The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes

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The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes review
Adam Nix


Into the Monster's Den

Into the Monster’s Den

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes, is the third and newest release from Supermassive Games. Following the Dark Pictures Anthology and Until Dawn formula, players find themselves traversing through a horror movie, making important story-based decisions that push characters towards villainy or heroism. With themes tackling ideas around trust and betrayal, House of Ashes gives players some fun and interesting choices to make during stressful, action-packed sequences. There are some major issues with this game, from corny dialogue to odd character choices, but it’s hard not to love the monster-fighting guns-ablazin nonsense this game offers.

House of Ashes takes place in 2003 Iraq. During the Second Iraq War, a group of marines stumbles upon an ancient temple holding mysterious and terrifying monsters. The story itself was always at its strongest when it leaned into the action and less so on interpersonal relationships.

I couldn’t help but think of the differences between the movies Alien and Aliens. A common comparison to make is that Alien is a horror movie, while Aliens is an action movie. House of Ashes is definitely closer to Aliens than the former. When House of Ashes pushed the story towards those action-packed sequences that made Aliens so good, it was a blast to play. Unfortunately, great action sequences and spooky monstrous scenarios were spliced with uncomfortable and poorly written character moments.

Love and War

Characters were grouped into two major story arcs. One involves a love triangle that is painfully boring and the other involves an Iraqi soldier and U.S. marine traversing their differences. This Iraq war focused relationship felt shallow and basic for the most part. Although each character had some endearing moments, they still fell flat for me and they seemed to want to delve into political issues revolving around the second Iraq war, but never committed to it.

When I tried to push these characters in different directions through player choices, I never felt like I had a huge influence over the story that Supermassive wanted to tell. Certain characters that I wanted to become the villain of my group were pre-determined to have some kind of redemption arc, while the worst characters ended up being NPCs. The characters I wanted to be good at the beginning of the game were forced to make bad and selfish decisions. In the end, I felt like these characters were railroaded to be the characters supermassive wanted them to be, not who I wanted them to be. And that’s usually fine, but for a game that puts so much weight into character choices, I wish I could have done more.

Mash 'A' to Live

Having only played one Dark Pictures game in the past (Little Hope), and bouncing off of it pretty quickly, I knew what I was getting into as I dove into House of Ashes. House of Ashes plays much more like an interactive movie than a videogame. Most interactions are done through on-screen prompts: Mash the 'A' button to open this door, quickly press the 'B' button to dive out of the way, etc.. These interactions during prolonged cut-scenes keep you on your toes. Too many missteps and your characters will get hurt.

Although I only played through the game once, I reloaded certain save areas to see what other decisions would have done to my characters. Many of them were inconsequential, eventually leading to the same outcome with slightly different flavour. There are a handful of key points in the game where the decision drastically changes the game, but these decisions are few and far between.

Even the mistakes I made seemed to have little impact in the moment. Instead, many mistakes seemed to come into play much later in the game, feeling like checkboxes more than story moments. It’s like the game was saying “You messed up X times, so something very bad is going to happen to this character.” The only way to avoid this would be to mess up as little as possible throughout the game. The issue with this is that my original errors were not related to the eventual consequence at all. I enjoy seeing the conclusion of a mistake, but when the repercussion feels completely separate from the initial mistake, it feels cheap.

A Flawed Shocktober Thrill

If you ignore the terrible dialogue and iffy relationships, the heart of this story is fun and engaging. The idea of delving deeper into the monster’s den is exciting! You get the aspects of a mystery, but placing it within a military group keeps the entire story action-packed and adrenaline pumping. There were multiple action sequences where I was at the edge of my seat, mashing whatever button I needed to make sure this demonic monster in front of me didn’t tear me apart.

I have a lot of complaints about this game, but even with its flaws, I enjoyed it. I just think it could have been so much better. That being said, I’ve watched so many campy horror movies that have done much worse than House of Ashes. They might miss the mark on story elements and character decisions, but I can’t help but like the experience as a whole.

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fun score


Fun action sequences, Interesting story


Corny dialogue, Bad character arcs, Inconsequential character choices