Alone in the Dark (2024) – Review

A Descent into Madness

Release Date
March 20, 2024
THQ Nordic
Pieces Interactive
PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Reviewed On
Review copy provided by
THQ Nordic

Louisiana’s swamplands have historically always possessed a sinister reputation, but stepping into Derceto Manor in 1926 cranks the creep factor up to eleven. Emily Hartwood, fueled by a frantic letter from her Uncle Jeremy, ventures into this Gothic nightmare alongside Edward Carnby, a private investigator with a haunted past. Alone in the Dark (2024) reimagines the survival horror classic, and let me tell you, Derceto’s secrets are enough to chill you to the bone.

As soon as I set foot in Derceto Manor, it seemed that the uncomfortable heaviness I felt was a blanket of fear, like how I anticipate jumpscares for every door that I open. Developers at Pieces Interactive are geniuses in creating this atmosphere. The architecture, flashing gaslights and unseen creatures croaking in the background painted a hauntingly beautiful picture of decay. The Doom Jazz soundtrack, with its jarring melodies and rhythmic percussion, depicted their deterioration, which mirrored Emily’s and Edward’s descent into madness perfectly. It was not only scary but it was an experience.

The plot is being told through the viewpoints of both Emily and Edward. This dual-protagonist approach also helped flesh out the narrative. Emily, a resolute young woman driven by desperation, added vulnerability to the story. Edward, an experienced investigator with a problematic past, provided a more stoic counterpoint. Having played both of these characters, and not having to experience the exact same thing during the playthrough kept the gameplay engaging. As I progressed, I became invested in both their stories, wanting to unlock all the collectible Lagniappes to uncover more about Derceto Manor and escape its clutches. However, some plot points felt rushed, leaving certain aspects of the lore and character motivations underdeveloped. Additionally, the campaign felt a bit short, especially considering the rich lore and the potential for further exploration within Derceto’s walls.

The secrets within Derceto Manor are like a maze which means for the most part I loved unraveling, except some aspects that I did not enjoy so much. The puzzles here are a breath of fresh air compared to the usual survival horror tropes. They demand creativity in which you have to think outside the box and frequently look for environmental cues for the solutions. Puzzles were both deciphering cryptic symbols into the dusty old books, to figuring out safe combinations of of various complexities. Each one of those provided a satisfying sense of achievement.

Pharaoh's Coffin Talisman Puzzle Solution - Alone in the Dark All Talisman Puzzle Codes & Combinations

However, a couple of puzzles sometimes felt like they’d belong in a whole new category of unsolvable. One particular instance involving a series of seemingly nonsensical numbers had me staring at the screen for an eternity, questioning my sanity more than the atmosphere of the game itself. It’s the kind that drives you desperate to look for a lifeline in the form of online guides to help you get through them. These moments shattered the immersion and turned exploration into a chore. A hint system within the game itself could have struck a better balance between challenge and frustration.

While Alone in the Dark captures the atmosphere and puzzle designs, I was underwhelmed with the combat system. The enemy designs lacked variety, where most creatures are just resorting to basic melee attacks. Combat itself does not bring much strategic depth, involves a lot of button mashing, and stealth is almost negligible. Ideally, the combat should have complemented the atmosphere, creating a sense of desperate struggle against the lurking horrors, but instead, it just felt repetitive.

A further set back for the combat experience is the limited inventory management. Melee weapons break, and you’re only able to pick up one at a time. Juggling between a few weapons and healing items during stressful encounters felt restrictive. A better inventory system could have allowed for a more strategic approach to combat, and spared me the unnecessary backtracking of where I found that other shovel because my sledgehammer broke and I didn’t want to use up bullets to kill enemies.

The Alone in the Dark Vintage Horror Filters offers a neat way to customize your experience in Derceto Manor. These filters like the Sepia option can enhance the atmosphere by evoking a classic horror film aesthetic. For players who enjoy a more retro look, and those who want to re-live Alone In The Dark (1992), the 8-bit filter might be a welcome addition.

Vintage Horror Filters - Alone in the Dark

Some technical glitches did pop up here and there, interrupting the flow of the game. It happens more frequently when I run into tight corners where I’m not supposed to be, like a door that cannot be opened, or in between furniture that you can’t interact with. Thankfully, they weren’t game-breaking, but they were certainly frustrating because I have to forcefully restart my game from the last know save point. 

For those who crave a deeper appreciation for the game’s development, Alone in the Dark offers a Director’s Commentary Mode. This optional feature lets you listen to insightful commentary by Mikael Hedberg, the writer behind horror titles like SOMA and Amnesia, and Alone in the Dark creator Frederick Raynal. As you navigate the horrors of Derceto Manor, you gain a unique perspective on design choices, inspirations, and the challenges faced by the development team. Just keep in mind, the Director’s Commentary Mode appears to be available only in English.

Alone in the Dark is a hauntingly atmospheric experience with clever puzzles and a decent narrative. However, frustrating combat mechanics and occasional technical hiccups prevent it from being a truly great game. The short campaign length might leave some players wanting more, but the Director’s Commentary Mode offers a valuable bonus for horror enthusiasts. The Vintage Horror Filter adds a nice touch of customization, but it’s not essential for everyone. Ultimately, Alone in the Dark is a decent return to form for the franchise. It’s worth checking out for fans of the genre and those seeking a good dose of Southern Gothic horror, just be prepared for a few stumbles along the way.

Alone in the Dark (2024) – Review
Score Definition
You better must choose if it’s worth spending your spare cash, because it might not be the game for you and it might be for others.
Immersive atmosphere
Creative puzzles
Dual protagonist narrative
Vintage horror filters
Director's commentary mode
Rushed plot points
Lackluster combat system
Limited inventory management
Technical glitches