Remember that late-night program on Discovery Channel about ghosts and other things supernatural? Yes, I’m talking about A Haunting, which used to scare the shit out of me despite the sloppy CGI (partly because Indian horror TV serials had it even worse…much worse). Now every episode had at least one thing consistent, i.e creeping shadows and darkness. Much like Alan Wake, doesn’t it? But it all boiled down to how perfectly that creepiness factor was executed, which, let’s be honest, not many episodes were able to do. And even then it looked outright cheesy as if it were made in the ’90s.
Much like the game in question, Those Who Remain.
Now, before I start, let’s have a shot every time I mention how similar in theme this game is to Alan Wake. Narrative-wise, we are told that the sleepy town of Dormont has recently witnessed quite a large number of mysterious disappearances (just like Bright Falls from Alan Wake. Shot one bottoms up!). A veil of darkness has cloaked the entire town leaving shadowy figures slumbering on the horizon (shot two!). And the only to escape this abstract darkness is to keep the lights running (and that’s shot three!).
But three continuous shots isn’t enough to make your voice as gruff as our protagonist Edward, a guy with a perfectly fine marriage and yet harboring a severe drinking problem and an extramarital affair. I mean, he had a good life, a beautiful wife and a perfect little girl and yet, he couldn’t keep it in his pants. So for the sake of starting Those Who Remain, he had to chug down several bottles of whiskey and drive across Dormont in the middle of the night to end his affair with this lady called Diane. So he arrives at this Golden Oak motel in the pitch-black night, all depressed and sloshed, and that’s when the actual game begins.
Oh, and he remains that way throughout the game, expressing chronic disinterest even after witnessing the strangest paranormal activities a man could imagine. Walking faceless people blending in with the shadows force you to stay in the light but unlike Alan Wake, you can’t attack them, because Those Who Remain, like many horror games these days is of the ‘other type’ with some puzzles in between. The puzzles include walking through portals to move things in an alternate reality then backtracking to modify it in our own reality. The annoyance comes creeping in when you have to find the list of required things in the first place.
You see, the devs of Those Who Remain have made the environment so needlessly dark and riddled with an unrealistic bloom that finding quest items becomes a chore. Even after turning on the lights, it appears as if the entire town is running on fumes making you go on a wild pixel hunt. Making environment scary is one thing but making it dim-lit with just for the sake of horror is another. Furthermore, there are not many graphical options in the pause menu to modify these effects, at least not right now.
But truth be told, Those Who Remain actually looks glorious when you don’t have to go scavenging into the darkness. It gives a creepy noir kind of vibe owing to the unrealistic amount of luminous reflection from metal surfaces. As for the background score, they didn’t mess that up. But the spooky low pitched horror ambience is so much hackneyed in the gaming industry that it doesn’t feel anything special anymore.
Despite how it looks, Those Who Remain is so dull that you’ll start yawning after only five minutes into the game. Maybe this has something to do with the nigh-dark environments that made me feel sleepy or maybe it was due to the inability to find quest items in the dark. But, the game is still a few months from release and there’s a chance that all of this could be fixed by then. Here’s hoping that it does.