Alone in the Dark review: A heady head case

This 2024 reboot of Alone in the Dark takes Edward Carnby and Emily Hartwood back to the Derceto mansion, but is this return to roots worth the trip?


I’ve long been enamored and a bit wistful about the Alone in the Dark series. The 1992 classic and its 1993 direct follow-up were foundational to the survival horror genre, Resident Evil before Resident Evil existed (the first RE came along in 1996). However, the Alone in the Dark series has had a rough go of it over the last couple decades. Several sequels and remakes have failed to capture the lightning of those first two games. Enter 2024’s reboot from THQ Nordic and developer Pieces Interactive. It takes the series back to the stories of the first game, and while this revisit to the Derceto Manor can be a bit jank at times, it captures a genuinely macabre, unsettling, and investigative narrative that Alone in the Dark has long been missing.

Warning: Alone in the Dark contains themes of mental illness, depression, suicide, and other difficult themes. Be aware and read ahead at your own discretion.

The Hartwood curse

As mentioned prior, this version of Alone in the Dark goes back to the original setting of the Derceto Manor in the backwoods bayous of Louisiana back in the 1920s. Emily Hartwood has received a letter from her mentally troubled uncle Jeremy that the residents and staff are in a cult and conspiring against him. Madness runs in the Hartwood family, known as the Hartwood curse, but Emily still cares for him, so she ventures to Derceto with private detective Edward Carnby to figure out what’s happening and rescue him if necessary. What they find are mysterious forces of cosmic evil, or so it seems. It may just very well be insanity. All we know for sure is that things are going to much more complicated before they come anywhere close to clear.

Decerto has been transformed into a mental institution in the new Alone in the Dark, and not a particularly trustworthy one. The Manor’s residents are under the direction and care of psychoanalyst Dr. Gray and are a menagerie of suffering artists and black sheep from their respective families. There’s Ruth, a flapper with careless and promiscuous habits, MacCarfey who was a reputable lawyer until he got lost in alcohol, Perosi the artist who claims to be part of an art colony that disappeared 20 years prior, Grace who is a young child that was brought to Derceto after her father passed away tragically, and Cassandra who is a famous writer that fell into a suicidal depression after her last projects. It’s also worth noting that you can choose between playing Carnby and Emily in the opening of the game, and their stories play out in some interestingly varied ways.

Jeremy Hartwood in Alone in the Dark
Source: THQ Nordic

Whichever character you go as, Emily and Edward inevitably separate from one another. As you explore the manor, the character you play as slips into what can only be described as insane or supernatural visions that make them question reality even as they unravel the maledictions of the residents and even the staff at Derceto. It leads to tripping into other lands such as the French Quarter and a backwoods oil operation, all of which don’t take long to unleash grotesque monsters upon the player.

The place where Alone in the Dark succeeds most is in making players question if any of the supernatural elements are real or just madness inside Emily or Edward’s head, but it’s also often jarring. When you enter into a room, you’ll be investigating for clues and notes that could lead you closer to Jeremy only for the room to suddenly transform into a decrepit hellscape of deadly creatures and traps. And when you escape it, the game often acts as though nothing happened at all. The characters take no notice and Emily and Edward are left trying to downplay or blatantly hide what could be their own mental breakdowns.

Carnby exploring the main plaza in Derceto Manor in Alone in the Dark
Source: THQ Nordic

Alone in the Dark doesn’t always come across well in presentation. This game has some thick technical jank. There were plenty of times were I turned around corners to see elements of the environment still loading. There is also almost no transition between the supernatural occurrences and reality. It sometimes just blinks back and forth before your eyes with no pomp or circumstance. If that wasn’t enough, I sometimes got stuck on terrain and was either killed for not being able to move or just had to reload a save if I survived.

I also wasn’t crazy about the voice acting. There are clearly moments where emotion is meant to be conveyed - distress at the visions or tragedy at a certain point. It just doesn’t come through sometimes, almost sounding like the VAs didn’t entirely know what they were reading for. Jeremy is an outlier, selling his own insanity incredibly well, and Emily and Edward are generally appropriate. I just don’t think the quality is consistent.

A troubling investigation

Edward Carnby and Emily Hartwood in Alone in the Dark.
Source: THQ Nordic

Alone in the Dark is largely investigative in its nature. Players wander around Derceto with Emily and Edward via an over-the-shoulder third-person camera, looking for clues and key items that might help them break through to the truth of Jeremy Hartwood, the Hartwood family, Derceto Manor, and its residents. At certain points, players will make use of a talisman that allows them to open up “portals” to relevant areas of interest, and that often leads to combat with horrific abominations.

For the most part, when you’re in the real Derceto, players will focus on finding clues. Every piece of paper, clipping, or key item generally has a story to tell, and those stories are almost always voiced by characters in the game, which is a rare point where voice work feels consistently excellent. These characters telling stories of madness, history, cults, superstition, and more are more than just a way to give life to the wealth of written notes in the game. They also sometimes have additional context past the written word which is worth exploring if you want to get the full picture. If you ever lose track of your progress, the game also keeps an updating journal of events which is also voiced. I will mention, Alone in the Dark makes use of a lot of themes related to H.P. Lovecraft and also Voodoo. I was worried it would go in problematic directions with these two concepts, but I actually found Alone in the Dark to handle its content with sensible taste.

Emily Hartwood facing down a horror abomination in Alone in the Dark
Source: THQ Nordic

When you inevitably find your way to the supernatural side of Alone in the Dark, you’ll also come in contact with nightmarish horrors. Thankfully, Emily and Edward came armed. Each has their own pistol, but you can also find other weapons, including melee weapons for breaking fragile obstacles or clubbing gross, moss-covered zombies and mangled maggot-ridden monstrosities. The creatures are well-used in Alone in the Dark and always upsetting to come across.

The combat also feels satisfying. When you hit a pistol shot, if feels like it has incredible punch to it. There are also throwables like bricks you can use to stun enemies or molotovs you can use to set them on fire. Melee feels similarly satisfying. Unfortunately, some melee weapons just don’t track well. There are low profile enemies that a weapon like the hatchet just won’t touch for some reason. Enemy AI can also prove to be dumb. I saw enemies get caught on stairs which made for easy killing, but obviously sucked some horror out of the experience.

Maybe it’s in your mind

Emily Hartwood in Alone in the Dark
Source: THQ Nordic

Pieces Interactive’s 2024 reboot of Alone in the Dark reminds me in numerous ways of the classic Silent Hill games, for better and worse. Combat is impactful, but not always recommended. The drifts between Derceto and supernatural worlds are unsettling, but also janky. The characters feel compelling and mysterious, but also unemotive and somehow detached. And in all of that, it tells a truly intense story that cranks it to eleven by the end and sets up from something even more interesting. You won’t find a perfect horror on the level of Resident Evil 4 in this version of Alone in the Dark, but it still captures the trademark macabre psychological horror and compelling investigation that this series has been missing for far too long.

This review is based on an early PlayStation 5 digital copy of the game supplied by the publisher. Alone in the Dark comes out on March 20, 2024, on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

  • Derceto Manor is compelling to explore
  • Emily and Edward have interestingly varied campaigns
  • All notes, clues, and story-so-far text has voiceover text
  • Combat feels impactful and satisfying
  • Monsters are genuinely unsettling
  • The reworked environment and its characters are interesting
  • It's hard to know what's real and not until the end
  • Lots of texture loading when coming into new areas
  • Enemy AI can sometimes stumble over itself
  • Voice acting sometimes feels detached from the context
  • Transitions from cutscenes or to/from supernatural are sometimes jarring
  • Bugs like getting caught on the environment can be frustrating
From The Chatty
Hello, Meet Lola