Those Who Remain Review
The concept of being afraid of the dark is a natural fear, one that is embedded into us as children — Manipulating this fear of darkness into a video game is nothing new as such games as Outlast, Resident Evil, and GTFO have all sucessfully exploited the mental, emotional, and psychological aspect of players to deliver great phycological horror experiences. Those Who Remain focuses on this concept with an underlying question — Are you afraid of the dark?
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-release build of Those Who Remain — My initial reactions were quite positive as I saw a lot potential in both its story and gameplay mechanics, now the time has come for me to finally conclude my journey into the darkness and relive my childhood nightmares of being scared of the dark.
Those Who Remain focuses on the story of its main protagonist, Edward, who had it all — A Gorgeous wife, perfect family, and most of all happiness, but Edward threw it all away and first introduced to the game drinking a glass of whiskey, holding a photo of his wife, and a gun; reminiscing of a better time in his life. This scene lays the foundation of Those Who Remain as a story about fear, tragedy, and one tormented soul. This is when Edward vows to make an amends by finally ending his secret affair with his mistress, Diane and focus on getting his life back. But Edward’s adventure takes an unexpected turn as you will spend the next 6 or so hours exploring the town of Dormont and discover the truth behind a town of lies and paranormal activity.
From the moment you begin exploring the dark, mysteriously and empty town of Dormont, it is apparent that you are not alone, at least not when they darkness creeps in. Hidden within the shadows are hordes of piercing blue eyes that reflect the emotional demons lurking within Edward’s head, such is his mental state of mind. However, unlike the demons lurking within Edward’s head, the silhouettes that prowl within the darkness can be vanquished by a flick of a light switch or any other form of light, allowing Edward to continue his journey of mystery.
Developer Camel 101 have incorporated several paranormal elements into the game that adds additional layers of complexity to an otherwise simple game. Players will find a number of mysterious doorways throughout the game that lead another dimension, reminiscent of The Upside Down gateway seen in TV show Stranger Things. This alternate dimension allows Edward to interact with objects that he otherwise cannot with in reality; heavy objects that no mortal being could lift are now moved with ease, allowing you to return to reality with the obstacle removed from you path.
This alternate dimension isn’t the only time you will encounter puzzle elements — Those Who Remain has a number of puzzles that at times, are quite clever and remind me of early Silent Hill titles. These puzzles focus on the game’s foundation of light, or more-so manipulating light, physics, and audible noise to solve puzzles. Unfortunately, this level of complexity is far and few between with most puzzles ultimately rewarding exploration (a nice way of saying opening draws and cabinets) and trial and error rather than creative thinking.
I remember first playing Outlast and being quite impressed with its combat mechanics, or rather lack of — Those Who Remain echos Outlast’s anti-confrontational mechanics by focusing on stealth and avoiding combat at all costs. This is quite easy as the majority of enemies encountered in the game only exist within the dark, there is however the game’s main antagonist — a Frankenstein-like creature that thanks to his headlight for a face, has no fear of light. Avoiding confrontation with this beast poses no real challenge, but is a welcomed change to a somewhat linear style of gameplay.
This is where the merry-go-round adventure of Those Who Remain begins to repeat itself. You will spend the majority of the game walking from location to location doing your best to avoid the dark in a somewhat stealth manner, despite being the inverse of traditional stealth games where remaining hidden in darkness paramount. This gameplay mechanic is far too basic and one-dimensional. The ability to distract enemies (in particular the Frankenstein Headlight) by using noises or traps could of added another layer to its shallow gameplay, allowing Those Who Remain to challenge the standard set by other horror games such as Layers of Fear and The Evil Within.
Thankfully, Those Who Remain does a great job of creating gorgeous world thanks to its excellent use of lighting and shadow effects. These effects look fantastic and combine with the games underlying paranormal theme that create an immersive atmosphere that is full of floating furniture, creepy silluettes, and mystic fog that make up for a number of shortcomings.
This can’t be said for Edward’s voice acting as I found him to be as interesting as a potato. Edward’s dialogue delivery is a constant boring monotone that is hard to connect to, further complicating the connection between the game’s main character and the town in which the game takes place. Despite the game’s best efforts to incorporate Edward into its story, I found it hard to connect with Edward and often wondered why he was forced to explore the death of a young girl.
Judge, Jury and Executioner
Those Who Remain rewards exploration, to a degree. Exploring every inch of each area (again, mainly draws and cabinet) within Dormont and its alternative reality will allow you to discover various pieces of evidence. This evidence is used to piece together what actually happened regarding mysterious death of the young girl, but this isn’t the only evidence that contribute towards the game’s ending. Edward’s past comes back to haunts him and depending on how much of Edward’s past is discovered, will impact the ending.
This means that you ultimately you become judge, jury and executioner and use the evidence found, along with the actions of your past to combine for one of the three endings that is a highlight of the game.
- GAMEPLAY - 55%55%
- GRAPHICS - 80%80%
- AUDIO - 69%69%
Despite the game’s underlying message of ‘stay in the light’, I often found myself gravitating towards darkness to escape the reality I found myself within. This is despite Those Who Remain’s good job of initially laying a solid foundation with its story, but I found it hard to connect Edward with the town of Dormont. While each of the game’s multiple endings are a satisfying conclusion to the story, it felt like a struggle to get there as a mixture of one-dimensional stealth mechanics, simple AI, and a poor main character combine for a mixed experience.