Supermassive Games has been redefining the interactive drama and horror genre—with its most recent game, The Quarry. Of course, the developers initially hit their stride with the hit choice-based game, Until Dawn, which began the trend of getting fairly well-known actors and actresses to voice their games’ characters.
The Dark Pictures anthology series had also followed suit by utilizing TV and movie stars’ voices such as Shawn Ashmore (The Boys) in The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan; Will Poulter (Dopesick) in The Dark Pictures: Little Hope; and Ashely Tisdale (High School Musical) in The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes. The Dark Pictures: The Devil In Me featured one of its biggest stars in this episode of season one—the Oscar-nominated Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter).
This fourth installment marked the finale of season one for The Dark Pictures anthology games. With no surprise, The Curator (voiced by Pip Torrens) returned as the mystical narrator to the series’ tales. If you have not played the other games, he is like one of the Watchers in Marvel Comics—or more recently, the Watcher in the Disney+ series, What If…? He only watches and comments on how the player(s) impact the story and decides which characters live and die.
In The Dark Pictures: The Devil In Me, the story was linked to the 1895 case of America’s first serial killer, Henry Howard (H.H.) Holmes, and a 5-person, ragtag docu-series crew called Lonnit Entertainment. Their series, “Architects of Murder” covered topics on infamous American serial killers.
The crew consisted of Charlie Lonnit, the authoritative British owner of the production and show director; Kate Wilder, an introverted, complex member of the team who served as the show’s presenter; Mark Nestor, the undecisive professional cameraman and ex-boyfriend to Kate; Erin Keenan, a timid intern who was an aspiring audio specialist, underappreciated by Charlie; and Jamie Tiergan, the crew’s snarky chief grip who handles lighting and electrical work.
If you did not know who H.H. Holmes was before, this game consistently used a lot of references to the real killer. He was most notably known for killing 27 people in his intelligently-crafted hotel, “The World’s Fair Hotel” aka “the Murder Castle.” It was said to be rigged with booby traps, moving walls and scary mannequin displays. Later, it was believed that he actually killed upwards of 200 people in his Saw–like trap house.
The Lonnit crew were struggling financially and creatively with formulating a season finale, so Charlie blindly accepted an offer to visit a mysterious rich person’s (Granthem Du’Met) recreated estate of H.H. Holme’s Murder Castle on a remote island. What happens as the crew arrives on the island of the Murder Castle is where the decisions begin for the player.
Well, sort of. The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me had a prologue which was definitely tried to set the mood for the killer, like when a slasher film such as Scream or Halloween began with easy victims to viciously slaughter at the beginning of the movie. I thought the prologue was okay for setting the tone of the rest of the game. It had some interesting decisions to make, but I thought it could have just served as a watchable experience rather than spending time on pointless exploring.
The start with the Lonnit crew was fairly basic but its premise lacked a little substance. Charlie told the crew what the offer was and where they had to go, and it seemed like everyone else knew the offer seemed shady—especially Jamie who immediately said it was a suss opportunity. But they go anyway. I felt like there could have been a better motivating factor that drove the narrative.
Apart from the premise, the graphics were really captivating—despite most of The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me taking place in a claustrophobic hellish hotel. The light and shading were pleasing to see, some awesome lens flare shots sold me. There were also some great cinematic shots of views and map designs throughout the game.
“The coolest technical part of The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me was the audio design…”
I thoroughly enjoyed the voice acting from every cast member. The “family” dynamic was believable and established early on in the story. The choice of dialogue was great, and the set dialogue was hilarious at times. There may have been one or two cringe lines but nothing painstakingly awkward like Bella Swan and Edward Cullen in Twilight.
One of the things that set The Dark Pictures: The Devil In Me apart from its predecessors was that each character came already equipped with a special item(s) which could be used in specific instances. I thought some were better than others while some were a little iffy. Mark’s external camera flash as a light source tried to stick to its spooky trope but kind of fell flat since everything was lit a decent amount during his scenes.
The coolest technical part of The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me was the audio design, specifically with Erin’s special item—the mini boom microphone and headphones. Essentially, it was a mic that could hear through the hotel’s walls the closer she approached them. I loved the fact that it was accurate with how certain sounds were muffled while the sounds through the walls were clearer. As someone who played the game with headphones, it definitely heightened the immersion.
“The Devil in Me was said to be the longest with a 7-hour playtime.”
The developers highlighted how players would be able to move, climb and interact more freely with the environment than the other Dark Pictures games. I had seen some gameplay of Man of Medan when that was launching, and it did seem constricted on movement. When I played The Quarry, it had a good balance of moving around and interacting with the environments as the characters.
The Dark Pictures: The Devil In Me felt more heavy on the movement and interactions—especially since the game emphasized the use of each character’s special item(s). Overall, running around, moving boxes to vault and interacting with certain objects were fluid. Nothing seemed janky or glitchy. It was only the loading times between scenes were a bit laggy.
In terms of the game’s playtime, the other Dark Pictures games clocked in at about 5-6 hours. The Devil in Me was said to be the longest with a 7-hour playtime. To my surprise, I believe I finished the game somewhere around the 7-hour mark as they stated—and I explored a bunch too! For a $39.99 game with a thrilling narrative, what could be wrong?
The answer to the rhetorical question would be that The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me tried to pay homage to the history of the real H.H. Holmes, along with elements of classic slasher films such as The Shining and Psycho. While the latter half had some good plot reveals, it was nothing original or something that made me go, ‘oh, that was a clever twist.’ It was more of a lacklustre, ‘oh, I kind of had a feeling because of so and so.’
For a season finale, it was just good. Not as bad as the Game of Thrones series finale, but not as good a season finale to a show like Stranger Things. I ended my playthrough almost saving the entire crew. Sadly, one did not make it right at the very end—made me furious but want to play it again to fix my mistake. The replayability factor was real.