Alone in the Dark made horror games what they are today. Originally released in 1992, it set out the template for the first era of 3D survival horror games, dropping players into a creepy puzzle and peril-filled manor and tasking them with escape. A few sequels capitalised on that genre-defining success, but the name has slowly faded into the background over the past 25 years. Pieces Interactive and THQ Nordic would like to change all that, giving the series a long-awaited jump start.
Reboots, remakes, reimaginings and remasters; these are the ways in which we try to categorise new releases within old video game franchises. Pieces Interactive are pretty clear on their approach here. Alone in the Dark will be a “love letter” to the original early-90s trilogy, taking every element from those games and reimagining how they can all fit together within a modern gaming style. That style, of course, sees them jump from using 3D polygonal characters on pre-rendered backgrounds, to an over-the-shoulder fully 3D action-horror style.
It’s funny, in some ways, to see the role reversal between Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil. Where Alone in the Dark was a major source of inspiration for Resident Evil, Capcom’s series then continually evolved and defined successive eras for the horror genre, including how to make a modernising remake. Now it’s Alone in the Dark’s turn to follow, as its student is now widely seen as the master.
However, outside of the fundamental gameplay, Pieces Interactive’s job is vastly different. The stories told within the original games were a real hodge-podge of horror narrative inspirations, and video game storytelling has come on leaps and bounds since their release. Instead of a direct retelling, they’re creating a brand new story built around some of the pillars of the original games, taking throwaway mentions and building them out into more meaningful elements.
Decerto Manor is still at the heart of this, providing the central haunted mansion setting for the game, and both Edward Carnby and Emily Hartwood are playable protagonists exploring and investigating the horrors that are spilling out of it – whichever you choose to play as, the other will then be and NPC that you can find roaming around the house.
One of the biggest ways that the game is expanding on the original is in exploring the surrounding world. Set in the 1920s and New Orleans, this new game will actually head out to explore all of this, featuring the swampy bayou, including jazz in the soundtrack, the local culture and creole dialect. The manor will always be the centre stage for this game, but you’ll get to take plenty of detours.
The tone of the terrible tale will also change as it’s being expanded. The spark that draws Edward and Emily to Decerto isn’t the death of Emily’s uncle, but rather a letter that he sends to Emily. Decerto in this game is a mental hospital for the rich and wealthy, tended to by the somewhat sinister Dr. Gray – a character who’s been elevated from being the doctor to declare Emily’s uncle dead to running the asylum at Decerto. Similarly, there’ Grace from Alone in the Dark 2, on hand for all the spooky cursed child vibes you could possibly want.
All of that comes together to create a surreal and unsettling tone that can easily be seen through the early trailers released for the game. Though the game is shifting to third person, it’s not going for a full action-horror experience, instead leaning toward psychological horror and storytelling. Expect to find plenty of locked doors that need opening, as well as puzzles to solve to open paths ahead.
Combat against strange mutated monsters will also be featured, and you can fight them back with firearms and weapons, but stealth will often be a better option and Pieces want to build a sense of desperate survival into the melee encounters.
There’s great ambitions to Alone in the Dark, and on every level it sounds like Pieces Interactive are taking the right approach to reviving a landmark horror series for a modern era.