As a kid, the Goosebumps choose your own adventure books were some of my favourites. The ability to craft your own narrative always made things more exciting, and of course if you made the wrong choice you could always flick back to the previous page without anyone ever knowing you’d fucked up. If Goosebumps author R.L. Stine worked in video games he’d certainly be working for the British-based Supermassive Games, a studio which has become almost the flag bearer for the choose your own adventure video games, with Until Dawn and its Dark Pictures Anthology. So far the studio has released two entries in the anthology, with the third entry, House of Ashes, set to launch some time in 2021.
Recently I was able to watch a short presentation featuring House of Ashes director Will Doyle that gave me a little insight into what Supermassive has in store for players when House of Ashes launches later this year. The gameplay section of this is now available for your viewing and can be found below.
Straight off the bat, if you haven’t played either of the previous two Dark Pictures titles (Man of Medan or Little Hope) don’t stress, as each entry is its own self-contained experience. I’ve played a handful of hours of both games and I enjoyed them a lot, unfortunately time hasn’t permitted me to finish them, though I hope to before House of Ashes drops.
House of Ashes takes the series to the Middle East in 2003 during the Iraq war, with a team comprised of agents from U.S. Special Forces, Air Force and the CIA searching for weapons of mass destruction. Arriving at the location where they believe an underground chemical weapons depot is located, the team comes under attack from Iraqi forces, however an earthquake erupts, sending the team deep underground where they discover a lost temple that dates back to the ancient kingdom of Akkad. Doyle explains that the roots of the story are based on true historical figures, with the temple built by Naram-Sin, a self-proclaimed God King that ruled around 2,250 BC. In the House of Ashes, Naram-Sim builds the temple in order to appease the gods, but it is not considered enough and the temple is buried underground.
Naturally, the team is not alone down in the darkness and will face off against a very old and dangerous threat. Like the previous games, House of Ashes has a cast of five characters that the player will control: Rachel King, Eric King, Nick Kay, Jason Kolchek and Salim Othman, and as is tradition, House of Ashes will feature multiple endings, meaning that players are well and truly in control of the characters and their fates. Players can play the game solo or in co-op with a mate, and all the modes from previous games return, giving players several ways to play the game.
The gameplay trailer focuses on Nick Kay and Jason Kolchelk, two soldiers who are not only good friends, but have different rankings. When things start to go a little crazy, will the higher ranking Kolchek play the role of friend or superior? As you might expect, things quickly escalate and the danger becomes very real when a character is snatched from the shadows, leaving Kay and Kolchek terrified as to what just happened.
Where’s Brendan Fraser when you need him?
Doyle says that House of Ashes contains inspirations for films such as Alien, Predator and The Descent, as well as H.P. Lovecraft’s novel Mountains of Madness. From the gameplay trailer it’s hard to get a see all of these inspirations at play, but it certainly sounds like it could create some tense moments, and I am keen to see if this is the case.
One major design change is that Supermassive has dropped the fixed camera angles found in the anthology’s first two games, with House of Ashes featuring a 360-degree camera system, and this time around there is a dedicated flashlight button, allowing players to explore the darkness and uncover new paths. Furthermore, Supermassive says it has been listening to fan feedback and as a result it will allow players to tailor the difficulty of QTEs, making the game more accessible.
While the presentation was only a brief look at House of Ashes, I’m excited by what was shown off. I love the premise and it genuinely looks like it will have a bunch of tense and challenging moments, whether it’s facing off against the dangerous monsters or making tough decisions. In fact, watching this has made me commit to finishing the previous two games before House of Ashes releases. I just hope that Supermassive can piece it all together and knock it out of the park.
The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes will release in 2021 on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X&S, Xbox One and PC.