Often lauded as the original 3D survival horror game, Alone in the Dark arrived on the scene in 1992 and created a genre that still stands firm in 2022. But now, with the recently announced re-imagining, it’s clear to see Alone in the Dark is taking it’s own inspirations from the series that pioneered the genre, Resident Evil.
During a brief presentation I saw at Gamescom 2022, the developers from Pieces Interactive were very clear that Alone in the Dark is not a reboot, or even a remake, choosing to refer to their upcoming release as a love letter to the 1992 original. Despite lead characters Edward Carnby and Emily Hartwood making a return, the story is a completely fresh take for the series. Writer Mikael Hedberg – of Amnesia: The Dark Descent and SOMA fame— shared that he only used certain elements from the original 1920s-set as jumping off points, choosing to work on a completely new story for the series.
That’s not to say there isn’t something for long-term fans here though. The player will still investigate the Derceto mansion, dealing with all kinds of supernatural beings along the way, but apparently everything else is fresh. Those familiar with the story and characters from the original will recognize names and locations from that era, but perhaps in a different context or setting. The developers shared that certain names – which may have only been mentioned in passing in 1992 – have now been fleshed out to be part of the modern telling.
Also like the original, players can choose to play the story as either Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood, the male and female protagonist options from 1992. This could present Alone in the Dark’s first distinct step away from its roots and push it firmly towards Resident Evil territory.
Pieces Interactive told me that the character you play as becomes the dominant protagonist during your playthrough, with the secondary character becoming an NPC, much like the experience of Leon and Claire in Resident Evil 2. What isn’t yet clear is how much these stories will diverge, but I was assured that each character has their own unique path through the Derceto mansion, and what’s on offer could potentially be called two games.
The modern Resident Evil elements don’t stop there either. Despite the original Alone in the Dark pioneering fixed camera and 3D space exploration in survival horror, it’s clear to see that Resident Evil 4 (and later, the Resident Evil 2 Remake) has perfected the formula with an over-the-shoulder playstyle. Alone in the Dark, clearly following the best, has switched perspective even though developers Piece Interactive admitted they originally tinkered with the idea of staying true to its static camera roots. I’m encouraged to hear they didn’t choose this path to simply ape the 2022 genre formula, but to really help players to explore and investigate their environment. Investigating, along with surviving, are the core principals of the series, after all.
Despite the genre being called survival horror, the last two decades of releases has certainly pushed the boundaries of surviving, choosing to instead to celebrate thriving when it comes to combat. But I was relieved to hear that Alone in the Dark will encourage players to survive against the odds at all times, with limited resources and situations often tailored towards flight instead of fight. There will even be objects scattered around the world to help you fend off attacks from monsters and ghouls. I got the impression these items won’t quite be strong enough to take enemies down, but simply a last resort for you to get out of trouble.
Alone in the Dark – Gamescom 2022
Even though I didn’t get hands-on time with Alone in the Dark, what was clear to see from not only my presentation, but also the trailers, was its unique sense of tone. The story takes place in Louisana in the 1920s, with a strong southern gothic presentation bleeding through the screen. I was also told the game’s score will fall under the banner of “doom jazz” which frankly, even without so much as a taste, sounds like it could be incredible. This, coupled with unique monster designs by frequent Guillermo del Toro collaborator Guy Davis, leaves me hopeful that at least on presentation, Alone in the Dark can stand out from the pack.
Despite the Resident Evil elements clearly being worn on its sleeve, my early impressions of Alone in the Dark are good. I only got to see small snippets of the game, but importantly everything Pieces Interactive were saying had me very excited. It’s extremely early days, but I’m encouraged to keep a keen eye on Alone in the Dark, and am hopeful it can be a triumphant return to form for the original that created the genre it’s now seemingly inspired by.