The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Review (PS5) – The Curator Returns

The Dark Pictures Anthology is a series of horror adventure games created by developer Supermassive Games, with each game being a standalone title set in a different location. It began with Man of Medan and then moved on to another story in Little Hope. Each title in the series has its own storyline, but all of them are presented to you by The Curator (played once again by Pip Torrens) in his awesome library, with his British accent and butler-like demeanor.

He speaks to you, the gamer, on a personal level as if you are presently hanging out with him in his own space. It’s the same across all of the games in the Dark Pictures Anthology, how each is presented to you. It is a unique aspect that gives the series an almost never ending approach to a huge library of possibilities. Welcome to another one of the tales from the massive book shelf in the corner. Welcome to The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes – A Sumerian Story

Your journey begins around 2250BC, in ancient times of Mesopotamia and somewhere within the borders of what is now Iraq. This civilization is plagued, and their King believes only the blood shed from humans can appease the gods that have damned them. Within a holy Sumerian temple, humans are sacrificed to these gods, while the armies of other ancient civilizations are beating down their doors to try to stop their people from being sacrificed. It is a back story for our modern-day tale that will culminate around four thousand years later in the war torn country that is now the Iraq of 2003.

Saddam Hussein was hiding in a hole somewhere and the CIA was on the hunt for his WMDs that they thought for sure he was hiding. The CIA’s lead tech guy, US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Eric King (Alex Gravenstein), had created some satellite-based software that used ground penetrating radar to search for underground storage facilities, and he was certain he hit the jackpot somewhere in the tribal lands near the Zagros mountains. What he actually found wasn’t Saddam’s WMDs, but something far more deadly, hidden deep within the aforementioned ancient Sumerian temple.

House of Ashes Review

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes – The Characters

Much like previous entries in Supermassive’s catalog, House of Ashes is a character driven story, and with each character’s fate being decided by your gameplay, the developers really needed some strong characters to draw you in. They found them in CIA officer Rachel King (Ashley Tisdale), her husband Eric King, USMC Force Recon marines first lieutenant Jason Kolchek (Paul Zinno), sergeant Nick Kay (Moe Jeudy-Lamour), and Iraqi Army lieutenant Salim Othman (Nick Tarabay). Each character has their own unique traits that can be altered by decisions made during the gameplay. Will they be cautious or jump right into a bad situation? Will they think with their heart or rely on common sense? Will your decisions get them killed, or return them to safety? Will they always think of themselves first or be more altruistic?

The gameplay and interactions between the characters not only drew me in, but also connected me to them. So much so, that I didn’t want them to die and found myself playing through the game several times to reach that desired outcome. When we were first introduced to the Iraqi LT, we saw him as a father and family man with teenager problems, but his first encounter with the other characters saw him as an enemy combatant, on the other end of a war and the business end of a gun. Can you swallow the anger of war and work with someone that was previously shooting at you, knowing he’s not just a soldier but also a father, simply following the orders of someone higher ranked? These are the types of questions that the game asks, and your decisions will completely determine the outcome of everyone involved.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Review – Multiple Endings

House of Ashes has an unbelievable number of story arcs and over 60 unique deaths, all determined by the choices and outcomes of your gameplay. The ending you reach is then determined by who lives and who dies throughout the game. The curator has a candelabra with five candles, all lit when you start the game, representing the life-light that is each character. Keeping those candles lit became my main goal during my first two playthroughs, and I even took notes on my phone so I could remember my decisions. Quick Time Events also come into play, but unlike previous games, you can change the difficulty of these so as to give yourself a better chance of success. Failing can be non-existent, but you may find that sometimes failure is your best option. Some of the QTEs may also trigger a moral dilemma, and passing or failing will be your choice, with the outcome possibly having repercussions down the road.

House of Ashes Review

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes Review – Next Gen Gorgeous

The first two games in the series weren’t bad looking games on the PS4 Pro, but House of Ashes on the PS5 truly surpasses them in graphics, animations, and the overall environmental details. Facial animations were captured and employed so as to give the characters a lifelike appearance when interacting with each other, or even self reflecting. Occasionally the eyes get a little odd looking, and seem to stare in the wrong direction, and takes away from the overall effect of some of the cut scenes, but that isn’t a game breaker, just a little off putting. If they could nail the eye animations, it could be hard to tell the difference between FMV and in-game cutscenes. To clarify, House of Ashes does not use FMV in any form, but they have almost achieved that same depth of motion and animation with the next gen system and their 3D work.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes – An Evolving Franchise

Developer Supermassive Games listened to gamers and took their feedback to heart. I previously mentioned the adding of difficulty levels to the QTEs but they also made a few more changes based on player feedback. House of Ashes doesn’t use a fixed camera, but a player controlled 360 degree camera instead. This gives the game more of a personal feel as being able to control the camera is a huge step in the right direction. They also added a flashlight or personal light source that can be toggled on and off. This came in handy many times as I worked my way through dark catacombs in what seemed like an endless underworld.

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The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes is an impressive addition to the series that not only looks stunning on next gen, but also plays out in multiple player controlled scenarios, than can vary from triumphant, to downright heart breaking. It’s a dark journey through horror and blood, with only you (and maybe a friend in co-op) to determine who makes it out the other side.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS5. For more information, please read our Review Policy.

  • Impressive graphics, animations, and environments
  • Immersive experience and memorable characters
  • Interesting and well written dynamic storyline
  • Who survives is truly determined by your actions and decisions
  • Eye animations can be a little off putting
  • Scene selection could be a little more specific