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The Alone in the Dark series has seen more reboots than a broken PC, but there’s something about this latest offering that has us intrigued.
On paper, it sounds like there should be cause for concern. The game has been public knowledge for just over six months and has already suffered two delays, each of which has been given for contradicting reasons.
It was originally due for release in October until, one month before it was due, publisher THQ Nordic announced that it had slipped back until January. The reason given seemed straightforward enough – it was a game focused on “the eerie embrace of solitude”, and THQ reckoned that was “impossible to achieve in a gaming month as busy as October”.
The implication, then, was that a release during a much quieter month like January would put it in a better place to get noticed. Which all seemed fair enough until, one month before release again, THQ Nordic announced that it was now set for release on March 20, 2024.
This time, the reason given was that the Christmas season “would have been filled with stress and anything but a jolly time” for developers working hard to get the game ready for January, and that it wanted “to avoid any potential crunch over the Christmas holidays”.
A noble cause, for sure, somewhat clouded by the subsequent statement that “furthermore, THQ Nordic and Pieces Interactive want to ensure that the game not only meets but exceeds the expectations of the community” – thereby implying that the initial delay wasn’t to avoid a busy release period at all, and that the game simply isn’t considered ready yet.
The messaging surrounding the game’s release, then, leaves a lot to be desired and risks chipping away at players’ trust in the process. But none of this is relevant to the actual developers working on the game itself, and it’s what we’ve seen of their work that still has us invested.
This latest reboot is being handled by Pieces Interactive, a Swedish studio that in recent years has mostly been working on expansion packs for action RPG Titan Quest. It may not be the first name most people would have put forward for an Alone in the Dark game, but the IP’s stock is not what it once was.
What was originally a revolutionary series – introducing polygonal survival horror at a time when future Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami was still making Aladdin for the SNES – has fallen out of favour in the three decades since. Reboots in 2001 and 2008 were perfectly fine but failed to make an impact, while 2015’s awful Atari-published multiplayer game Alone in the Dark Illumination got a Metacritic score of 19 and essentially buried the franchise.
Why not a studio like Pieces Interactive, then? Why not hand the keys to a studio with something to prove, and see what it can come up with? It certainly couldn’t do any more damage to a brand on life support, and might just provide the defibrillation required for a comeback many of us would like to see.
“Why not hand the keys to a studio with something to prove, and see what it can come up with? It certainly couldn’t do any more damage to a brand on life support, and might just provide the defibrillation required for a comeback many of us would like to see.”
It’s certainly going the right way about it so far. The addition of David Harbour (Stranger Things, Black Widow) and Jodie Comer (Killing Eve, Free Guy) as series protagonists Edward Carnby and Emily Hartwood will lend the game some glamour, not to mention extra publicity – neither of them are strangers to the late night circuit, for example.
The extended gameplay trailer shown earlier this year gave us a good look at how the game will play and it all seems suitably moody, with plenty of gruesome monsters to take on and an ample helping of the sort of abstract puzzles survival horror fans either love or hate. Best of all, you don’t need to take our word for it at this point.
There’s already a short prologue called Grace in the Dark which is available to download for free on the Xbox, PlayStation and Steam digital stores. It has you playing as an 11-year-old girl called Grace, who has to deliver a letter. It may only last around 10 minutes but it does a great job of proving that Pieces Interactive is more than capable of delivering the sort of tension and unease the full game will require.
So far, then, we remain curious. The uncertainty surrounding the reasons for the game’s numerous delays and the developer’s relative lack of blockbuster hits to date means there’s every reason to suggest this may not be the rebirth that long-suffering Alone in the Dark fans have been waiting for.
And yet, the proof is always in the playing, and from the gameplay video and the playable prologue already released, there’s no denying the potential here for Alone in the Dark to bury the series’ past demons. Time will tell in March, assuming that is actually when it releases.