The Dark Pictures Anthology has always tried to mix the movie-like experience and Heavy Rain's gameplay format. Players assume the role of various characters and must keep these poor souls alive from various dangers and possible deaths that will change the narrative. Honestly, these games haven't been perfect, but they have always delivered in one aspect: being scary and interesting.
The newest Dark Pictures title, House of Ashes, changes the format slightly by taking the usual cast of random friends/young adults and giving them a more mature military feel. Does House of Ashes finally give us the perfect horror title we've been expecting from the series? Has this third title in the anthology failed where the past titles succeeded? Let's find out!
Semper Fi Forever
What makes House of Ashes stand out immediately is that, unlike the goofy friends of Man of Medan or the random people of Little Hope, these are tough army soldiers who have a mission and their own very real problems. This gives House of Ashes an entirely new feeling and a stronger story.
House of Ashes follows several soldiers in the Iraq War who were searching for hidden weapons of mass destruction but find an ancient evil that was sealed to the world. House of Ashes kept us entertained—and quite scared—by making this new setting realistic and impactful. It's hard not to try and keep these soldiers alive, but the challenge of doing so is easily one of the hardest in the Dark Pictures Anthology series.
Think Fast or Die Quick
In case you missed out on games like Heavy Rain or the previous titles in the Dark Pictures Anthology, here's what you can expect. Players navigate several characters and must survive various quick-time events and actions. Unlike Man of Medan or Little Hope, these aren't young souls with no experience but battle-ready warriors who will need to keep their trigger fingers ready...just like the players.
Many of the scenes in House of Ashes require quick thinking and even quicker input. Missing a shot could lead to a character being torn apart by a monster, but acting too fast and not analyzing the available options could also lead to someone dying. House of Ashes warns players—like the past entries—that every choice has a consequence, and in this game, that is quite true.
The Scariest Ride Yet
While Man of Medan was a ghost ship inspired horror with quick jump scares, whereas Little Hope had a Silent Hill vibe. House of Ashes feels like the horror movies The Ruins and The Descent. Hands down, House of Ashes is the perfect Halloween game to play this year as it's the scariest entry, without a doubt!
The strange bat-like creatures are the main antagonists, and these things are truly spooky. They are extremely fast, can hear with bat-like sonar, and are deadly. Yet, alongside them, characters must also deal with their own personal demons that can cause them to commit vile acts against one another. One simple choice to be rude to a fellow soldier could lead to a moment later of fear or animosity. Again, choices are important in House of Ashes, and they can make some of the scares even worse.
More QTEs, Please!
If we had to complain about House of Ashes in any way—and this is a minor one—it's that we wish this title had just a few more quick-time events. There is a decent amount to be sure, but we'd love a bit more to engage with. Avoiding pebbles and making sounds can be fun, but we could think of several QTE moments that were wasted.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes is possibly the best of the franchise yet, and we doubt many would disagree. The scares feel more genuine now, and we enjoyed the cast significantly more than the previous titles. If the next entry is anything better than House of Ashes, it could truly bring us back to the hay days of Until Dawn!
So now you know, folks. If you're looking for something to play this Halloween, this is a great option! The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC via Steam.