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Alone in the Dark (2024): An Unexpected Victory

3.5/5

Alone in the Dark – A Complicated History

Resident Evil (1996) is often touted as the progenitor of the survival horror genre, and while there’s no denying that it truly created the mold for the genre, it was actually heavily inspired by the true grandfather of survival horror: 1992’s Alone in the Dark.

As an innovator in the world of horror games, Alone in the Dark tasked the player with escaping the atmospheric Derceto Manor through creative exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat. It rewarded ingenuity and provided an experience that was completely new not only to horror games, but to video games as a whole.

Unsurprisingly, the game was a success and went on to spawn a number of sequels. Unfortunately, unlike many other successful survival horror franchises, Alone in the Dark fell off rapidly, with its sequels losing many of the core attributes that made the game a classic.

While franchises like Resident Evil have been experiencing a renaissance of fantastic new games and remakes, Alone in the Dark has been noticeably quiet since the release of the wildly unpopular Alone in the Dark: Illumination (2015). However, after nearly a decade of no new releases, Alone in the Dark has finally made its grand return with a reimagining of the original game, and I’m overjoyed to report that this series is finally good again.

Emily Hartwood and Alone in the Dark - Edward Carnby face off against the darkness.
Emily Hartwood and Edward Carnby face off against the darkness.

Welcome to Derceto

Just like the original, Alone in the Dark (2024) has you exploring Derceto Manor in the dark and mysterious Louisiana bayou, however, this time around Derceto is a mysterious asylum. Playing as either Detective Edward Carnby (David  or Emily Hartwood (Jody Comer), you’re tasked with investigating the strange disappearance of Jeremy Hartwood, Emily’s uncle. Throughout your investigation into Jeremy’s disappearance, you’ll find yourself wrapped up in a classic Lovecraftian tale revolving around trauma, madness, and unfathomable powers.

Depending on whether you play as Edward or Emily, you’ll experience many unique cutscenes, dialogue, collectables, and even an entirely unique chapter that revolves around their broken past. The differences between the characters are vast enough that it’s completely worth it to play as both characters at least once.

DercetorManor
Derceto Manor in all it’s atmospheric glory.

Atmosphere

Above everything else, Alone in the Dark (2024) truly nails the atmosphere of the original game while also updating it for a modern experience. Derceto is a sprawling, twisting manor with dark details hiding in every corner, and players will rapidly find themselves grateful for the reprieve that the manor brings.

Unlike the original Alone in the Dark, much of this game takes place in areas outside of Derceto as the player’s travels through Jeremy’s mind. Whether it’s the trenches of World War 1 or the sandy corridors of a sunken pyramid, Alone in the Dark (2024) takes the player to a wild variety of locations, with each area feeling distinct, horrific, and full of tantalizing secrets.

Outside of the visuals, the game’s atmosphere is heavily carried by its absolutely phenomenal soundtrack. Using the Louisiana setting of the game as heavy inspiration, much of your time in the game will be backdropped by a haunting saxophone playing in the distance. Saxophones are far from common in horror game soundtracks, and Alone in the Dark (2024) use of them adds an eerie feeling that is completely unique to the game.

With the original Alone in the Dark having inspired so many games in the survival horror genre, it’s hard for the series to bring us something we haven’t already seen before. However, between the variety of strange locations and hauntingly unique music, this iteration has created a new and exciting identity for the franchise that helps set it apart from other modern survival horror games.

Lousiana Atmosphere
A haunting encounter with an enemy.

Gameplay

One of the biggest downfalls of the franchise was the changes in gameplay as the series went on. What started as a proto-survival horror filled with puzzles quickly began to lean heavily into action and combat, taking away a lot of what made the first game popular and unique. While Alone in the Dark doesn’t give you puzzle solutions to combat encounters, it does refresh the gameplay to a standard that matches modern survival horror games.

It also introduces the ability to customize how modern or classic your gaming experience is. Whether you want a detailed map that tells you where to use your key items or you want zero hints on puzzles, the choice is up to you. This helps the game appeal to new fans while also catering to fans of the original. Without a doubt, this is a wonderful mechanic and should become the new standard for survival horror games. 

Unfortunately, the one glaring flaw of Alone in the Dark (2024) comes into play when examining its gameplay. To quickly summarize, the combat in the game feels clunky. While on the surface Alone in the Dark (2024) has combat similar to other modern survival horror games, there are small issues that stack on each other to make combat encounters infuriating and often unfair. One of the biggest contributors to this is animations.

It is unbelievably easy to get stunlocked, which inevitably ends with you either wasting your resources to recover from an unfair stunlock or it ends with you dying and resetting some of your progress. Additionally, movement in combat can be stifling and difficult to control, leading to rage inducing scenarios where Edward or Emily will get caught on pieces of environment or stuck in an infuriatingly slow animation. 

Difficult combat is a staple of survival horror (emphasis on the survival), however, the difficulty needs to come from genuine tests of skill and not be artificially inflated by poor game design.

Edward in Bayou
Edward stares down a monster.

Return to Form

Despite its few flaws, Alone in the Dark (2024) is an entry that the franchise desperately needed. It revitalizes what makes the original game so iconic while also innovating and updating it for the modern gaming scene. That being said, the game has a AAA price while honestly being a AA quality game. While the game is still fantastic and I would recommend it to fans of the series or fans of the genre, it is realistically a $40 game that has a $60 price tag. If you’re not a hardcore fan of the series it may be worth waiting for the game to go on sale before checking it out.

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