Picture Credit: Supermassive Games/Bandai Namco
Picture Credit: Supermassive Games/Bandai Namco

Never did I ever think I’d be cutting a rope that would send a character played by Ashley Tisdale to her inevitable doom whilst my friend Megan shouted at me for being such a selfish piece of work but, then came along the third entry into The Dark Pictures Anthology, in the form of the highly-anticipated House of Ashes.

Taking on the role of often dead-behind-the-eyes CIA Officer Rachel King, players will be tasked with keeping not only her, but her husband USAF Lt. Colonel Eric King (Alex Gravenstein), USMC Force Recon 1st Lt. Jason Kolchek (Paul Zinno), Sgt. Nick Kay (Moe Jeudy-Lamour) and, Iraqi Republican Guard Lt. Salim Othman (Nick Tarabay) alive, as they delve a few thousand feet underground into a world that was best left undisturbed.

Though they’re on the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it’s something else entirely that the Americans come across and, whilst they’re convinced their enemy is those who call the land they’ve invaded home, their real adversaries come in the form of something else entirely.

Part of the magic of a Dark Pictures Anthology game is going in blind, completely unaware of the twists and turns that lie in the shadows and so, saying too much more about the narrative on offer would dampen the experience. What we can delve a little deeper into however, is the overall gameplay and flow, character development and changes from the previous series’ entries.

Picture Credit: Supermassive Games/Bandai Namco
Picture Credit: Supermassive Games/Bandai Namco

One of the most noticeable changes is the switch from fixed cameras entirely to a 360-degree player controlled visual. On the surface, it sounds like a dream come true but, when you’re trying to explore some of the more cramped and claustrophobic areas of the game, in a bid to find every single secret and picture, it can prove to be a little problematic. It makes exploration more immersive for sure but, that level of immersion is suddenly shattered when you find yourself awkwardly gazing at a patch of ground for a good few seconds, before your command to inspect whatever’s lying there kicks in.

Where House of Ashes really shines of course, is in the different paths you can go down based on decisions made both early on in the game and, in some of the most intense, do-or-die moments. Will you use your head or your heart, as you battle to survive against hellish conditions? Or will the two combine, leaving you flustered as to what to call upon where it’s most important?

The consequences to your actions will sometimes feel unavoidable but, once you go back and run through the game all over again, making different choices along the way, you’ll soon discover exactly how you impacted on the fates of each of the game’s leading figures.

Playing alone allows you to experience stepping into the shoes of each of the five playable characters but, the game really comes alive in online two-player co-op Shared Story or, local co-op Movie Night where you can have up to five people share the same controller and take one character each under their wing.

Picture Credit: Supermassive Games/Bandai Namco
Picture Credit: Supermassive Games/Bandai Namco

Your real-life friendships may not be shattered entirely after a self-serving string of decisions but, there will be certainly tension in the room and online if something you do has an adverse effect on those you are playing with.

With a bit of polish around the edges, The Dark Pictures Anthology series could be truly something special. For now, it’s still bordering on the edge of moving into legendary, must-play status. Let’s hope that the highly-anticipated season finale will have us clamouring for more from Supermassive Games in the future.

House of Ashes is out now, available to play on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. A code for Xbox Series X was provided to Female First in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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