Picture this: You're all alone in the darkness. You look out into the inky black and see a dozen pairs of glowing blue eyes staring back at you. A peculiar voice calls out to you, urging you to stay in the light. As you near the group of menacing figures in the dark, time feels as though it's warping around you. You see the figures move over you, and then everything goes black. Should have followed that voice's instructions.
Those Who Remain is an intriguing first-person psychological horror game that combines familiar mechanics from games like Alan Wake and Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It's centered around slow, creeping dread more than in-your-face horror, and there are plenty of bizarre sights waiting to greet you. I had the chance to jump into the game with preview code comprising the first three areas, and came away mostly pleased.
The preview build I played of Those Who Remain thrusts you into the shoes of Edward, a man who's seemingly hit rock bottom. Gingerly looking over a photo of himself with his wife Andrea, he contemplates how his life has tumbled downhill amongst scattered whiskey bottles and with a gun in his hand. He receives a text from a woman named Diane who asks him to meet her at a motel just outside of the town of Dormont.
Presumably in the middle of divorce proceedings with Andrea or on the precipice of them, Edward decides to go meet with his mistress Diane and break things off once and for all. The next thing you know, the game kicks off as Edward pulls up to a seemingly empty motel in the middle of the night. There's no one at the reception desk, and no other cars to be found. You find a way into Diane's room by taking the key beneath the room mat, and the shower is still running. The phone rings, and an eerie voice beckons: "Stay in the light."
There's no sign of Diane in the room, so Edward decides to head outside, only to find someone peeling out of the motel parking lot in his car and zooming off into the distance. He runs after his car to no avail, only to come face to face with the dark once more and a series of strange beings with glowing eyes that pierce the darkness. Moving too close to them means Edward's vision will get fuzzy and he'll fall to some unknowable violence at the hands of those odd beings.
So your only option is to stay in the light, just like the voice told you to do. For around 30 minutes, you'll be asked to wander around the outskirts of Dormont, from an abandoned house to an odd gas station area with a seemingly inaccessible car. The strange beings are waiting just feet away from you if you stray from the path the game wants you to travel. Luckily, you're granted many sources of light to keep chugging along: light switches, generators, spotlights, and more.
You don't have anything to defend yourself with, which can be frustrating, but there are plenty of puzzles to unravel as you explore. There's a "dual-world" mechanic that Edward must walk between, where he'll have to perform actions that affect items across both planes. In the demo I played, he switched between them by way of a mysterious glowing door. One puzzle involved finding a way to free a car from one plane that seemed "wrapped" in something. You needed to use a vial of herbicide in one dimension to remove the ivy, then you'd be able to access the car in the other.
Aside from the puzzles remaining in the light to keep the strange beings away, there isn't anything complicated about the build I played of Those Who Remain. Since there was no combat, all you really need to do is explore and interact with items to read them, pick them up, or use them. Despite this fact, however, the game is still extremely compelling as you're pushed to keep looking around for the solution to head to the next area. I'm still trying to figure out what happened to Diane, and what Edward and Andrea's relationship status is like. Moreso, what's up with those blue-eyed freaks?
I'd love to revisit the full version of Those Who Remain, so hopefully I'll be able to dig into that soon on PC, which is where I played through the preview using a mouse and keyboard setup. While there is controller support, it will definitely need a bit more work before it's good to go. You'll be able to get your hands on the game to try out either control method when it debuts on May 28 via Steam.