STAFF REVIEW of Those Who Remain (Xbox One)

Monday, August 10, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Those Who Remain Box art When I initially looked into Those Who Remain, I fully expected a horror game that would be full of jump scares and that creepy feeling that makes you nervous and want to play with the lights on. What I actually got was part walking simulator, part horror game. Those Who Remain is an interesting premise with some symbolic meaning and supernatural elements that impressed at times with its set pieces while also being dull and frustrating the majority of the time.

You play as Edward, someone that clearly is troubled and going through something dark when you see he’s been drinking quite heavily. As you begin his story, you come to realize that he’s off to some seedy motel to meet his mistress and call off their affair, feeling the deep guilt from cheating on his wife. As you pull into the motel that seems abandoned, all of the doors are locked except the office, but no one is there. You search around and find out what room she was staying by noticing her alias in the log book.

Once you find the key and finally gain access to the room, it too is completely empty, but Edward becomes instantly distracted when someone steals his car from the parking lot. Of course this sends you chasing them down a long dark road, only to come to a dead end that’s pitch black with a crowd of people seemingly watching you from the shadows, but they have blue glowing eyes. You are told to stay in the light, for if you venture into the darkness, you’ll die. Thus begins Edward’s journey to figure out what’s going on, being lured to the nearby town of Dormont, but remember, always stay in the light at all costs.

For a first person thriller, Those Who Remain had a lot of potential, but once you realize that the ominous blue-eyed beings simply act as barriers to guide you to the right direction, there’s not all that much horror elements included otherwise. While the story is interesting at first when you’re starting to piece it together of what has happened and how Edward is involved, you’ll eventually see the conclusion coming from a mile away, though there are multiple endings based on certain choices you make during the journey.

The opening area with the motel sets the tone for the next few hours of gameplay, simply having you stay within the light looking for green glowing clues like notes and newspapers to flesh out the narrative while searching every drawer and cupboard to find the objects you need to progress, such as a key, bolt cutters, fuse and other items. And so begins the gameplay loop of getting to a new area, searching for clues and the item you need to get to the next area without any ideas as to where, all while avoiding any darkness you see to stay alive.

The main hook is that you’re being watched by these entities, but they disappear in the light, so you need to constantly be on the lookout for light switches and other light sources. One part I enjoyed was figuring out a way to turn on some car headlights to light a path to my destination, or a basement where the lights didn’t work, so I needed to move some boxes blocking the basement window so the light could shine in, giving me a safe path. I initially expected these blue eyed entities to chase me or something, but they don’t. They simply act as barriers to guide and funnel you to the correct path, even though it may not be obvious at first. Get too close and you’ll instantly die, but eventually the horror element disappears completely once you know you’re completely safe in the light.

There are some minor puzzle elements where a second dimension comes into play. Sometimes you won’t be able to progress, having exhausted all of your options and searched every place you could think of. At times though, there are doorways that shine a pure white light, sometimes leading you to another dimension of the same place you’re already in, though seemingly a different timeline.

For example, the example above with having to turn on the car lights, I was unable to because there was some mysterious force blocking me from opening the driver door. Once I got to this other dimension I found the car was entwined in some thick weeds. I found some pesticide and cleared the vines, then the car door was able to be opened in the ‘real’ world, allowing me to turn on those headlights I needed. It’s an interesting mechanic, but isn’t used all too often throughout which is a shame, as it added to the supernatural element.

While the glowing blue eyed entities don’t really pose a real threat, there are moments when you’ll need to avoid a creature that’s searching and hunting for you. Obviously you don’t want to be seen, but this isn’t hard to do, as there’s no stealth elements, you simply just can’t be in front of them. There are even a few chase-like sequences, but these aren’t too challenging aside from one where you need to move objects out of your way with the clumsy physics based controls.

Eventually you’ll reach narrative sections where you’ve been given information about a person involved with what’s happened, and it’s up to you to judge them. Do you give them forgiveness or condemn them for their actions? These choices lead to different endings, but the evidence you’re given is pretty cut and dry, so there’s a clear “good” and “bad” decision to be made. These choices are supposed to weigh on your conscience, but never once did I feel bad for those involved given the information. For example, would you forgive someone that killed your family because they tried to save theirs? It’s dilemmas like that that don’t tend to make the decisions very difficult or weighty.

Those Who Remain won’t impress you with its visuals, and that’s not because of its models or textures, but the game is so immensely dark that it’s near impossible to see anything other than what’s directly in the light itself. I had to crank up the gamma, which works to see slightly better, but results in a washed out look to it. As for the audio, the ambient sounds are quite decent setting the mood, but the voice acting is passable at best, with nearly everyone having very monotone deliveries. The controls actually frustrated me more than anything else though, as they are so sluggish on the controller, taking a few seconds to turn 180 degrees. On top of that, the performance is quite poor at times as well. Even on an Xbox One X, the framerate dips quite often and there is notable screen tearing, even with turning so slowly.

While Those Who Remain will only last a handful of hours, depending on how much searching you need to do for the items to progress constantly, the gameplay loop is quite dull and never really changes. I did enjoy the narrative once I started to figure out what’s going on and what Edward’s involvement was, but I eventually just wanted it to end. Sure there are multiple endings to encourage multiple playthroughs to make different moral choices, but I was good once I the credits rolled the first time.

Overall: 5.5 / 10
Gameplay: 5.5 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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