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Review

Written by Jade Swann | Edited by John Gerritzen

Though the narrative and moral questions presented are interesting, this horror game is marred by frustratingly tedious gameplay and lacking mechanics. 

Those Who Remain is a psychological horror game developed by Camel 101. You play as Edward, a man who travels to the sleepy town of Dormont to meet with his lover and end their affair. Before he can begin to fix his mistakes, however, darkness settles upon the town and you find yourself thrust into a night filled with monsters and madness.

EYES IN THE DARK

Those Who Remain does a great job at immediately establishing an unnerving and chilling ambience. Belongings are laid out as if someone were just there, but there is no one to be seen. The buildings you enter are far too quiet, devoid of any signs of life, yet eyes glow at you from the dark, making it very clear that you are not alone. You soon realize that the light is your only friend and will rush from room to room, desperately flicking on every light switch or lamp you come across to get rid of those eyes peering at you in the darkness.

While this ambience is set up great, it quickly fades. The monsters waiting in the dark never move, and they soon become just another part of the background. Edward rarely ever remarks on them and when he does, it’s usually something unenthusiastic along the lines of “they’re still here.” After the first thirty minutes, you’ll probably avoid them without much thought or fear, much like Edward himself. Further, there are numerous writing errors present that can unintentionally break the intended mood of the notes and lore pieces you find. 

JUDGEMENT

As you explore the town of Dormont and try to stay in the light, you’ll find that there is something much more sinister at play than the monsters waiting in the dark. You’ll come across the cruel fate of an innocent girl and uncover all of the corruption that allowed the people responsible to go unpunished. With this information, you’re forced to make a series of choices by the demon who has thrust the town into such a nightmarish state: forgive or condemn the sinners. 

This mechanic poses an interesting moral dilemma, as the people portrayed — much like real people — are not completely good or completely evil. There are plenty of grey areas as to why they made the decisions they did, and it is up to you whether to take the high road and forgive, or let them burn for their choices. Moreover, it is clear that Edward himself has made immoral choices, which begs the overarching question present throughout the game: who are you to judge?

Speaking of choices, Edward is haunted by his own demons as well. While these tidbits of the past make for an interesting backstory, it almost feels like there are too many plot elements going on at times. There are the literal monsters scattered throughout the town, the immoral but very much human monsters that you must judge, and the monsters of Edward’s own past choices. There are a few points that tie these things together, but the threads are very minor and will probably leave you wondering why some were necessary to include at all. 

There are three different endings you can get based on the choices you make, which does offer some replayability. However, regardless of which ending you get, it feels abrupt and somewhat thrown together. After all of your exploring and running from monsters, several of the big questions are left unanswered, yet the explanation for how the demon came to be in Dormont is so neatly explained that it does not feel satisfying, let alone mentioning the three potential, but very brief ending scenes for Edward and the town’s fate. 

EXTREMELY TEDIOUS

Though the story itself and the moral choices you face are interesting to uncover, the actual gameplay to unravel them can be ridiculously tedious or downright boring. You are often tasked with finding objects hidden in whatever building you’re in, which usually results in you having to click open countless drawers or lockers. The majority of these drawers are completely empty, without so much as clutter to look at, and there can sometimes be upwards of fifteen containers to click through in one room. 

There is also very little direction on where to go or how to proceed. For example, there are several points where a character says, “Follow me,” and then disappears into thin air with no indication of where they are going. You have to go through each room individually until you find the right one, which, coupled with the item hunts, can make for some rather boring gameplay.

While these minor annoyances wouldn’t be so bad on their own, they are just the first in a series of tedious design choices. The worst parts of the game hands down are the stealth and chase portions. The chase scenes are usually pointless, with you just sprinting from place A to place B for the sake of moving on to the next area, or they’re frustratingly grindy, with you having to blindly choose which direction to go in or door to open, only to hit a dead end and be insta-killed until you find and remember the correct sequence. 

There are several stealth sections, but no mechanics to go with them. You can’t crouch behind objects, nor can you peer around corners. You must fully walk out to look around a corner, which can result in a monster seeing you and then proceeding to insta-kill you. If you’re seen, there’s almost no hope of successfully fleeing the monster before you’re killed, unless you happen to be a few feet away from the next area. Most of the time, you end up standing behind a wall or a bookshelf and just waiting for the monster to (hopefully) go in another direction. Because of this, the big bad enemies of the game quickly become more annoying than scary.  

The game is also autosave only, which means if you’re insta-killed, you’re sent back to wherever it last autosaved. This is sometimes twenty minutes of gameplay prior and if it was before any dialogue scenes, you’re going to have to watch them all again because they are unskippable. Further, the camera often awkwardly lingers on characters after they finish speaking, making these unskippable sequences stretch on longer than necessary.

MAZE OF HORRORS

The mix of poor stealth mechanics and autosaving made several sections of the game almost unbearable to get through. There is one sequence where you must find six statues placed throughout a maze, pick them up individually, and carry them to three tables outside of the maze, all while trying to avoid a giant monster. If that weren’t already difficult enough, you can’t sprint while holding the statues, nor can you easily keep an eye on where the monster is, as the statue blocks most of the screen. This portion also autosaves at the very beginning, so if you are killed bringing the sixth statue back, you start back at zero and have to do it all over again. In this instance, and several others, it almost feels like every aspect was designed to frustrate the player, rather than provide an entertaining horror experience. Though there are some interesting puzzles thrown in throughout the gameplay, these are greatly overshadowed by the tedious sections. 

It is worth mentioning that the developers do seem to be listening to feedback and have added some small quality of life patches in the weeks following the game’s release. These patches came after I had already played and wrote this review, so a few of the minor aspects described above might have been changed. In any case, any patch that lessens the tedium is very much welcome. 

4

The Verdict: Flawed

Those Who Remain starts off with great ambience and poses some interesting moral questions. Unfortunately, the narrative intrigue can’t make up for the extremely tedious and, at times, boring gameplay. If the story sounds interesting and you don’t mind a frustrating grind, give it a shot, but otherwise keep looking.

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