The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes - Review
A year after the release of Little Hope, developers from the studio Supermassive Games released the third part of their anthology The Dark Pictures called House of Ashes.
Its storyline, originating in the times of the Sumerians and Babylon, after a quick historical prologue moves the players into the modernity close to us.
2003, the war in Iraq is slowly coming to an end against the background of rare pockets of resistance of the government guard. The remnants of American troops are engaged in training local security forces and protecting particularly important guests, which includes CIA officer Eric and his assistant Clarissa. With the help of the latest satellite detection system, a couple of specialists from Langley managed to find traces of Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons.
A hastily assembled battle group consisting of a sexist and Asian Mervyn, Clarissa, Eric and a local horror in a Rachel skirt with a dark-skinned soldier Nick goes to the drop-off point to be ambushed. The aggressive plot leads the five main characters into the ruins of an underground temple, where deadly inhabitants of darkness are waiting for them.
Developing according to the structure laid down by the previous parts of the series, House of Ashes switches the camera between the main characters, giving players rare opportunities to move independently and participate in QTE. Interactive moments include scenes of fights and escape with the right button press, where an unsuccessful session can end with the death of one of the characters — especially towards the end of the game. The second part of QTE is a mini-game with the need to hit the buttons to the rhythm of the heart. Here, a mistake does not bring death, but it can worsen the situation of one or several characters at once. In addition, from time to time, developers allow you to inspect rare elements of the environment, as well as study notes and special items that affect the development of the plot. For example, a stake found and taken with you can help in a future confrontation with evil that suddenly jumped out of the darkness.
Another element influencing the gameplay are stone tablets that can hint at the possible fate of the group of protagonists. With rare exceptions, most positive decisions are more than predictable. At the same time, the authors are trying to create a SJW drama where sexists die in the first minutes of the game, and handsome Eric does not know about his wife's infidelities with soldier Nick. Moreover, it is most difficult to save Eric's life, since he dies with the most unobvious and seemingly correct choices. Two female characters in the person of Clarissa and Rachel look very strange. Especially the second one is a tomboy and a typical bitch, whom other participants in the story call an alpha bitch behind her back. The heroine was played by the star of the early 2000s Ashley Tisdale, but in dynamics she looks just awful. It is difficult to find a more ugly and crooked female model even on the indie scene.
But the main problem of the game is that the screenwriters are trying to come up with a drama, pulling out some completely strange pianos from a desert bush. Then the murder of a woman with packages from the Pyaterochka at the checkpoint is pulled onto the scene, then an Iraqi military man whose son entered a British university and at the same time steals awards for sale from home... All this is abundantly smeared with terrible dialogues.
“We can't get out of here!”
- "Yes, what should we do?”
— "I took a climbing course, and I'll get us out of here”" says one of the heroines to a companion who can barely stand on her feet. And then they both cheerfully climb the sheer cliff. Or another masterpiece:
— "This is the victory cry of the Marines”" the marine explains to his Iraqi colleague, making a strange grimace.
And all these moments of truth are accompanied by a very crooked animation. In addition, episodes for the same characters have very strange gluing — there is a feeling that some of the content has been lost. Characters often behave illogically and simply inadequately. They forget about seriously injured companions, they chat casually and relaxed, although they were in the center of horror or ran to save a friend until quite recently. The mood — from friendliness to hostility - changes in just a few seconds. It is clear that there are consequences of the so-called branching of decisions, but here the game looks like some kind of wild parody.
According to the final twist and the scene after the credits in the style of the X-Files, it seems that the writers tried to somehow glue the ship falling apart with a pack of duct tape, but they failed. Not everyone is capable of being Matt Damon with a mission to Mars.
If you want to go back through the plot and try to make a different choice, at one point you will have to replay the entire huge episode again. And the characters themselves, with the exception of the hillbillies of Jason and Salim, do not cause any sympathy.
In terms of graphics, House of Ashes can be called an uneven game. On PlayStation 5, some scenes look photorealistic due to the use of proper lighting, while in others the faces of the characters are unnatural. The Rachel mentioned above is just a walking nightmare. The situation is similar with the animation of people and monsters. The monsters move very vividly, but the main characters in the gameplay moments twitch sharply. At the same time, the game sometimes even slows down or "pleases” tiring.
The new work of Supermassive Games has been translated into Russian quite well, but due to the weak primary source, some dialogues turned out to be even sillier than in the original. Russian Russian is worth noting separately that the amount of Russian mat here exceeds all reasonable limits - perhaps we have not yet seen games with so many swear words in Russian.
House of Ashes is the third part of The Dark Pictures series, slowly rolling downhill and having chances not to live up to the previously planned eight episodes. This is definitely the worst part of the story, which, instead of a natural explanation of events or a mystical variant, offers a path to a fantastic field. And this road looks secondary and poorly beaten. It is clear that the game was created under quarantine, but its consequences in this case are too noticeable and obvious.