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Alone in the Dark encourages multiple playthroughs

by Contributor

It seems that 2024 is shaping up to be a year full of notable remakes and remasters. From The Last of Us to Final Fantasy VII, many beloved games are being brought back in thoughtful ways. Right in the middle of this stream of remakes will be Alone in the Dark from Pieces Interactive and THQ Nordic. It reinterprets the story of an influential VR classic about a detective and woman exploring a haunted house as they search for answers to the whereabouts of the mansion’s owner.

THQ Nordic

The original Alone in the Dark essentially invented the survival horror genre as we know it, setting many standards and design principles that series like Resident Evil would further explore and popularize. As such, recreating this experience while making it feel both faithful and fresh is a difficult balance for its developers to strike. When talking about the range from faithful, director’s cut-like remake to complete reimagining, producer Andreas Schmiedecker asserted that Alone in the Dark falls firmly toward the latter, especially in regard to puzzle design, while showing off the remake to Digital Trends.

“Players will recognize elements. All these little things that were back in the old game, what could they mean?” Schmiedecker told Digital Trends as he solved a reimagined puzzle where he had to find the proper combination on his talisman to open a portal to a nightmare world. “Almost every name, every object in the game will have been in the old game, but it will have served a different function. We never copy a riddle from back then. It is basically shuffling around all the ingredients of the old game in order to make something new.”

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Based on our early look at a prerelease build of Alone in the Dark and conversations with its producers, Alone in the Dark has established itself as a remake that fans of the original and the games it influenced should be paying attention to. They may also want to play through it multiple times, as the developers teased that the game contains a secret ending.

Gone home

Alone in the Dark pioneered the fixed camera and puzzle-focused elements that became mainstays of the survival horror genre. This remake’s most immediately noticeable change from the original is the difference in perspective as it adopts a third-person perspective that hews closer to the likes of Alan Wake 2. It prioritizes puzzles and narrative over other gameplay elements like combat, though.

Two characters speak to one another in Alone in the Dark.
THQ Nordic

Although the removal of a fixed camera takes away some cinematic flair, THQ Nordic reinjected that spirit by recruiting some Hollywood talent, with Stranger Things‘ David Harbour portraying detective Edward Carnby and The Last Duel’s Jodie Comer playing Emily Hartwood, the niece of the mansion’s owner. Both characters are playable, and for this preview’s purposes, I followed Carnby, whose adventure has more of a horror noir feel as he finds himself in a situation more dire than what he signed up for.

Hartwood’s campaign will have a distinct feel of its own, as executive producer Michael Paeck told me the goal was to tell “one story from two different perspectives.” That means that Alone in the Dark tailors cutscenes, character interactions, and even certain segments depending on which character is picked. Some parts will even take players outside the Hartwood mansion to places like a cemetery, which did not happen in the original. Paeck recommends players go through the game multiple times, telling Digital Trends that “there are some secrets and different endings that you can only unlock if you play as both.”

Proper guidance

As Pieces Interactive and THQ Nordic designed a horror game meant to be played multiple times, they put effort into making sure it’s an experience that players can approach at their own pace. Alone in the Dark focuses more on establishing an eerie atmosphere and giving players complex environmental puzzles to solve rather than offering a roller coaster of terror. For example, one puzzle required the player to gather medicine bottles and line them up in the right order based on their markings so they could decipher the code needed for a lock combination.

The mansion in Alone in the Dark.
THQ Nordic

These puzzles are all reimagined and recontextualized from the original, so there will be new riddles to solve when the game comes out in January. Some people may need help finding the correct solutions or understanding the right clues for certain puzzles, though, so a lot of guidance options to make puzzle-solving more approachable were added to the remake. Before starting the adventure, players have the option to pick between not just Edward and Emily, but Modern and Old-School difficulty modes.

Old-School difficulty will leave most of the legwork for puzzles up to the player, while Modern mode will do things like highlighting all the interactable objects in a room and specific pieces of text on documents that players pick up that are key to progress. Through playtesting, Paeck says the developers understood that they’d frustrate certain groups of players by having too much or too little in the way of guidance, so they ultimately settled on giving players the tools to toggle the features that could potentially nudge them in the right direction.

Both game remakes and survival horror games are in a renaissance right now, so Alone in the Dark is dropping at a moment where it should be very relevant. The remake seems like it could live up to expectations during its time in the spotlight by feeling original while adapting a game that was pivotal to its genre’s history for modern audiences. I’m interested in playing the full game and finding that secret ending when Alone in the Dark comes out.

Alone in the Dark launches for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S on March 20, 2024.

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