Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn was a game-changer for the horror genre which had lost its way a little during the mid-2010s. Before Resident Evil 7 scared the genre back to life, Until Dawn did most of the heavy lifting. It was exciting, then, that Supermassive Games would announce an annual horror anthology series in The Dark Pictures, releasing new games in a franchise that has spanned three years so far. While previous entries Man of Medan and Little Hope failed to recapture that same lightning in a bottle of Until Dawn, the latest entry House of Ashes does this effortlessly and brilliantly.
Taking place in the early 2000s during the height of the Iraqi War, House of Ashes follows a group of US marines who become trapped in a strange underground temple when a sudden earthquake forces them into the dark. However, something malevolent lurks in the ruins that quickly hunts them one by one. Like previous games in the series, players assume the roles of five playable characters, each well-defined and fleshed out in nuanced ways. The star of the show may be Ashley Tisdale’s excellent performance as Rachel, but the true heart and soul of House of Ashes rests in its varied, damaged cast collectively.
House of Ashes could’ve easily spun an on-the-nose allegory about the horrors of war and its politically charged subject matter, but it wisely sidesteps these trappings in favour of creating a delectably old-fashioned monster story. The Dark Pictures has always excelled in its cinematic storytelling, and House of Ashes is no exception. In fact, it’s the most “cinematic” that the series has ever been, often feeling like I was actually playing a well-crafted movie or TV series.
This is a testament to Supermassive Games’ keen eye for cinema, drawing inspiration from every corner of the horror genre. Due to its setting, the most immediate comparison I can make is the classic horror movie The Descent crossed with The Exorcist, though I won’t go into any further detail for fear of spoilers. Let’s just say that like the fiendish twist of Until Dawn, the one in House of Ashes will catch you completely off-guard.
Supermassive Games once again flexes their muscles at creating a truly palpable and terrifying atmosphere.
It’s easily the best story that the developers have conjured up since Until Dawn...
There’s an otherworldly and demonic presence constantly oozing out of the screen...
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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Bandai Namco Entertainment
PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series
22 October 2021
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