Title: Those Who Remain
Developer: Camel 101
Publisher: Wired Productions, WhisperGames
Genre: Psychological horror, Action, Indie
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (Summer 2020)
Official Site: Those Who Remain
Release Date: May 15th, 2020
Version Tested: PlayStation 4
Those Who Remain is brave and bold in its concept, forcing the player to confront the dark and the terrifying shadows within it. While nothing new, this experience breathes new life into something that could easily run as cliche. However, a strong concept isn’t enough to save a flat narrative, unreliable gameplay aspects or brutal save areas. Unfortunately, this is one experience that can be left in the dark.
Those Who Remain follows a guilt-ridden man, Edward, as he travels to a hotel to break things off with his mistress. Finding the hotel empty and his car suddenly stolen, Edward has to traverse the dark little town where danger lurks just beyond the light. Here’s a quick synopsis of the game:
As the lights go out, the embers of darkness are stoked in the sleepy town of Dormont.
Whispers of disappearances carry through the town as a burgeoning, uneasy and irrational fear begins to spread and darkness comes to be an unwelcome reflection to Those Who Remain.
Some mistakes should never happen, not when your life is complete – and yet they do. Edward had the good life, a beautiful wife and the perfect little girl, yet finds himself several whiskeys down and driving through the night of Dormont to end his secret affair – in a bid to fix his mistakes.
As Edward pulls into the Golden Oak Motel, he is unaware just how much this night will change his life…
In a time where horror narratives seem to follow a very familiar road, Those Who Remain stands out in its concept. While playing against man’s fear of the dark isn’t exactly new, this experience seems to handle it in a new, refreshing way. The only way to keep Edward safe is to stay in the light. So, most puzzles revolve around using portals to shift elements within a scene to allow light to guide your path. This sort of past and present thinking allows for a really engaging experience for most of the game.
With light being such a big part of the game, it is important that the light reads well. And it does. Those Who Remain gets a gold star in setting its atmosphere. Hazy street lights and buzzing neon signs light the world just enough to make you fear the dark shadows lying just beyond. Their use of light is interesting as well; from flickering candles to old headlights and so on adds to the occasional scares and puzzle-focused elements.
Those Who Remain Gets Lost in the Dark
Unfortunately, Those Who Remain’s narrative falls particularly flat. It’s very disjointed and somewhat hard to follow for an ending that doesn’t seem worth all the trouble in the end. What Those Who Remain is genuinely missing is a flow. Not only does the narrative suffer from this, but the whole game suffers from jarring transitions. One moment you’re running around a boarded-up farmhouse, then some odd dreamscape and then trying to break into a library… Overall it feels like parts of a story forced together instead of a linear journey.
Even worse, one of the things that make Those Who Remain so great is also one of its most challenging pitfalls: the darkness. So, in theory, once Edward steps into the darkness, death descends upon the player. However, this is unreliable and inconsistent at best. In some areas, falling shortly into the shadows isn’t such a big deal while others seem to descend upon Edward just at the border of light and dark. This becomes really frustrating at one point where you’re inching around doorways for light switches that seem way too far out of reach.
These unreliable death mechanics make the game even more frustrating due to the lack of save points. Games like Bloodborne or Demon’s Souls reward having to run an area over and over again with challenging gameplay and rich narratives. That isn’t the case here. Running a section a handful of times because of loose mechanics gets old fast, especially when there isn’t much of a narrative or reward system to back it up.
Verdict: I really went back and forth about my rating for this one… On the surface, Those Who Remain has a stellar concept that truly plays on one of man’s greatest fears: the dark. Solving puzzles while finding safe pools of light lends a thought-provoking aspect to the gameplay, but everything else falls short. A lack of save points mixed with unreliable gameplay aspects will have you running the same areas over and over. On top of that, a flat narrative and occasionally muddy designs leave Those Who Remain utterly in the dark.
- Cool concept and monster design
- Eerie atmosphere
- Flat narrative
- Muddy graphics
- Unreliable gameplay elements
- Lack of a challenge