The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Xbox Series X Review

House of Ashes is a gripping dark monster-filled adventure that you'll want to play over and over again

By Grayshadow, Posted 23 Oct 2021

House of Ashes delivers that monster-horror experience fans have been craving since the start of The Dark Pictures Anthology. With new protagonists attempting to survive deadly creatures deep within the Earth while also looking past their differences to survive. The narrative has a lot of twists as you decide the fate of each character and determine how this journey will end. With some choices being based on the personality shifts you caused. The game still suffers from Supermassive's poor checkpoint system but this is a small but repeating issue. House of Ashes is a gripping dark monster-filled adventure that you'll want to play over and over again.

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House of Ashes takes place during the 2003 Iraq War and stars Rachel King, US Air Force lieutenant colonel Eric King, USMC Force Recon marines first LT. Jason Kolchek, and SGT. Nick Kay, and Iraqi Army lieutenant Salim Othman. Despite all of these being playable, they all can die at any time and the narrative will continue regardless. The core of the story is finding an underground storage area that houses dangerous chemical weapons that could end the war. This was found using Eric using his new satellite thermal technology the group heads to the area and is attacked by Iraqi Republican Guard, resulting in the earth collapsing and everyone falling into an underground area. Everyone must fight to survive, learn to work together, and unexpectedly discover the origins of these monsters.

Each of the characters has distinct and memorable personas that change based on the player's actions. For example, you make Eric into a cold workaholic or a compassionate man who wants to reconnect with his estranged wife. In contrast, you do the same for Rachel to promote that behavior or hinder it. Jason is a hardcore marine who keeps moving forward and Nick is selfish at times but you can make him empathic. Salim is really the only character that doesn't have much wiggle room as he remains mostly the voice of reason throughout, often only caring about getting back to his son but also about helping those around him given they're in life and death situations. Some characters definitely get more attention and moments of redemption but all of them leave an impression.

The narrative is always changing, like previous Supermassive Games, which means everyone is expendable. Players will have 1 of 3 choices, 1 of them always being "Do Nothing" which will shift the feelings of each character and determine certain choices outside the player's control. This dynamic way of telling the story means that it can go in many surprising different ways. The way you shift the character's feelings and the relationships between one another will determine critical choices you have no way of directly altering. Since there's no decision tree in Detroit Become Human you won't know all the options available but the game gives a good idea of what could happen through premonition which highlights possible outcomes. With all these options this already 5-6 hour adventure could easily amass 15 hours especially if you have access to the curator's cut which is a timed-exclusive for pre-order customers. Seeing that most publishers are now charging $70 for less, this $30 game gives you more than your money's worth in content.

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Most of the essential information is told through collectibles such as the notes left behind by the previous exploration team. You learn very early that a previous team during WW2 found the area you're now trapped in and provide a background of what happened. The developers went further to add visual animations for the leader of the exploration team's notes which is a nice touch to showcase its importance. The game does give you an idea of where to look with bright white icons and a helpful grid so locating them is not to troublesome. However, Supermassive Games once again uses a horrible checkpoint system and scene selection system so if you miss something you'll have to redo entire hour-long areas. 

As expected the voices and animations for House of Ashes are exceptional. The character models are extremely detailed and the developers did an outstanding job with the sound design of the weapons and creatures. The monsters in particular are amazing and definitely highlight Supermassive's creativity in making alien-like creatures. The voice-actors did an outstanding job especially Ashley Tisdale which was unexpected considering her career mostly focused on family-friendly projects but she definitely steals the spotlight here. 

Levels share this same quality with incredible backgrounds and areas to explore. Most of the gameplay is quick time events and walking through small areas. The QTEs can be adjusted with a 3 option difficultly scale and the developers give a heads up which type of QTE is coming up, along with a slow-mo filter to get players prepared. If you fail sometimes players can recoup so losing out doesn't instantly mean death but only sometimes.

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The explorable areas are mostly to locate collectables and move to the next area. You'll usually use a flashlight or lighter to travel through these locations but the characters move painfully slow. It works if the characters are behaving cautiously or tactically but not when trying to look for something in a large bright area. On a larger minor but major issue, the speed at everyone walks upstairs is just unacceptable. You'll also notice when in very small areas the camera can get stuck since it's so close to the character model.

On a technical level, the game is stable with very few problems. There were a few graphical issues such as weapons floating in mid-air and clipping with the sunglasses on Rachel but these were minor problems. The game also crashed 1 time on me but thankfully it was right at a checkpoint. The title is much more stable than most AAA games but with more titles releasing broken it's nice to see some games released in an acceptable state.

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House of Ashes delivers that monster movie feeling fans love from Supermassive's Until Dawn. With a changing story, you can alter the characters in a multitude of ways and end up with various conclusions encouraging more playthroughs. Thanks to the exceptional voice-acting and visual design each scene has an incredible sense of quality to it. I did wish a decision tree was provided and a more accessible checkpoint system was used for collecting collectables. House of Ashes scratches that monster horror experience many crave and best of all you can play it again for a different adventure.

Adam Siddiqui,
Managing Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS5, XBSX, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Bandai Namco
Developer(s): Supermassive Games
Genres: Adventure
Themes: Horror
Release Date: 2021-10-22

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