graphical bugs, and many useless gameplay segments where you can just walk for a few seconds before the next cutscene kicks in. That being said, the voice acting and supporting soundtrack of this game make it feel like a proper cinematic experience, which will easily please those looking for an FMV-like experience.

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Rating: 4.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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The Dark Pictures Anthology – House of Ashes – Review, 4.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Ibuki


Aspiring ninja.

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