Alone in the Dark Review: A Tasteful Return to Derceto

I confess that I have always had mixed feelings about the Alone in the Dark series. That has included bouts of playing some iterations and abandoning some of them. I have Infogrames Originals and the 2008 Atari reboot on Steam, but I haven’t touched them. And, after the horrible Pure FPS developed Alone in the Dark Illumination, my small attachment to the series dwindled even further. So, when THQ Nordic and Pieces Interactive announced a brand-new Alone in the Dark game in a long time, I naturally took some interest in it.

Thanks to a copy provided by THQ Nordic, we tried out the star-studded reimagining of the first game. In an era where every videogame wants to be the next big, shiny thing, Alone in the Dark feels extremely grounded, focusing on the story over glitz and glamor. While the scare is subjective, Alone in the Dark gave me that much-needed single-player horror experience I was looking forward to. So, what makes it enjoyable? Let’s take a look.

The Return to Derceto Manor

Alone in the Dark is a reimagined remake of Infogrames’s first game. It takes the original’s interactability and story and translates them to fit the modern audience.

Since it reimagines the original game, there are some new changes. This has better pacing that gives the game a detective noir feel, tying it to its Lovecraftian roots. After all, Alone in the Dark heavily draws inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft’s works, and it shows in its weirdness.

David Harwood and Jodie Comer in Alone in the Dark

Set in 1920, Louisiana, Alone in the Dark focuses on Emily Hartwood and Detective Edward Carnby. The duo investigates Derceto Manor after hearing the news of Emily’s uncle Henry Hartwood’s disappearance.

What seems to be a simple investigation turns into a scary survival battle between Derceto and the Otherworld, a dreamscape where malevolent individuals roam for your blood. It is now up to Emily and Edward to figure out the mysteries of Derceto while ensuring they make it out of it alive.

Remember how I talked about the game’s pacing being one of its strong points? I mean it. Alone in the Dark’s pacing is impeccable. Throughout, the game felt like watching those old detective noir thrillers with somber music, where things slowly unravel to something crazier. The best part is that this happens from the beginning itself. The game sets its tone and reminds you that it is a horror game. It also uses subtle audio cues in the environment to make it feel creepy.

Alone in the Dark scene from the game

However, that doesn’t mean all is good in the world. While elements like the story and atmosphere are good, some things stick out like a sore thumb. My biggest gripe was the game’s overreliance on playing music during the cutscene interactions.

The music add some fuel to the scenes. However, it sometimes makes the scenes awkward. There were some times when it felt like some silence during conversations would’ve helped.

To be fair, that is me nitpicking, though. Outside of that, there isn’t much to crib about Alone in the Dark’s story. While players who enjoy fast-paced stories might find the game’s story slow, that isn’t the right audience to begin with. However, that isn’t inherently bad, as through that slow-burn storytelling, the game manages to tell a compelling tale that I found enjoyable.

Amazing Voice Acting Adds a Lot

Historically, actors in video games have had a mixed track record in their acting. But recently, we’ve seen some great jobs. Keanu Reeves’ role in Cyberpunk 2077 (Phantom Liberty review), Ilka Villi in Alan Wake 2 (review), and Norman Reedus in Death Stranding (the sequel coming soon). The list keeps going. And thankfully, Harbour and Comer carry on this tradition forward.

Thanks to the game’s hiring of two prolific actors to play our main character, that star energy carries forward to the entire game. Emily Hartwood (played by Jodie Comer) and Edward Carnby (played by David Harbour) bring their A-game. Both act like two hard-boiled individuals stuck in a weird place, trying to make sense of their immediate surroundings.

One of the characters from the game

However, it isn’t only the actors who do a great job. Even the game’s supporting cast does solid work of appearing creepy yet mysterious throughout the journey. Every individual you meet has this mysterious and alluring aura around them.

My interactions with each of them were always something of a curiosity, shrouded with mystery. So, combined with some excellent character creation and fantastic voice acting, Alone in the Dark manages to do justice to its narrative and make everyone fit in it rightfully.

Derceto Holds Its Secrets

Another thing worth mentioning is how well the game ties its lore tidbits to the overall gameplay mechanics. You will find pickables in the form of readable documents throughout Derceto Manor. Each expands upon the narrative of the story. These readables also get incorporated into the puzzle system, which I’ll discuss below. Most of the lore pickups contain clues for a problem. I found this to be an intelligent way of incorporating a feature many generally skim through.

  • Lore pickups in Alone in the Dark
  • Lore pickups in Alone in the Dark

Another noteworthy feature in the game is these collectible items called Lagniappes. While you cannot collect all of them in one playthrough, the progress carries. Completing a set will give you forbidden knowledge or help in the form of a weapon or boon. In some cases, completing a certain amount of the Lagniappe set will also give alternate endings. So, if you love the story, this is an element you must check out.

Third-Person Puzzles Add Some Challenge

If you’ve played any recent remakes of Resident Evil by Capcom, you’ll find quite a few similarities to the gameplay of Alone in the Dark. However, these are pretty obvious yet rightfully welcoming. For starters, you can play as either Emily or Edward. Depending on who you choose, the story will undergo subtle changes. This is similar to Resident Evil 2, where the story underwent noticeable yet small changes depending on Leon or Claire.

One of the many puzzles in-game

Outside of that, the game is a third-person shooter with a heavy emphasis on puzzle-solving. When you are in Derceto Manor, most of your time will be spent figuring out the solutions to the puzzles. The puzzles are challenging to an extent but not so difficult that you’ll go insane. I found this to be the perfect spot of difficulty.

Besides the difficulty, the puzzles also have a good amount of thought behind them. One such example is an early game puzzle. The job is to match the rotting pattern to reveal three names. You then find the corresponding numbers related to that name, cross-checking with pickable documents and lore pieces to find a solution to the puzzle, effectively progressing the story.

One of the many puzzles

Similar puzzles are found throughout the Derceto manor, and solving them will progress your story. Each accompanying chapter of the game takes you to the Otherworld, a dark dream version of Louisiana that you’ll visit frequently to find Henry. Here, you partake in the game’s combat, which I have some thoughts about.

Combat Is a Mixed Bag

The combat system is a mixed bag, though. For starters, this game plays like a typical third-person shooter. You gather bullets all around the environment with limited resources. Standard aiming and shooting then take over, along with items like Molotovs and health flasks.

The game doesn’t burden players with added puzzles. It is simple, effective combat, which is exactly how I wanted it.

Shooting someone in Alone in the Dark

The guns in the game pack that much-needed punch. They sound heavy, and Alone in the Dark’s Shotgun is arguably one of my favorites. It holds that absolute power I was looking for. However, the one thing that does fall short is the third-person movement. Tried as I might, I felt it lacked that polish.

Using molotov

The general movement felt stiff, and the animations looked weird. Dodging enemy attacks was also awful. Since this is a small project, I don’t want to complain too much. Nonetheless, I hope this is addressed soon.

Graphics and Performance

The overall graphic experience of Alone in the Dark was pretty decent. We tested the game on the following testbench:

Test Setup: CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600
RAM: 8×2 DDR4 RAM @ 3600MHz
SSD: Adata XPG m.2 512GB
Monitor: 1080P with no upscaling

Since the game is built on Unreal Engine 4, it has that weird micro-stutter you’d see in other games too. However, it wasn’t a major inconvenience. However, the stutters were evident when the scenes changed on the fly between Derceto and Outworld.

Besides that, however, the game runs well for any standard 2024 title running on UE4. You can run this game flawlessly on max settings without upscaling on a system like mine. I got an average of 90 FPS throughout the game. GPU utilization stood at 40%, while CPU utilization was 30%.

Visually, the game does have that AA feel to it. Sometimes, you’ll see some texture pop-in problems. However, I did see these weird fuzzy edges around the characters regularly. This was without any upscaling turned on. Upon closer inspection, it was from the anti-aliasing.

The game doesn’t allow you to select what type of anti-aliasing you want. And by the looks, it seems like the game forces a mix between SMAA and TAA. Overall, the game runs like any Unreal Engine 4 title without any problem. If you can install it on an SSD, you won’t see any performance drops.

Alone in the Dark: Should You Get Lost Here Again?

So, in the end, was the trip back to Derceto in a new avatar worth it? I would say it is. Alone in the Dark is an earnest reimagining of a cult classic that many Lovecraft fans might enjoy. The story manages to be a multilayered experience that adds a generous tinge of a creepy atmosphere.

The horror elements have been well-curated and never manage to feel cheap. This is combined with some earnest voice acting and casting that levels the game up further.

While there are some shortcomings, including the sometimes wonky combat and graphical issues, I believe these can be addressed when the game launches. Regardless, if you’re a fan of the long-running series or someone wanting to dive into the Outworld, I wholeheartedly recommend Alone in the Dark.

Pros and Cons
The Pros
An earnest reimagining of the original game
Amazing cast of characters
Simple yet thoughtful set of puzzles
Lagniappe and lore pickups are fun to read
The Cons
Combat leaves a lot to be desired
Some graphical inconsistencies
Final Verdict
Alone in the Dark
Alone in the Dark re-imagines a cult-classic game, bringing in a star-studded lead, and delivering a fun mix of Lovecraft story and puzzles. While there are some minor graphical downside, and the combat feels it requires more work, overall Pieces Interactive does a good job remaking the first game.
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