carnby in alone in the dark
Screenshot by Destructoid

Review in Progress: Alone in the Dark

Don't go it alone just yet.

At the time of writing, I’m about halfway through Emily Hartwood’s campaign in Alone in the Dark, the 2024 reimagining of the game many attribute the entire survival horror genre to.

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What I had played up until this moment showed me a game that’s true to its roots. However, a recent update has caused a game-breaking bug that I’m unable to pass, and I don’t know what else it might have broken. With the game’s release scheduled for tomorrow, I’d be remiss not to warn you to hold off from buying it until I can give you a clear review.

emily hartwood and woman in blue dress alone in the dark
Screenshot by Destructoid

Alone in the Dark (PC [reviewed], PS5, Xbox Series X/S)
Developer: Pieces Interactive
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Released: March 20, 2024
MSRP: $59.99

Alone in the Dark has two main draws for me. First, it’s a revamp of a classic series, one that I and most horror creators use to define the point where the survival horror genre began. Second, its protagonists, Emily Hartwood, played by Jodie Comer, and Edward Carnby, played by David Harbor.

Both actors give great performances for their roles and make the story more immersive than most other horror games because of the level of believability they add. For me, their faces and voices blur the lines between media, adding to the experience in an unexpected but very welcome way.

Something else that helps sell you on Alone in the Dark right from the word go is its story and setting. Regardless of which character you play as, both of which have their own campaigns that offer different playthroughs and collectibles, the goal is to locate Jeremy Hartwood, uncle of Emily Hartwood. He’s been staying at Derceto, which is kindly referred to as a hospital by its more than unsettling resident doctor.

I won’t say much more because I don’t want to ruin the story. If you’re on the fence about this game’s setting, though, don’t be. Yes, on the surface, it’s a mystery game set in yet another mansion with some spooky elements and characters. Once you’ve played through the first chapter, you’ll understand exactly where developer Pieces Interactive has taken the title to inject a constant sense of unsettling dread and used visuals to create a jaw-dropping spectacle to play through.

The gameplay is pretty solid, but I think some people will have issues with certain aspects and choices that have been made. Characters must solve puzzles to progress, and the solutions aren’t always clear. You can play with hints or without, but I think a middle ground was needed: Something between being told what to do at every step and not having any instructions.

puzzle in alone in the dark
Screenshot by Destructoid

That’s not to say the puzzles are bad, though. This game nails them well, and I wanted more. I was regularly caught stumped, staring at my map while trying to figure out where I needed to explore next and what I needed to get for each puzzle. You could remove every combat encounter, and this would still make for a game you can’t put down because of the need to solve just one more puzzle, open just one more door, or find just one more collectible.

While not all of the collectibles have fun, fully-voiced notes to go alongside them, every actual piece of writing in the game has a complete set of audio that adds to the game’s feel for everyone to enjoy. I usually don’t spend too long reading through these miscellaneous items unless they’re essential for a puzzle but Alone in the Dark had me listening to every entry because they all enrich the world a little bit more.

Combat is one area I think could have been simplified in Alone in the Dark. In some ways, combat encounters can also be puzzles, but enemy paths and actions don’t seem to make this work as well as intended. I can see what the developer was going for, something akin to the way you’re able to skirt enemies in The Last of Us, but it ends up losing its edge and turning into a gunfight every time. Running around the map to grab another melee weapon is also pretty exhausting after a while. Adding a permanent one for Emily Hartwood would immediately improve every instance they’re needed.

Outside of the game-breaking bugs I’ve hit, Alone in the Dark feels like the novel you never knew you wanted. It’s deep, dark, and mysterious in every way, and I just want to dive into its waters and let it pull me in until I reach its conclusion. Few games manage to nail a story that makes you want to keep playing well past midnight, even though you’ve got to be up at 5 AM with your son the next day, and contain puzzles that you want to be more challenging because they’re more fun that way instead of frustrating.

Right now, I’m completely Alone in the Dark

enemy in alone in the dark
Screenshot by Destructoid

As I outlined at the top of this review in progress, Alone in the Dark is completely broken right now. I believe this was caused by the latest update, which has caused audio to work in really strange ways, such as the ambient sounds of a swamp playing incredibly loudly while enemies, machinery, and interactions have no sound whatsoever. There’s also a consistent game-breaking action I’ve discovered and have informed the team of, so they can hopefully get this fixed.

I really do believe there’s a great horror game here. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve played up until this point and love the breadth of content on offer, as well as the intriguing puzzles and an environment that slowly evolves over time. Still, for now, I don’t recommend you buy this game until a patch has been released and I’m able to get through the entire thing for our final review.


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Author
Jamie Moorcroft-Sharp
Jamie is a Staff Writer on Destructoid who has been playing video games for the better part of the last three decades. He adores indie titles with unique and interesting mechanics and stories, but is also a sucker for big name franchises, especially if they happen to lean into the horror genre.