Previews

House of Ashes Preview: You’re in for a scare

House of Ashes Gameplay Preview Feature

A fun and terrifying snippet of what to expect from the upcoming title.

Developer Supermassive has given us a new look at its upcoming game, House of Ashes. We had a total of one hours hands-on time and were shown some impressive visuals alongside an idea of what gamers can expect from the title.

House of Ashes is the third title in The Dark Pictures Anthology, and while our access wasn’t an overly long look into it, there’s still a lot to unpack. As is the way with Supermassive Games, there’s good, bad and terrifying.

A new setting offers big frights & action

Set in 2003, the events of the Iraq War provide initial context to its narrative. Our preview opens with a bang — quite literally — as a massive earthquake traps a group of American Special Forces underground. More specifically, the soldiers find that they’re within a Sumerian temple that contains deadly creatures. Worse still, these creatures don’t plan on wasting much time before hunting you down.

The caved-in temple makes for an eerie setting; the destruction and darkness are a winning combination at establishing the horrorific. However, the setting also brings in some beauty, largely backed up by some fantastic graphics as well. The juxtaposition provides a great foundation for the story to play out. While these anchors may seem like opposites, it makes for a very similar feel to the way Supermassive’s previous hit Until Dawn was able to capture the beauty and uncomfortable nature of being being trapped on a snowy mountain and its long-abandoned mining network.

Many tight corridor moments build suspense and tension; the feeling of claustrophobia is heightened because of this. Getting trapped in a caved-in ancient temple with creatures wanting to hunt you down would be a very terrifying experience, after all. And, of course, the backdrop of a Sumerian Temple makes for some interesting artefacts to be discovered as much as it aids the narrative. Three cheers for collectibles within video games, right?

A great cast promises a solid character-driven experience

Fans of Supermassive have come to expect a focus on character. They’ve also come to expect to see some familiar faces gracing their screens too, with known actors often appearing in their games. Until Dawn set the tone for this right off the bat, with a constant stream of actors appearing in subsequent titles. Rami Malik, Hayden Panettiere, Brett Dalton and Jordan Fisher are just a few of the names who lended their voices and likeness for Until Dawn, followed on by the likes of other notable actors such as Shawn Ashmore and Will Poulter inside the two previous The Dark Pictures Titles: Man of Medan and Little Hope.

However, Supermassive have really brought in the big guns this time round. That’s right folks: Ashley Tisdale will be starring in the game. For any High School Musical fans, seeing her feature in a horror game is a treat. Based off what we’ve seen from her performance so far, it seems she has transitioned to the medium well. Tisdale plays CIA Operative Rachel King, one of the American Special Forces officers who gets trapped underground. The cast also includes Nick E. Tarabay as Salim Othman, Alex Gravenstein as Eric, Paul Zinno as Jason Kolcheck. The game will also feature Pip Torrens who will be reprising his role as The Curator.

By including a great line up of actors, the game will hopefully be able to deliver a compelling narrative. With these games often playing out like an interactive movie, the characters are integral to the success of the overall game. With Ashley Tisdale leading the way, there’s hope it will feature a compelling story from start to finish.

Ashley Tisdale stars as CIA Operative Rachel King
Ashley Tisdale stars as CIA Operative Rachel King

Gameplay is continuing to move in the right direction

Getting the balance right for these games is an obstacle that Suppermassive been working hard at. Since The Dark Pictures titles often play out like a movie, the quicktime events featured can be jarring. Not only that, but they can also really take away from the beauty of the visuals and the narrative. It’s not uncommon to just drop your controller down and simply watch the scenes play out. Previous game Little Hope did a great job of starting to work towards this problems by offering up onscreen prompts to the player before any action and quicktime events took place. House of Ashes also includes this feature, which is a good sign that the game will continue to build upon previous instalments. To continue to hopefully build into a more solid and balanced formula for games to come as well.

The game will also feature many collectibles to pick up and read throughout the game. These clues will enable players to unlock the mysteries of the temple as well as simply add to the immersive nature of the game. The trusty premonition collectables are back, warning players of future events that may or may not occur based on the choices that are made throughout the play-through.

You'll be able to collect notes and messages along the journey to uncover the mysteries of the temple
You’ll be able to collect notes and messages along the journey to uncover the mysteries of the temple.

While gamers will be able to experience the horror on their own, they can also do so with their friends if they choose. The game encourages players to play through with friends, either online or locally.  So for those to scare to brave the storm alone, enlisting some pals could make for a more hilarious but no less terrifying experience of the game.

A great taste of what’s to come

Following the success of Until Dawn in 2015, Supermassive has arguable failed to hit the same heights with subsequent titles. However, the improvement throughout the Dark Pictures Anthology proves that they’re going in the right direction. From what we’ve seen and played through so far, House of Ashes is on the right track.

The Dark Pictures Anthology House Of Ashes will be released on 22 October, available on Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PS4 and PS5.

The Dark Pictures House of Ashes

22 October 2021
PC PS4 PS5 Xbox One Xbox Series S & X
 

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About the author

Eleni Thomas

Eleni has been playing videogames for as long as she can remember and has been writing about them since starting her journalism studies in 2019.

A lover of all games but a giant Nintendo nerd, she even has the Triforce tattoo to prove it.