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The Dark Pictures

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I didn't even know this was coming out until I came across it on this list. I freaking LOVED Until Dawn, so I figured this would be right up my alley. It was honestly just okay. Maybe it's better with friends doing the multiplayer mode they added, but as a single player experience it's just not super great.

 

The story this time around isn't as fun or crazy as Until Dawn, and it's much shorter as well. Additionally, the animations in general are a lot less polished this time around, and some of the facial animations are damn scary. The characters in this game don't really have much personality beyond what is shown within the first twenty minutes or so, and they stay static for the entire duration. I didn't find them to be offensive or anything, and I liked them all well enough, but by the end (assuming your character makes it), they've not really changed much despite what they've experienced. Also, they make some immensely idiotic decisions at times, especially by the end of the game when they learn about what's truly going on. Lastly, getting everyone to survive is pretty damn easy. It was easy in Until Dawn too, but at least in that one there were eight characters, and I didn't beat the game without a few deaths.

 

Overall, if you like these kind of games, where you get to make choices and basically watch it like a movie, then you'll probably enjoy this too. Otherwise, just avoid it.

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Having never played through "Until Dawn" since it was a Sony exclusive (settled for watching multiple play throughs on Youtube instead), I was pretty pumped when they announced that this game would be multi-platform. "Until Dawn" was one of the games that convinced me that interactive storytelling games with a branching narrative and choice and consequences was a viable form of video game entertainment.

 

I love the idea of stumbling upon an abandoned WW2 freighter — whilst dealing with modern day pirates trying to rob you — and unravelling the mystery of the ship and what happened to the crew members. I love that the story, at first, seems to have a paranormal undercurrent, combined with navigating through the dark, decrepit, and sometimes claustrophobic environments. It helps create a sense of tension and unrest. As the characters explore the ghost ship, the game initially leads you to believe that something onboard is causing them to all slowly lose their grip on reality and start hallucinating. (I.e. one of the characters pulls back a curtain covering a small shrine and then has a decapitated, rotting human head drop down in front of their face, only for the game to reveal that is was a silver-plated flower pot, or something.) The main characters eventually learn what's actually happening with the ship and it's the Occam's Razor Principle in full effect.

 

The game has replay value, with it being a branching narrative with choice and consequences, along with trying to see how many characters you can keep alive or kill off, depending on your choices.

 

What I disliked about the game is a bit of a longer list. Everything about this game feels like a lesser version of "Until Dawn": Fewer protagonists, less fleshed out character personalities/traits, a less expansive world, a shorter play time and weaker facial animations.

 

The facial animations all have Mass Effect: Andromeda syndrome where it looks like the characters are trying to kill you with their gaze and they don't seem to really emote anything, even in high stress, high danger situations. 

 

The frame rate chugs concrete at certain points of the game, even though there never seems to be much going on. There was one instance during the final combat encounter where I got hung up on one frame for a solid 2 seconds before the game proceeded as it should. Some of the textures seemed low quality as well. At one point, I was inspecting a damaged life boat and the texture on it was so blurry, I assumed it just didn't load at all and moved on. This might not be a problem on PC, but it shouldn't be that bad on console hardware either (played this on a vanilla Xbox One).

 

The characters don't seem to really evolve beyond the introductory part of the game, where each character's traits are laid out for you. They can go through some crazy shit, but it doesn't really seem to affect them all that much.

 

The game relies heavily on cheap jump scares (a dead body falls out of a locker or a pipe bursts and starts hissing steam), to the point of being a nuisance. It doesn't add anything scary or horrifying to the game.

 

I feel like if this game was just a "stand alone" title, as oppose to being a part of an Anthology, maybe the developers would've had more time to expand on the story and character arcs as well as fix any optimization issues. At the end of the credits, there's a teaser trailer for the next game in the Anthology: "The Dark Pictures: Little Hope" with a release date of 2020. At this point, I hope it's towards the end of 2020 because it's clear that Man of Medan was a little underdeveloped and could've benefitted from a few more months of polish. I hope the next game can improve on Man of Medan's shortcomings.

 

Overall, I'd give this game a rating of Love/Hate.

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