Nowadays, when we think of survival horror, we mainly think of Resident Evil. Thanks to new parts and remakes, that series has remained relevant for decades. That can’t be said about one of the founders of the genre, Alone in the Dark. If it’s up to developer Pieces Interactive, that will change next year.
Alone in the Dark has an eventful history. After the original trilogy in the early 1990s, developers continued to venture into the name, resulting in a faltering storyline and erratic quality. Mediocre film adaptations further weakened the once legendary brand name. We can all forget that though, because the new Alone in the Dark takes us back to Derceto Manor, the haunted house from the very first volume, which came out in 1992.
Reinterpretation of the original
Still, Alone in the Dark is not a remake of the original. Writer Mikael Hedberg, an industry veteran who previously worked on Amnesia and Soma, among others, describes it in conversation with us more as a ‘what if’ scenario. The original begins with the suicide of Jeremy Hartwood. In this part, Hartwood does not commit suicide, but is about to do so. He even wrote his suicide note. Emily Hartwood, his niece, also sees her uncle commit suicide in a dream. That combination of strange happenings prompts Emily to call in private detective Edward Carnby and head to Derceto Manor.
Then you can choose who you play as: Emily or Edward. Although the two are basically together all the time, Hedberg explains that your character plays the main role in the story. The stories are therefore slightly different, and Hedberg even lets it slip that as a player you have to make choices that further influence the story. Switching between characters is not an option. The intention is to play Alone in the Dark multiple times.
Grace in the Dark
The question is, of course, whether the game is also worth going through several times. Fortunately, we can already play a bit ourselves. This demo is not part of the full game, and is designed as a cross-section to get a quick taste of the atmosphere of Alone in the Dark. There are therefore no fights, because the developer now wants to focus on the atmosphere and not on dying.
In the demo we play as Grace Saunders, a character that fans may remember from Alone in the Dark 2 from 1993. She also got the lead role in the playable demo Jack in the Dark, and as an ode to the new game is also called Grace in the Dark. In about fifteen minutes to half an hour we wander through Derceto Manor, where certainly nothing is what it seems. Through a door we see the green grass and trees, but when a gust of wind slams the door and we open it ourselves, there is just another room behind it. This way the environment changes a few more times where we assist. That is of course not unique within the genre, but it sets the right tone right away.
Haunted house bursting with atmosphere
After all, Alone in the Dark doesn’t like filth, and it’s not the intention that you as a player only fear for your virtual life if there are enemies nearby. There are fights in it – in a trailer we see Emily shooting with a double-barreled shotgun and Edward is not wearing his revolver for show either – but Alone in the Dark relies mainly on the intense atmosphere. “It’s essentially a haunted house,” summarizes Hedberg.
The atmosphere is therefore very important for the game and fortunately that is already right in this playable demo. Alone in the Dark isn’t groundbreakingly pretty, but the faded colors are a great match for the unmistakable 1930s aesthetic. The green-brown color palette even resembles the original. Uncomfortable sounds such as loud ticking clocks, the changing house and mysterious characters immediately set an intriguing tone, accompanied by atmospheric ‘moody dark jazz’ or ‘doom jazz’, as the developer describes the music itself. Incidentally, it is composed by a Dutchman, Jason Köhnen.
At the same time, we have to admit that we haven’t seen much of Alone in the Dark yet. For example, the developer also promises that we will explore the area outside Derceto Manor. The original game took place entirely in the house itself, but according to lore the spacious villa is somewhere in Louisiana. That fact is now being used, because the steamy bayou is ideally suited to function as the setting for a horror story. However, the bayou was only briefly reviewed in a trailer. So how exploring the haunted house and the surrounding areas really works is still a mystery.
Have a little patience
Despite this, Alone in the Dark is back on my radar. After the last flopped games I honestly wouldn’t have thought that possible anymore. As a fan of games like the modern Resident Evils, The Evil Within and Alan Wake, I see a lot of interesting points in Alone in the Dark, such as the uncomfortable atmosphere and changing environments. At the same time, Alone in the Dark seems to distance itself from the first two in particular by not focusing very much on filth. So the game promises to go its own way and I’d like to see more of that.
How long we have to wait for more of Alone in the Dark is unfortunately still a bit unclear. The game is scheduled to be released next year and is now in its alpha phase. “Do the math yourself,” a spokesperson for the developer winks. Our safe bet is next spring.
Alone in the Dark will be released for Playstation 5, Xbox Series X/S and Microsoft Windows.