Having received a shot in the arm from Resident Evil VII’s return to form, survival horror is well overdue a renaissance. Despite industry statements that horror games are dead – particularly linear single player ones – there is still a loyal fanbase keen to play with their fear. Aside from the Evil Within series, however, horror is still largely relegated to the indies. Remothered: Tormented Fathers is an ambitious attempt to bridge the gap between lo-fi indie horror and the big budget movie-inspired titles. Using the Unreal 4 engine to enable a level of graphical fidelity and presentation akin to a AAA title, Remothered clearly shows the years of passion that have gone into its development. In creating a focused and coherent horror narrative, Darril Arts have made a virtue of the obvious limitations of their small team, and the result is a fascinating and welcome new franchise in the survival horror genre.
The first thing to strike you when beginning Remothered is the visual style. Clearly inspired by a mixture of grindhouse 70s horror films and Italian Giallo thrillers, the result is a claustrophobic environment that still retains the feel of gaming inspirations such as the original Resident Evil. The whole game, aside from an atmospheric intro, takes place in the Felton mansion and by the end you will have hidden and snuck around every part. While this involves the obligatory backtracking, much like the aforementioned Resident Evil, your increased familiarity with the layout of the rooms and the shortcuts you open as you progress ensure that this doesn’t become too repetitive. The claustrophobic mansion feels bigger than it is because of how carefully and slowly you have to navigate its corridors and rooms, always listening out for the footsteps of the house’s residents.
As I became immersed in the convoluted and mysterious narrative, I was struck by how the tale of medical experiments, alleged traumatic pasts and a missing child managed to take the tropes and conventions of classic survival horror games and mix them into a new and original take. The main twists and revelations will be kept out of this review in order to prevent spoilers but suffice it to say that a major plot point that becomes apparent towards the end of the game was both familiar to genre fans and not entirely unexpected in a videogame horror. A few niggles in clarity due to translation must be overlooked to avoid this seemingly clumsy twist but I felt that the overall narrative had built things up enough to give the writers the benefit of the doubt. I am aware that this all sounds very vague but I cannot stress enough how crucial not having the story spoiled is to the game’s effectiveness.
One aspect that gives Remothered an original twist is the identity of the player character. You explore the mansion as Rosemary Reed, a 35 year old woman with an unclear background who takes it upon herself to investigate the case of a missing girl and a mysterious illness affecting her grieving father. No other context is given and as the plan appears to be for a trilogy of games in this franchise, it becomes apparent that much is remaining to be explained as to Rosemary’s origins and motivations. What is particularly welcome, however, is the choice of such an atypical videogame lead. While there have been female characters in survival horrors at least since the days of Jill Valentine, they have often been strong and highly trained operatives rather than normal people.
The threats to Rosemary throughout Remothered are rendered far more horrifying because of her clear lack of training. She is even attempting to infiltrate the mansion whilst wearing a pencil skirt and high heels, clothing that is far more in keeping with the Giallo influences than traditional horror games. Voice acting on the whole is pretty good, albeit hampered a little by some odd moments in the translation. There is a thin line between deliberate weirdness and incomprehensibility that is not helped by some overly obscure phrasing, especially during the moments of exposition that explain the broader aspects of the gameworld.
The core gameplay of Remothered leans more towards the stealth side of survival horror than the combat. Rosemary can equip herself with defensive weapons but these are only usable as a last resort in an encounter. Instead, you must sneak your way around the mansion and avoid being seen by your enemies. To aid you in this you can find an array of distraction items ranging from vases and paperweights to music boxes and ropes. I haplessly blundered my way to the very last section of the game before figuring out how to employ the music boxes despite there being clear instructions in the tutorial which probably made a few sections more difficult than they needed to be. Alongside the sneaking and hiding – including some wardrobes that will remind genre fans of the likes of Alien: Isolation – there are a few standard item based puzzles. These mostly amount to variations of finding a key to open a locked area but do help to break up the pattern of stealth.
Overall, Remothered successfully combines stealth and survival horror but the one major drawback is the audio feedback when exploring the Felton residence. Your enemies have a small and repetitive set of expressions that you will soon become tired of hearing and there seemed to be little distinction made between different floors of the house. Consequently, judging their location through their volume was made more difficult. Sometimes the voices would get louder despite the enemy being on an entirely different floor but obviously walking over the same coordinates. Not being able to depend on these signals resulted in a lot more waiting than was strictly necessary as I became reliant on seeing rather than hearing. How simple an issue this would be to patch I don’t know, but it is an unwelcome negative to the generally effective stealth.
I was apprehensive when first beginning Remothered: Tormented Fathers as I have been burnt by too many horror games that promised much but only disappointed – Agony being the most recent and egregious example. Happily, despite a few minor niggles, I very much enjoyed my time in the Felton residence and eagerly await the promised sequels. Darril Arts have established a gameworld that is clearly influenced by its predecessors but manages to steer clear of feeling overly derivative. I’m not a huge fan of stealth but the world and the narrative drew me in and by the end I was sneaking around like Solid Snake in high heels. If you’re looking for a new horror experience then Remothered comes highly recommended.
Version Tested: PS4 – also available on PC and Xbox One