It couldn’t end like this, not with that 2008 reboot that disappointed fans’ expectations, and in fact fate (and THQ Nordic) had other plans for Alone in the Dark. The rumors of the past few days have turned into glittering reality, because the highly anticipated return of one of the most important horror series in history, really wants to upset the players, plunging them into the dark nightmare that grips the Derceto manor. After having attended a presentation for the press, in which we could also observe some short in-game sections of the title in development, we want to tell you – with a heart full of terrifying joy – that this rewrite of the historic trilogy seems to have style and personality and now we explain why.
Welcome to the asylum
Derceto Manor is an imposing building that stands out in the tranquil greenery of Louisiana, in the midst of the humid and rainy climate of the southern United States. The royal abode it is a retirement home that welcomes people with money but psychologically tireda refuge where you can recover your mental faculties without turning to the inconvenient asylums that cover America.
Among the wealthy guests is Jeremy Hartwood, an artist with bizarre tendencies who pours his abstruse conceptions into works with a dark, almost threatening aura. On a hot August day, the man sends a letter to his niece Emily asking her to visit him, but the young woman has the distinct feeling that there is something worrying about her uncle’s sudden invitation, for this reason. decides to hire private detective Edward Carnby taking him with him to the silent Louisiana countryside that houses the manor. Just as Emily feared, once they arrive at the luxurious psychiatric hospital, the two visitors discover that Jeremy is missing: his last written testimonies describe him in terror, haunted by a dark figure he has called “The Dark Man”. What the protagonists will discover in the unhealthy environments of the villa, inhabited by rich deranged patients who seem to hide something among the few words barely spoken, will find them unprepared for a truth greater than them and in all probability related to the occult.
Return to the year zero
The first chapter of Alone in the Dark landed on the scene almost out of nowhere in 1992, upsetting the playful mechanisms of a still immature sector, clearing horror atmospheres and themes that continue to be developed and evolved even today, revealing himself as a precursor to modern survival horror and without which we would not have been able to enjoy the much acclaimed Resident Evil, nor the whole host of great titles that in turn were inspired by Mikami’s masterpiece.
The operation that aims to reinvigorate a story so important for the medium with modernity and terror bears the signature of Pieces Interactive, the developers chosen by THQ Nordic to bring the IP purchased in 2018 back to the spotlight, and Mikael Hedberg, the mind behind the shocking plots of SOMA and the Amnesia series (we invite you to catch up on our review of Amnesia Rebirth and the review of SOMA, two horror writing jewels).
This reinvention could only start from the plot, because the original dated ’92 did not develop according to the classic canons of the narrative being devoid of dialogues and cutscenes, so a profound rewriting was necessary that would transport the work into the contemporary, but able to respect the solid foundations of what is a timeless cornerstone of the genre.
The story devised by Hedberg lets us take on the role of Detective Carnby and Emily Hartwood, both also present in the title developed by Infogrames in the nineties, but this time there is no choice to make based on the gender of the protagonist because the plot sees them move at the same time, exploring the rooms of the Derceto manor in search of Jeremy Hartwood and in this way forking situations, dialogues and discoveries. The presentation mode is very reminiscent of the one that made Resident Evil 2 unparalleled, with the stories of Leon and Claire crossing and then dividing continuously, and in the same way those of Edward and Emily will see them travel the same places in moments different, but also personal levels seasoned with specific cutscenesforcing the player to restart the adventure just ended to relive it in the eyes of the second character and have the complete picture of the situation.
The mental characteristics of the two protagonists will in fact be at the center of the terrifying visions that develop in the luxurious retirement home, because the great evil that lies behind the mysterious disappearance of the artist is the knowledge of a dark and divine entity, capable of bending the reality that surrounds the protagonists, shattering it and exploding into the most ferocious madness.
Mix the old and the new
The narrative context develops from the imaginative frame created by HP Lovecraft, with the cosmic horror that aims to overturn the very meaning of truth, opening the doors to forbidden knowledge and capable of annihilating human minds unable to accept them.
Everything moves within the artistic sensitivity of the early twentieth centurybetween the eccentric architecture of Derceto and the fashion of a country that is undergoing strong cultural disturbances, while jazz begins to come out of the plantations to set music for the salons of connoisseurs: Pieces Interactive’s work proves to be very inspired from an artistic point of view and conceptual, the glance that embraces the variegated rooms of the villa is convincing, also thanks to a careful management of lights that casts dense and credible shadows in the darkest recesses of the mansion, managing to transport the player into a tumultuous era and immersing him in a story that we hope will prove to be thrilling. Very interesting is also the choice of the color palette, which marries the shades of bottle green and purple to color the rooms of the dwelling with terrible abandonment, stormed by vegetation and nightmare. The plot will not focus only within the four walls of Derceto, because in the few scraps of gameplay that we have been able to view, the streets of a city swallowed up by the night and the inevitable cemetery have also found space, two scenarios that do not seem able to surprise horror fans, while the slum set up at the foot of an oil pump has a completely different charm that lights up the night with its hot and dangerous flame.
Another big difference compared to the classic reference we find in the secondary characters, completely absent in the progenitor dated ’92, but who are proposed as patients of the retirement home in this reimagination which also incorporates old acquaintances from the other chapters of the original trilogy. The presentation trailer for Alone in the Dark opens with little Grace Saunders playing by hanging her dolls (a reference to the fate of Jeremy Hartwood in the original title): the girl appeared for the first time in the spin-off Jack in the Dark, and then become the protagonist of some sections in Alone in the Dark 2.
The classic of survival horror
As expected, the game mode abandons the rigidity of the adventure signed Infogrames to transport Alone in the Dark in the guise of a third-person shooter, with the strong horror inclinations that they place the camera behind the controlled characterwho will find himself exploring the thrilling scenarios with a narrow and close field of view, probably designed to keep the tension high.
Creating a round and punctual sound design will be essential for the overall success of the title, because the beating heart of Alone in the Dark is immersion in its historywith the exploration of the manor that takes on a key role together with the resolution of environmental puzzles.
Particular care has been infused in the musical sector, with the choice of a jazz doom that seems to be able to evoke a certain period of time, and then distort it towards the borders of anxiety and restlessness. In addition to a cinematic story and adult content, there is of course also room for the fight against the monstrosities that have invaded Darceto and the nightmares of its inhabitants.
Firearms, as well as the ammunition essential to save our skin, will be rather limited, so on some occasions avoiding clashes could be the most suitable solution, as in the original game. In addition, the use of blunt objects could unravel the thorniest situations without wasting precious bullets.
The enemies present on the path of the protagonists are the horrors born from the cult of one of the deities illustrated by Lovecraft, suffering abominations that explode in swellings full of blood, but also amphibious monsters hatched in the depths of the Louisiana swamps. Some beings, on the other hand, cannot be scratched by vulgar human meansthus forcing the player to use their creativity to avoid the gameover.
The pointing system, as well as the catalog of animations presented in the version that we have been able to peek, still presents the traits of what is an experience in the Alpha phase, but for the moment it seems to turn towards a slow and heavy conception of the shotwhich lends itself well to the development of tension and fear that must accompany any skirmish.
Less convincing appeared the polygonal models of the characters, which at the moment seem to align themselves with outdated standards, and their own facial expressions, which could negatively affect the scenic impact of dialogues and moments full of tension. The information regarding the highly anticipated return of Alone in the Dark is still lost in the darkness of an embryonic development, but Pieces Interactive’s will to breathe new life into the series that laid the foundation for the evolution of videogame horror. ‘is and it shows.