Normally I’d call these posts taking a look at the Humble Choice games “Early Impressions”, but I sort of broke the mould with this one and went ahead and finished it. Not to say I 100%’d it and got all the achievements — that would take a few more runs to do, but I completed my first run-through of the story.

But I’m perhaps getting a bit ahead of myself.

What is House of Ashes?

Well- it’s a movie, really. A horror movie more specifically. Albeit an interactive one. … A bit. The ‘gameplay’ comes down to one of a few options. Walking around inspecting objects for additional lore or context, making a decision, clicking the left or right button, or, er, clicking the left or right button fast and repeatedly until you fill the circle.

The curator exists outside the framing of the story and is quite enigmatic. You’ll occasionally get interludes jumping back to discussing with the curator what has happened, and, sometimes, some hints on what may be yet to come.

But to boil down the interactive elements so reductively is certainly to sell the experience short.

One thing I really liked is that outside of the more ‘obvious’ QTE sessions, a cutscene might reveal a trip wire for instance, and require an interaction to avoid a mishap.

It’s a rather subtle way of ratcheting up the tension in the appropriate moments, as House of Ashes has trained you that you can’t simply sit back and watch. Something could happen that requires your intervention at any moment. An already edge-of-your-seat moment in the narrative just has that little extra oomph knowing that failure to act could result in the death of one of the main characters.

In my particular run, only two made it out to see the light of day.

Which probably leads me into discussing the setting of the story with you. Outside of a brief prologue sequence, you’ll find yourself in Iraq, 2003 and participating in a joint military and CIA operation to take down a suspected underground chemical weapons cache of Saddam Hussein.

Of course… It’s nothing of the sort, and you wind up tumbling headlong into ancient ruins where strange happenings rather quickly turn potentially deadly.

I enjoyed the story, and appreciate that it took the odd unexpected turn, adding a bit of twist to what might otherwise be fairly familiar ground.

If I was to have any complaint, it would be that the run time felt a little on the long side. At least when judged as a movie experience. I do understand this is nominally a game as well and some expectations come along with that. Steam tells me that I spent a bit over six hours completing my playthrough.

Looking things up, it looks like four full runs if you want to get every single achievement of the game.

Suffice to say, I’m not interested in pursuing that.

However, upon completing the game you also unlock the Curator’s Cut of the game (you play through the Theatrical Cut first). In this version, you play through more or less the same scenes but from a different character’s perspective and have different options to go alongside.

I feel like that’s a fairly cool approach to mixing things up, and I might be tempted to play the game again that way at some point in the future.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed House of Ashes.

I had heard that The Dark Pictures anthology (of which this is a part) was perhaps… Not very good. I can’t comment on the other entries in season 1 (which is now complete), but I can tell you playing through this one has given me new interest in checking out the others as well.

And this was simply playing through the single player version!

You can, optionally, play with someone else — or multiple someone else’s!

If you like the sound of an interactive movie or enjoyed the Telltale games of a similar vein, I’d suggest that this month’s Humble Choice is well worth the pick-up!


Naithin

Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

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