A devilishly good (but buggy) finale
The Dark Pictures Anthology has been quite the turbulent ride over the years. With Supermassive seemingly unable to retain those lofty heights seen with Until Dawn, the previous games have been a mixed bag of the good (Man of Medan), the bad (Little Hope) and the surprisingly great (House of Ashes). Earlier this year The Quarry released with a really promising premise and some good scares…but an unfortunately mediocre cast of characters and some technical hiccups.
So as the Dark Pictures Anthology draws its season 1 to an end, does it finish on a high? Well… yes and no.
On the plus side, the game has a seriously likable cast of characters with a lot of depth and history between them. The various players you take control of all have their own unique inventory items and their stories actually feed well into the overarching plot.
Our characters happen to be a group of documentary film makers, who receive a mysterious call inviting them along to a modern-day replica of serial killer H.H. Holmes’ ‘Murder Castle’. A brief prologue helps introduce this mass murderer, but it soon becomes apparent that this replica is anything but a quaint little museum exhibit.
As the filmmakers settle in and begin poking around the rooms, exploring the various contraptions and creepy animatronics, it would appear that there’s a copycat killer at work – and these filmmakers are next on the menu.
The premise is intriguing and after a slow burn opening, the plot rockets along at a pretty good pace, especially given the game clocks in at a longer run-time of around 7-8 hours. During that time you’ll encounter a plethora of life or death choices, ones that will either plunge your characters into the throngs of death or catapult them to safety.
As per other Dark Pictures games, the mechanics are largely the same with a couple of new additions, as detailed above. Long cut scenes can be manipulated with different dialogue choices, ones that can either improve or deteriorate your relationship with the other characters. Furthermore, there’s also your life or death choices, which freeze the picture completely and leave it up to you to choose which path to take – but on a timer of course!
All of this is great but a couple of plot contrivances and issues will have you scratching your head. Just as a quick disclaimer, for the purposes of this review I played through the game in its entirety twice, with various different outcomes before attempting (and succeeding, hoorah!) to get everyone killed through scene selection. During that run, there are a couple of character developments that feel like sloppy script work.
We learn early on that one of the characters, Mark, is afraid of heights. He struggles to cross a wooden bridge without help from the crew and it’s a significant moment for him… and then it’s never mentioned again. In fact, for the rest of the game he’s galivanting across high bookshelves and even higher areas (that I won’t spoil here.)
There’s also Erin who suffers from asthma but that mechanic is used once during a heightened state of panic, and again several scenes later…but then never touched on again. It’s also completely disregarded during a life or death scenario where it 100% should be used.
Likewise, there are a couple of characters who don’t have a whole lot of chemistry or interaction, namely that involving Mark and Erin. However, her narrative feeds much more directly into feisty Jamie Tiergan, who comes across as a bit of a hardass early on but soon softens once you get used to her character. Rounding out the ensemble are Kate Wilder and Charlie Lonnit.
The latter is played by the ever-charismatic Paul Kaye and he riffs wonderfully off the rest of the cast, but especially with Kate. Kate and Charlie have creative differences over the direction of the company, and Kate is on the cusp of leaving too, which causes delicious ripples of tension right the way through the early parts of the game.
Unfortunately, these high points are held back by the technical aspects of The Devil In Me. This game is riddled with bugs and glitches. At the start of the game you can opt for performance or graphical quality optimization and even choosing performance, there are notable issues.
Some animations are missing completely, others are looped awkwardly while whole segments of audio are missing during some cutscenes. During one scene in an area I’ll refer to as “the hub”, there’s about 2 minutes worth of silence between 3 characters where there should be audio. Thankfully I had the subtitles on so could still see what the characters were saying!
I’ve also had, in one unintentionally hilarious glitch, a character suddenly disappear to be replaced by someone who died earlier in the game. I genuinely thought it was a hallucination until the scene jarringly cuts to the next chapter and that character is gone and replaced by the living cast member.
Now, to be fair some of these issues may be due to the review copy we were given ahead of release without a Day 1 patch or anything, but doing a quick search online it seems like others are also experiencing these same problems after the game’s release.
Hopefully The Devil In Me can get some patches in place quickly to rectify some of these issues because the base game and the story are both pretty enjoyable and in fact I’d argue the narrative is one of the best in the series’ history.
The Devil In Me should be a devilishly moreish entry in the Dark Pictures anthology, and it definitely has the narrative chops to make for a bloody good horror. Unfortunately, those aforementioned bugs and glitches haunt this title and hold it back from being a better experience. If you can get around these issues though, there’s lots to like here.
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Verdict - 7/10