Those Who Remain Review – A Spooky Head Scratcher
Title: Those Who Remain
Developer: Camel 101
Release Date: May 28, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Wired Productions
Genre: Horror Adventure
It’s a shame to experience a game that has so much going for it just to be held back by some glaring issues. When it comes to the Camel 101-developed Those Who Remain, I wanted to hold on to the themes and presentation that the small team was trying to portray in their narrative supernatural horror, but in the end, I just couldn’t. After the 6 hour campaign, I was left scratching my head at the events that I just witnessed.
Those Who Remain has players follow the story of Edward, a man who is having a tough time coping with the loss of his daughter after having an affair. When he finally decides the path that he should take, he finds himself in the town of Dormont, where mysterious events have taken place.
The town is dark and vacant, I mean, except for a shadowy figure with glowing blue eyes that murders anyone who is caught in the dark. Now, Edward must figure out how to escape the town by solving the murder of a local girl named Annika while being tortured by visions of his dark past.
The narrative features dark themes that revolve around the lives of Dormont residents, mainly the gray areas of morality, where other characters try to convince themselves that they are doing the right thing only to cause something much more sinister.
This experience takes the saying “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” to haunting levels, and I looked forward to every letter, note, and journal entry to help sort out exactly what these characters were thinking. To say more could spoil some significant story points surrounding these characters, which is the game’s strongest features.
Those Who Remain nails presentation through its set pieces. Part of the supernatural aspects of the game is the two dimensions that players find themselves in. One is set in reality, at least how Edward perceives it, and the other completely defies that reality.
This otherworldly dimension is full of monsters and skewed laws of physics. Players must learn how the two worlds connect and even how to use them to their advantage. Now you’d expect things to begin to make sense as you progress the plot, but that just isn’t the case here.
Unfortunately, the same world-building that made Those Who Remain interesting also seemed to be thrown together without purpose. I’d hate to spoil anything for those that are interested in the narrative, but once I figured out what had caused the strange events in Dormont, I immediately felt that there were still a lot of things that didn’t make sense. Certain aspects in the strange dimension didn’t fit the themes or metaphors surrounding Edward’s life, which was supposed to be the framing for these smaller stories but fails to come together as the bigger picture coherently.
Questions like why Edward is the one trapped in the nightmare of Dormont or what he gets out of judging people do not come to fruition. Perhaps the game wants you to collect every note or complete every ending, but I quickly felt like nothing I did pays off. Not to mention that choices made within the game can come off as misleading. Sure, this might have players think twice about Edward’s actions, but it doesn’t ever paint a path to the ending that you receive and feels thrown together.
The gameplay features light-based and environmental puzzles that have players to interact with the environments to find the solutions. Additionally, players will need to find clues and items that give them more story bits and insight into the character’s lives. However, interacting with the world proves to be difficult, given the stiff controls.
While exploring, dark areas can potentially kill Edward, so understanding how the light works within the game’s systems are key to survival. Turning on lamps or car headlights causes the figures to disappear and clear a path to progress. These mechanics are also woven in with the other features, such as entering an alternative dimension to move an object. Additionally, there are moments when monsters chase Edward, but these can be avoided if players manage to say out of sight.
While I would have liked to see these shadow figures be more involved by creating shadows for themselves or moving around to be more menacing, the puzzles did enough to keep invested. What ends up not working is overall direction as I was left in dark several times, not knowing what to do.
Those Who Remain prides itself on its level design, which ends up working out well for it. However, environments aren’t original and will have you feeling like you’ve played this game before. Also, I could absolutely do without the sound cues from monsters who are alerted to Edward’s presence or the music that blares out an uncomfortable mess of sirens and horns that annoyed the hell out of me after the first few hours of gameplay.
Those Who Remain leaves much to be desired and never pays off, no matter how many notes you read. Sure, there’s a decent narrative to discover within the game’s dark themes, but that is overshadowed by the sloppy structure and poor control scheme. It’s a shame because I really felt like there would be some kind of pay off at the end of this supernatural mystery, but I was left in the dark.
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