The theme of the evolution of the soul – the Fall and Atonement – is not so widely represented in video games. That is why products like Those Who Remain are causing interest among indie fans. A psychological horror that poses existential questions to the player and does not deprive of free will – what could be better? As it turned out, almost everything you played before. Why Those Who Remain came out weak and unprincipled – read the Cybersport.ru review
What awaits us in hell?
In world culture, the paintings of hell and the image of its master, Satan, have been drawn for more than two thousand years. Depending on the era, ethical standards and understanding of what awaits a person’s soul after death and how evil actually looks like have changed. The canonical images of Bosch and Dante – with cauldrons, flames and devils – were replaced by ideas about personal hell. For example, Sartre in a play “Behind closed doors” shows that it is not the devil who is tormenting a person after death, but the society of other people. Leonid Andreev at “The Diary of Satan “the ruler of the underworld descends to earth and soon realizes that he is the most righteous among these deceitful and treacherous children of God. It is difficult to find a more fertile ground for creating a philosophical parable with elements of psychological horror than the theme of sin. However, the authors of Those Who Remain did not cope with this task.
From the very first boot screen, players begin to be stuffed with quotes from writers and philosophers about the nature of evil. In addition, the developers warn that we will have to make difficult decisions that will affect the ending and the fate of the hero himself. But the whole ideological component, as well as the views on the soul, the devil and sins in Those Who Remain remained at the level of those quotes taken out of context at the bottom of the screen.
Moralizing for children
The main character’s name is Edward. After the death of the child, he derailed his life and since then has been systematically engaged in self-destruction. The story begins at the moment when Edward’s mistress invites him to meet at a motel. He arrives at the meeting, but no one is in the room, and in the meantime the hero’s car is stolen. He runs into the night and ends up in the evil town of Dormont. In him, an unknown force will throw Edward from location to location, so that he can unravel the tragedy that occurred here.
There were almost no people left in Dormont; all were killed by the ghosts that dwell in the darkness. The cause of the rebellion of demonic forces was the death of a 13-year-old girl who, on a bicycle, fell off a cliff. Edward, investigating this incident, finds out that the whole city was implicated in it: the local punks cut the brakes of the bicycle for fun, his parents tried to hide this incident, and everyone else turned a blind eye to him. Together with Edward, we have to judge four people who were involved in the death of the girl, and decide whether to forgive them or doom them to hellish torment.
The problem is that all the “trials” came out monotonous. For example, we learn that the bully who cut the brakes did not want to harm the girl. His aggression is a way to survive the loss of his brother. In fact, the little boy was good and kind, until he became depressed. The next defendant is his father, the local sheriff. He loved his son and wanted to protect him, so he quickly closed the case so that it would not receive publicity. So it will be with the remaining characters: each of them is a good Samaritan who once stumbled. One argument for pardon, another for hellish torment.
In addition, Edward will meet three living people who committed sins of varying severity already during the invasion of demons. And the devil will constantly push us to kill them. For example, a player will be able to set fire to a criminal in a car or leave a girl who did not want to save people to suffocate. In the article “How Good People Teach Us – Lessons on Humanism and Compassion in Video Games,” Cybersport.ru author Bair Vydar Modonov told how different developers pose moral dilemmas for gamers. So, player’s choices can be encouraged with bonuses, be part of a narrative, they can be influenced by humanization of enemies – all these methods can make the choice really difficult.
In Those Who Remain, these random three characters look like a fifth wheel. The developers just offer to kill them. The passage from this will not change, but there is no plot link to them. At the same time, the theme of atonement and forgiveness is key in the game. But in order to forgive someone, one must first be filled with hatred, and a woman whom I learned about three seconds ago and which is in no way connected with the story of my hero cannot evoke any emotions in me. This depreciates the choice, because the player is equally ready to click on any of the options.
Naked woman with a headlight instead of a face
As we walk through, we, like Edward himself, will be wondering why he judges other people. Instead of an answer, the developers prepared a short story of the character himself. Once upon a time he had an accident in which his daughter and girl, the driver of another car, died. Edward blames himself for this tragedy, and therefore in Dormont he will be haunted by the spirit of the deceased girl in the form of a monster with a headlight instead of a face.
What is guilt based on? Perhaps Edward was drunk or, for example, looked at the phone while driving? This we will not know. But suppose he still cannot forgive himself for this accident, even if formally he is not guilty. Because of what happened, the whole game will be hunted by Edward the monster. Closer to the finale, it will overtake the hero, and Edward will shout: “This is not my fault, I am not to blame!” – and so will win. On this, the story arch with an accident will end.
What made Edward dump this load from himself and get rid of the demons of the past? The developers decided not to answer this question, but found this scenario to be a sufficient explanation of why Edward got the role of a judge – after all, he is also not without sin.
What happens if I cross Alan Wake, Control and Outlast?
During the game in Those Who Remain, I had a feeling that everything that was happening on the screen I had already seen somewhere. A small town, shrouded in a curse, with ghosts in the dark and saving light – hello, Alan Wake. The changing space and environment with cubic designs in alternative reality is my respect, Control. Hide and seek from a monster without the ability to fight back – yes, yes, Outlast was worse. You can probably find dozens of similar borrowing examples in Those Who Remain.
Borrowing other people’s chips and a mechanic is not bad, the only question is how to incorporate these elements into your own creation. In Those Who Remain everything just looks like a heap of alien objects that are made worse than in the original, and at the same time do not harmonize with each other. Let me give you an example with stealth mode: a player must hide from a woman with a headlight (and quite often), but there are no associated mechanics – the ability to climb into a closet or at least look around a corner. Because of this, the whole process turns into errands around one wall – as boring and clumsy as possible.
The description of Those Who Remain on the page on Steam says that the player will have to “fight the inexpressible nightmares and monitor the level of peace of mind.” It seems that by the word “fight” the developers meant “turn on the light in the rooms.” The criterion of “peace of mind” in the game is definitely missing.
Of all the elements of the gameplay, the most positive impressions are the search for clues and solving riddles. The game is very stingy with tips, often the developers simply threw Edward into a new location and set a goal to get out of it. To find clues, necessary items and more, in Those Who Remain you need to move between dimensions, examine each chest of drawers and rake mountains of boxes. This process sometimes led to a dead end and forced to inspect each centimeter of the location in both worlds over and over again, but because of this the process became only more reckless (even if it took half an hour).
Sometimes, when we were approaching a solution, the environment around the hero began to change, and the ghost of a crying woman appeared very close by. And this truth was spectacular: at such moments it was necessary to immediately find the right door to move to another dimension. At one of these levels, the hero must run through the corridor, which is constantly changing: chairs and cabinets blocked the road, and the heartbreaking cry of an approaching ghost was heard from behind. This episode created discomfort similar to what you can experience when watching the It Follows movie, for which Those Who Remain can be put a bold plus.
Walking along endless closed corridors in the style of a black wigwam from Twin Peaks really had some kind of infernal vibe. Stylistically, these levels are performed perfectly – if you can say so about the diabolical mazes. But, unfortunately, after each such location, boring hide and seek or senseless moral dilemmas began again.
Directed by Robert B. Weide
In perhaps the worst film in history – “The Room” – there is a scene in which the hero Tommy Vaiso enters a flower shop. There he has an absurdly confusing dialogue with the saleswoman – the characters in such a hurry utter cues, as if they are ending their rental period for filming and are about to be thrown out into the street.