Inside Alone in the Dark: THQ’s reimagining of the ’90s survival horror game -Dlight News

Inside ‘Alone in the Dark’: THQ’s Re-Imagining of the ‘90s Lovecraftian Survival Horror Game

Before Resident Evil, there was Alone in the Dark – a Lovecraftian-style survival horror game by Frédéric Raynal that was based on solid, pre-rendered backgrounds on which 3D characters would scurry. The game design impressed creator Shinji Mikami to adapt it to the early model of RE, which was previously planned as a first-person shooter. Launching in 1992, Alone in the Dark spawned a slew of compelling titles before eventually fading into obscurity over the next decade. Until Swedish developer Pieces Interactive took on the task of lifting the franchise from its haunted grave through a modernized reimagining – a reimagining that now ironically takes inspiration from recent Resident Evil remakes. A complete circle is formed.

Best described as a love letter to the original, Alone in the Dark – out October 25th on PC, PS5 and Xbox Series S/X – brings main characters Detective Edward Carnby and Emily Hartwood back to the atmospheric Derceto Mansion in response to a disturbing letter from his uncle, Jeremy Hartwood. Unlike the original, in which Jeremy was haunted by the “Dark Man” and committed suicide, this reimagining extends his story arc further to include him being treated in a rural hospital, creating a lingering fear that the story will doom him to do so is to repeat yourself.

Such small changes and callbacks can be found throughout the game, with writer-director Mikael Hedberg likening the development to “cultivating a seed planted 30 years ago”. For the uninitiated, Hedberg also wrote Amnesia: The Dark Descent and deep-sea horror game Soma, promising an atmospheric experience that’s “more than just jumpscares.” He believes that fear merely relieves tension and that the anticipation of what is about to happen keeps players on their toes.

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“I remember with the first Alone in the Dark that I did back in 1992, we basically did something nobody had done before,” creator Raynal said during the preview event. “It was the first time we could explore a grand mansion, fight monsters, and solve difficult puzzles – all in real-time 3D.” , that the enclosed rooms of the Derceto Mansion always served as an additional, important character that really tightened the story. At its core, however, Alone in the Dark will have you playing either the niece Emily Hartwood or the brooding detective Edward Carnby – whom she hired because she was startled by her uncle’s letter – and the long corridors, tunnels and a nearby town investigate full of cosmic monstrosities.

“We knew early on that we had a character-driven story, so we had to find some really good actors to bring those characters to life,” said director Hedberg. David Harbor from Stranger Things is our detective character, who himself never shies away from expressing his affection for the world of video games – especially World of Warcraft and the horror genre. “He’s kind of a gruff detective looking for something and, you know, he’s tough, but he’s also got a bit of humor and stuff like that,” Harbor explained, adding that the character is a bit of a dork. ‘ Your playthrough as Detective Carnby will be vastly different from that of Emily, who has a more personal, familial connection to the mystery. As an assassin, you will learn step by step how the mystery of Derceto is related to you and why you keep seeing strange memories of this place.

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Jodie Comer, Alone in the Dark, Feature Film, Jodie Comer, Alone in the Dark, Feature Film

Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve”) plays Emily Hartwood in “Alone in the Dark”.
Credit: THQ Nordic/ Pieces Interactive

Meanwhile, Emily is played by Jodie Comer – best known for ‘Killing Eve’ and ‘Free Guy’ – who also suffers from the strange condition known as the ‘Hartwood Curse’. No further explanation was provided for the curse, but judging by the original game we can assume it involves some dark rituals of an occult pirate whose spirit wanders in search of a suitable host.

“Yes, there is something scary, but then she still has to go on a journey and discover other things,” says Comer, describing her character’s traits. “There should still be room for a breath of fresh air and for a moment of humor or sarcasm or a moment of discovery.” Both Comer and Harbor provided all the voice acting and motion capture for their roles, whose “mesmerizing performances” were instrumental to the psychological horror aspect of Alone in the Dark – an approach that focuses on the down-to-earth narrative aspects rather than the physical terror.

Continuing the preview event, Hedberg explained that Alone in the Dark will offer a different take on the same story depending on who you’re playing as. Most of these will be reflected in cutscenes through different interactions with NPCs and slight changes in how your character handles situations. For example, the game features a mischievous maid who responds “nicer” to Emily’s snooping than Detective Carnby, who is greeted with a kitchen knife pointed at his face. Same situations and dialogues but different outcomes that will encourage you to play the game more than once.

“The player will be able to see exclusive levels and parts of the mansion depending on the protagonist chosen,” Andreas Schmiedecker, Associate Producer at THQ Nordic, told Gadgets 360. “If you play through a second time with the other characters, there will be slight problems. “Affects your gameplay based on what items you found on your first playthrough.” Since both Emily and Carnby conduct their investigations separately, they also often clash in cutscenes, providing glimpses of their activities.

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Alone in the dark exploration, alone in the dark exploration

Depending on which protagonist you choose, you will be presented with exclusive levels
Credit: THQ Nordic/ Pieces Interactive

Gameplay largely revolves around exploration from an “over the shoulder” perspective – similar to Resident Evil 4 – where you shoot bizarre zombie-like creatures and giant cockroaches, similar to Fallout 4. The developer describes the combat as “intense ‘, where you have to be frugal and make sure every bullet counts, though there’s no evidence of general resource management like healing items or a proper inventory system that needs to be well planned out in advance. I’m of course comparing it to the suitcase in Resident Evil 4, where you have to perfectly align and prioritize items you need to carry until you reach the next save point. “Careful resource management is a cornerstone of the survival-horror-adventure genre, and this game is no different. Especially at higher levels of difficulty,” said Schmiedecker.

Alone in the Dark also includes a backup plan in case you run out of bullets – melee attacks that can be performed with rusty pipes and planks, or you can throw Molotov cocktails from afar. The latter was a harrowing occurrence during the preview, where Emily could be seen simply taking a random bottle of alcohol and hurling it at a humanoid creature, resulting in a flame explosion. There was no crafting menu or animation showing her lighting a fuse to detonate it, which not only breaks the immersion but reduces tension build-up when hordes charge at you.

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Alone in the dark fight Alone in the dark fight

The fight revolved mainly around gunfights and melee attacks
Credit: THQ Nordic/ Pieces Interactive

Regardless of who you choose, the goal is to find out what happened to Jeremy Hartwood, and to achieve that you’ll have to visit some unexpected places. To reach these areas, you must rely on your wits and puzzle-solving skills, using ciphers, strange patterns, and light switches to activate. It was also mentioned in the preview that players will be able to choose how much help they get with puzzles, which is ideal for those unwilling or unable to think non-linearly and memorize their route through Derceto Manor . The idea is that puzzles don’t become a dead end that keeps players from experiencing the larger story of Alone in the Dark.

As a preview of the full game, THQ Nordic has also planned a prologue demo set a few weeks before the events of Alone in the Dark that will serve as a transition into the narrative. In it, you take on the role of Grace Saunders, a young girl tasked with posting a letter – believed to be Jeremy Hartwood’s sinister one – while exploring the mansion. Titled Grace in the Dark, the prologue is now available to download on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S/X and will not contain any combat segments. It’s described as an “atmospheric experience” that’s largely exploration-based, with some rather simple puzzles.

Alone in the Dark is slated for release on October 25th on the above platforms, with a pre-order bonus granting the 1992 Costume Pack – the goofy, pixelated 3D model skins from the original game, usable against modern HD backgrounds. The developers claimed that there is still a lot of work ahead and the team is in for a busy summer. I’m assuming a large part of that has to do with the optimization, which I feel is on par with the release of the PC version, which has usually lagged behind in recent titles. There’s also a Digital Deluxe Edition that includes a digital artbook, director’s commentary mode, and a vintage horror filter pack that lets you experience the game in sepia, black and white, and other tones.

Alone in the Dark will be available on October 25th for PC, PS5 and Xbox Series S/X. A prologue demo called Grace in the Dark is now available for download on the platforms mentioned.