The Alone in the Dark franchise has been around since 1992, and its debut game is often credited as the creation of the survival horror genre. While its first several entries received mixed to positive reception, attempts to bring the franchise to the modern age have been less than stellar. The 2008 reboot was average, and 2015’s Alone in the Dark: Illumination was critically panned.

Now, THQ Nordic and Pieces Interactive have teamed up to reimagine and remake the original 1992 game. Although the constant comparison of the Resident Evil remakes will inevitably be tiresome, it’s hard not to compare this new Alone in the Dark remake to them, as well as Alan Wake 2. However, during my three-and-a-half-hour playthrough, Alone in the Dark stands out from the crowd with its more action-based approach and atmosphere.

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Alone in the Dark follows Emily Hartwood and Edward Carnby as they both go to Dercerto Manor to investigate the disappearance of Emily’s uncle, Jeremy Hartwood. You can pick between the two characters for an entire playthrough, similar to the Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield gameplay in the Resident Evil 2 remake.

I chose to play as Emily Hartwood for my preview, and her depressive and gloomy personality contrasts with Edwards, who is more frustrated and angry. Actress Jodie Comer does a fantastic job portraying Emily’s sadness, even if, at times, the lines are delivered more akin to a stage play rather than a video game.

THQ Nordic producers Michael Paeck and Andreas Schmiedecker shared with us that they made some story changes to make this reboot a much more substantial game. This included changing Jeremy’s fate at the very beginning of the game. In the original, Emily and Edward head to Decerto Manor to investigate Jeremy’s death. However, in this remake, he just simply disappears. This small change has massive ramifications, as it also added NPCs for the player to interact with.

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Paeck muses, “Ok, what if he didn’t hang himself, but he actually asked for help? And so we made his mansion where he lived into a mental hospital. We could now have personnel and other patients.” The developers took the opportunity to expand on the original since game development and content expectations have changed drastically since the ’90s. “If we just ported the game to modern technology, it would have been over two or three hours,” says Schmiedecker.

The developers also described the game as “survival-horror-adventure,” which is quite accurate. During my playthrough, Alone in the Dark didn’t necessarily invoke the same survival horror vibes of its contemporaries—there’s not a constant sense of claustrophobia or an oppressive atmosphere.

That’s because the Decerto Manor is very well-lit, unlike the pitch-black halls of Resident Evil 2’s police station, and it doesn’t have super trippy sequences like Alan Wake 2. There’s still a heavy emphasis on puzzle solving, such as matching up the correct astrology signs with a number table to remove a lock on a box containing a key item. These puzzles strike a perfect balance of not being overly simple, or overwhelmingly difficult.

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Despite not being as scary as its contemporaries, at certain points in the story, there are nightmare worlds that add a supernatural element. These hellish dreamscapes make Alone in the Dark feel much more like a traditional horror game with its gross swamps, night backdrops, and tight corners.

It actually feels much more like an action-focused game, and the combat and gameplay mechanics reinforce this. Your character even has a dodge mechanic, just like Jill Valentine does in the Resident Evil 3 remake. There don’t seem to be any inventory restrictions regarding the number of items or weight, which is a strange omission considering that feature was in the original game.

Furthermore, Alone in the Dark stands out from its contemporaries by implementing more melee options. Emily and Edward can pick up various pipes, shovels, and axes to swing at enemies. They are also completely viable options against monsters, unlike in Alan Wake 2, where a dinky little flashlight couldn’t even break a wet paper bag.

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While I played on the normal difficulty setting, I never found myself running out of pistol and shotgun ammo, which further steers the game into less of a survival horror and more into an action-oriented one. Both weapons felt serviceable and had the necessary feedback and recoil I expected. The shotgun felt especially satisfying after taking down the bigger monsters in two blasts rather than the five or six bullets needed from the pistol.

I played the preview on both my PC and Steam Deck. Performance ran smoothly when walking around the manor. However, performance took a nosedive on both platforms when entering the nightmare worlds. Considering that’s where most of the game’s combat occurs, stuttering and frame drops aren’t exactly things I’d like to worry about when fighting for my life. Since this was only a preview build, I hope these issues are resolved by the time the final product is released.

I’m looking forward to the full release to see whether Alone in the Dark will continue with its more action-oriented pacing or delve more into horror elements as the game progresses. The nightmare worlds seem to play a huge part in the game and I feel I’ve only scratched the surface in terms of how they fit into the story. Alone in the Dark will be released on March 20, 2024, for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.

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