Horror games live or die on either their story or the ability to set and keep a spooky atmosphere to keep the player on their toes. Those Who Remain tries both and somewhat succeeds but fails to keep your attention.
Playing as Edward, a family man who has risked ruining his life with an affair and who sets out to end it to save his marriage, you’ll find yourself in a sleepy town full of night terrors that lurk in the darkness. Developer Camel 101 have done well to create an atmosphere of dread from the offset, with shadowy figures standing watch and ready to move toward you as the lights go out. Using light as your main tool, you’ll need to solve environmental puzzles to keep the lights on and keep those horrors at bay.
Adding to this light and dark game mechanic, there is a strange parallel world which springs up from lit doorways, a universe which initially feels similar to the upside-down from Stranger Things but which helps to solve some of the puzzles back in the real world. These often become fetch quests or ‘find the switch in one world that will do something in the other’ mechanics and sadly become over-used before you get half way through the game.
Half walking simulator and half puzzle game with a few elements of running for dear life (you have no weapons or defence other than being near a light source), the game often relies on what could be around the corner then sometimes fails at what actually is. The half-seen creatures are always more scary than the ‘boss’ style ones you do get to meet who are, more often than not, a little too over-the-top.
Added to this, Edward’s attitude to these creatures seems a little blasé for someone who is trying to escape a nightmare world. It feels as if he’s already given up, possibly from the guilt of the affair. His musings on those other victims he comes across who he can choose to save or leave to damnation is more interesting though for some reason it’s given very little in the way of explanation. I think this also underlines the main issue with Those Who Remain, there’s very little in the way of explanation going on anywhere. For the first half of the game this is fine, it feels like the developers are building a mystery; Why is Edward here? Why are there pictures of his family and why does he come across these other poor souls? By the end, though, you just want them all answered but the game rarely gives you any direct reason for these events even in any of its three endings.
There’s a really good atmosphere of dread and some interesting psychological elements at play in Those Who Remain but the fetch quests, apathy towards the story and out-of-place boss characters really harm what good has been done with the atmosphere. It’s frustrating, a game that feels it could be so much more, with a solid start and some great ideas behind it just fizzles away.