2020 is shaping up to be fairly promising for fans of the horror genre. The Medium, a System Shock reboot, and the next installment of The Dark Pictures Anthology, are just a few upcoming titles to name that are in the mix. More recently, Those Who Remain; a new release from Camel 101 and Wired Productions, launched on multiple platforms. Since its announcement, it seemed to have sparked some interest within the gaming community. Slated as a first person psychological thriller, I was excited to try it out and see what kind of madness the developers brewed up. This eerie, suspenseful, and terrifying visit to the town of Dormont was one I wouldn’t be forgetting anytime soon.
The first few moments of this dark and mind bending tale introduce us to Edward, an emotionally broken individual. It’s apparent his marriage is in crumbles, and to top it off, is grieving over the loss of a child due to a car accident. Seeking out a grungy little motel on the outskirts of Dormont, Edward decides to meet with a woman who is clearly not his wife. Having no luck finding her, he makes his way back to his car, only to witness it being stolen. Now stuck on foot, Edward has no choice but to venture into town, leaving his own personal agendas on the backburner (for now at least).
Horror games don’t need to be crammed with jump scare tactics in order to make the player feel uneasy. By limiting line of sight, as well as almost all background noise, it really amplified the nerve-racking and claustrophobic ambience throughout this devastated town. One of the most unsettling aspects, was constantly being surrounded by dozens of glowing blue eyes from mysterious, dark silhouettes, just out of lights reach. These supernatural visitors aren’t going anywhere, and observe you the entire game. It’s a great mechanic to make the player feel uneasy, especially inside of buildings. Leaning into rooms to flick light switches on, just inches from these entities was an awesome way to build the tension. The light is your only real ‘weapon’ or means of survival while you uncover the dark secrets this town is hiding.
Meeting only a handful of NPCs, the story reveals itself in small pieces over time. You do eventually encounter a mysterious masked man, whose full intentions aren’t quite known until the final act. He does however, present you with a fate choosing system, which I absolutely loved. Without giving much away storywise; you will be forced to make some drastic decisions during your playthrough. Each will alter the ending as well. To my understanding, there are three endings that can be triggered. I’ve only achieved one so far myself, but I’m curious to see how the others unfold. It gives the game a bit of replayability value, which is great to see.
The gameplay in Those Who Remain revolves around exploration for the most part. Effortless puzzles and item collecting are what you’ll be doing the majority of the playthrough. You spend a lot of time (almost too much time) digging through lockers and cabinets, seeking documents which all assist in connecting this puzzling story together. I didn’t mind the slow burn of the story reveal. However, searching for some of these necessary items could be a nightmare on its own. It’s easy to miss a single cabinet and I found myself frequently backtracking to find it. There a few chase/hide and seek sequences with some rather grotesque and intimidating entities thrown into the mix as well. It helped break up the sometimes exhausting document hunting. Never providing much challenge, I found myself escaping these scenarios with little effort. They also served as a quick reminder that I hate being chased and forced to hide.
Traversing to the ‘other’ world; a hazy, gravity defied, altered vision of Dormont, was an interesting and unexpected concept added to the mix as well. This Twilight Zone-esque plane had some really cool visuals within it; rooms of houses flipped upside down, objects floating and spinning out of control, even labyrinths of large stone walls to navigate through. It was an interesting addition to the adventure, but felt out of place at points. Even after wrapping up the story, I find myself still trying to understand the purpose of some of the aforementioned areas.
Some minor performance issues and tedious item collecting were the only real downfall during my visit to this dark, foggy and corrupted town. Spooky stuff aside; it’s an emotional tale of grief. One that shows the lengths some will take when battling their personal demons. I found myself connecting more with the other few characters than I did with Edward himself. Those Who Remain delivers a decent mix of aspects we’ve come to love, or hate, in horror games. Multiple endings is always a welcoming addition as well. This visual nightmare peaked my anxiety from start to finish, and the slow unveiling of the story grasped my attention the entire time. For having such a small development team, I think they did an good job delivering this one. I enjoyed my visit to Dormont, but I’ll be sure to take a detour if I see its sign down the road next time. Or I’ll at least pack a flashlight.
Final Rating : 7