Alone in the Dark was an important game when it first emerged in 1992. Touted by critics as a revolutionary step forward in horror gaming, it was the first 3D survival horror title and monumentally influential in the genre. Its use of fixed camera angles and Lovecraftian-inspired storytelling left a mark on the industry that would later inspire definitive modern hits like Resident Evil. Sequels came and went, but the franchise was seemingly fading into irrelevance. After getting to see a preview of what Pieces Interactive is cooking up for THQ Nordic, I can safely say I’m giddy with excitement.
An Ambitious Antebellum Horror Remake
Alone in the Dark is looking to reinvent itself while going back to its roots in an important way, by going back to where it began. Set in the 1920s, the game takes place primarily at Derceto, a countryside hospital/manor where Jeremy Hartwood, seeks treatment for his bizarre condition. Jeremy believes to be haunted by an ominous individual named the “Dark Man” and sends a disturbing note to his niece, Emily Hartwood, who in turn recruits Private Investigator Edward Carnby to join her in seeking him out.
The game was always meant to be spooky and atmospheric, with this post-WWI/pre-WWII aesthetic leaning into the pulpy, noir genre with the mystery aspect of the game. Where the original game’s influence comes into play is the uncanny, otherworldly forces hinted at in the preview, suggesting a deep, dark secret within Derceto, along with plenty of terrifying baddies. Emily’s direct ties to the plot, along with Edward’s hard-boiled detective character, help sell this as an ambitious antebellum horror remake, and I’m on board.
Oh My Stars, It’s Chief Hopper in the 1920s
To further sell me on the experience, the AITD preview quickly reveals its main star actors, Jodie Comer and David Harbour. Oh my stars, it’s Chief Hopper in the 1920s! Everybody in attendance at the preview quickly lost their minds, as did I. The stars of Killing Eve and Stranger Things, appearing in a pulpy, noir horror adventure in a post-Great-War American South, marching into Prohibition? I’m down.
I’m certainly curious about the rest of the game’s cast, but seeing Jodie Comer in this potentially more subdued role will be interesting, to say the least. She’s a total chameleon and a rising force in the industry, and David Harbor is getting major franchise flick roles left, right, and center.
Considering the disastrous reception of the most recent AITD game, THQ Nordic’s choice is clear that this is a move to go big while hitting home for the most hardcore of OG fans. You could punch your way to victory in a lot of encounters from the original, but now you get to punch them as Hopper, and weirdly, it’s everything I never realized I desperately wanted in a horror game.
The Original Classic Looms While Contemporary Shape It Into Something Fresh
My delight upon learning of Mikael Hedberg’s involvement as the game director had me all excited. What a solid fit, a writer with an established presence in atmospheric horror gems from Frictional Games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Soma, for a moody, survival horror experience.
That being said, the presence and commentary by the original 1992 game creator and industry legend Frédérick Raynal is a welcome one as well. His creation is still alive, whether you’re booting up the original MS-DOS or sought-after ports like the 3DO version.
Despite the series having a bit of a dry spell since its heyday 30 years ago, and the prospect of having him featured on the commentary included in the Digital Deluxe Edition. The idea of more recent industry icons picking the brain of gaming legends is worth the price tag, either for fans or those who appreciate game history.
That being said, the game does differ in how it uses the original as inspiration while aiming potentially higher in many ways. Beyond the obvious, incredible visual overhaul, different plotlines emerge in this game, such as Jeremy’s character not having committed suicide, with him having a more personal role in this iteration’s plot. It has Twin Peaks feels with how the characters are brought to life this time around, too, a prospect I love, as it makes the place feel more eerie, alive, and pulpy.
Doom Jazz: The Music is Possibly the Ultimate Star of the Game
Throughout the preview, we heard the swell of saxophones, dissonant tones, and crashing beats that are intended to punctuate the moments of discovery, intrigue, and terror. It could sound slow and sultry like an old noir film in certain moments, but when the uncanny terrors emerge, I was curious about whether this would feature as part of the game’s flow.
Not satisfied with simply being curious, I asked during the Q&A portion the following question:
With the music you tease, it suggests intense crescendos of jazz-inspired cuts and beats, truly giving off the intended noir vibe. This could be an additional way to enhance immersion in horror games, a genre that typically does well mostly with ambient sound/music. This could make the game an especially standout title.
For the players seeking genuine tension, can they expect this to conjure up terror and intrigue throughout their gameplay experience?
THQ Nordic took the time to make a thoughtful response with the following:
Thanks for your feedback, we’re happy and excited about the soundtrack created by Árni Bergur Zoëga based on songs composed by Doom Jazz Legend Jason Köhnen.
We feel that this choice contributes both to the unique feel of the game but also works really well as a horror soundtrack, building up tension and a foreboding, dark feeling, while also releasing tension as sudden stingers come in. We’re confident that more classical horror sound design and our unique Doom Jazz vibe will combine to deliver a truly unique auditory experience.
The “Doom Jazz” might be the ultimate star of the game. Alone in the Dark seems to be pushing a heavier mixture of cultural influences from the period than other contemporary remakes like Resident Evil. Instead, what we get is a game that leans into all facets of what helps enhance the genre, and much like how Doom reinvented itself using insane Industrial Metal beats to become iconic once more, AITD stands to benefit similarly.
I’ve always held that music is one of the primary selling points of many different games, but I keep forgetting how vital it is to horror. In a genre that benefits from inspiring dread using multiple senses, music can be more than dreadful, amelodic ambiance. In channeling Lovecraftian terror, the fear of the unknown can manifest in a different, chaotic way, and I will urge everyone I know to consider headphones for this game.
Alone in the Dark Has a Release Date, and a Playable Demo Out NOW
The showcase started and finished with a reference to the game’s release date: October 25, 2023, available simultaneously for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S. If you’re curious what else we saw, here’s a link to the event’s video!
That’s 5 months from today. What’s more, they slyly dropped footage of a short but sweet Prologue,
Alone Grace in the Dark, available right now, May 25, 2023. It channels the spirit of the original 1992 game, having received Jack in the Dark as a way to promote AITD 2. Even the marketing campaign is deliberate and understands the assignment.
The preview finally highlighted other details about the game, such as pre-order bonuses. It’ll be positively trippy, but the bonus they highlighted was a costume pack that allowed you to swap out character models to those from the original, in their old low-poly glory. Additionally, Digital Deluxe upgrades would net you this as well as a vintage horror filter pack (channeling the RE Remakes) as well as a digital artbook and director’s commentary log mentioned previously.
In summary, I’m excited to see what’s to come with the game, but there’s still so much I’ve yet to see. The game is a mystery, so it’d be foolish to reveal too much of the gameplay, and we only got a tiny taste of the puzzle gameplay and hints at fraught combat. In the closing moments, thinking about the Dark Man and this game’s plot, I’m nothing but curious and excited, fashioning something old into something daring, bold, and new.