The Dark Pictures Anthology is a series of bite-sized gaming experiences from developer Supermassive Games, with each installment tackling a different subgenre of horror. The latest, Little Hope, came out just in time for Halloween
Players are given the ability to influence events that affect the way these stories ultimately end, with all of the cast or none of them surviving, or any conceivable combination in between.
The Dark Pictures began with Man of Medan, which is set aboard a ghostly ship and sees a group of trust-fund kids attempting to make it through the night, as they are beset by madness and otherworldly apparitions.
Little Hope, meanwhile, sees a group of survivors stranded in a Silent Hill-esqe town in which a series of brutal witch trials took place during its colonial past, and from where they cannot escape.
There are a total of eight entries planned, and the next installment, House of Ashes, was briefly teased at the end of Little Hope (as Little Hope was at the end of Man of Medan) and looks to have a military/monster theme ala Alien or Predator, although we don’t have much to go on yet.
I love the format of the Dark Pictures games, and now I ritualistically pick up each release and play through them in a single sitting with my partner, and its something we’ve both come to really look forward to.
The Dark Pictures formula is, by and large, that of an adventure game. You wander through fairly linear and enclosed areas, interacting with objects and conversing with the small cast of characters, and just generally trying to avoid a gruesome death.
When things get real, there are interactive cutscenes involving quick-time events that, should you fail them, can have incredibly serious repercussions for your playthrough. It keeps you on your toes, and the tension (and potentially the body count) high.
An aspect that links each game to the other is the framing device of The Curator, a creepy, seemingly immortal collector of stories that offers vague and spooky comments on your progress, and waxes philosophical about the nature of choice.
The Curator absolutely chews scenery whenever he is on screen, and during the short interludes in which he takes center stage, really hint at the larger cosmology of the Dark Pictures universe.
He, uh, can also sometimes be glimpsed during the regular course of gameplay if you keep a keen eye out, in the reflections of windows or off in the distance. It’s genuinely pretty upsetting, once you notice, even if he seems to be somewhat benevolent, or at least indifferent.
As each entry is essentially the same concept but with a fresh cast and setting, it is only natural to compare each iteration with each other. Personal preference is obviously going to play a big part here, but I found the level of quality to be consistent throughout, and I really enjoyed my time with both.
That being said, I found Man of Medan to be a slightly more engaging experience. It’s cast resonated with me a little more, even if the majority of them were insufferable rich kids, and I actually got some real Far Cry 3 vibes from it in that regard.
Plus, the claustrophobic decks and hallways of the titular ship, the Man of Medan, were used to great effect, and had me on the edge of my seat throughout as I slowly inched my way around it.
It fumbled a little towards the end, with the final reveal being a little weak, but the setup and body of the game was freaky as hell, and a memorable way to spend an evening.
Little Hope, meanwhile, didn’t feel quite as threatening, and I never really found myself rooting for its characters in the same way. It could also just be unfortunate timing, as I just recently watched A24’s The Witch (which Supermassive cited as an inspiration), and Little Hope comes off as a pale imitation in that comparison.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Little Hope definetly still deserves a playthrough, especially if you are a fan of the series, but it just lacks some of the immediacy of Man of Medan. Once it got going, I was hooked, and the ending actually really caught me off guard, although my wife claimed to have figured things out part way through (as she often does).
Supermassive Games are doing something really unique with the Dark Pictures Anthology, and it’s quite comforting to have one of these games to look forward to each year. Only time will tell if the formula will start to get old, as there are still six more entries in the series to come, which is kind of a lot.
Still, I find few other horror franchises as engaging. There are far worse ways to spend an evening, especially if you can get a few friends together and take advantage of the series cooperative Movie Night mode. Just make sure you don’t miss up a crucial quick-time event, or you will never hear the end of it.