|“||Each game in The Dark Pictures series is a complete and original story in its own right.||”|
The Dark Pictures Anthology is a series of narrative, choice-based horror games developed by Supermassive Games and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. It is also a distant relative of Supermassive's other horror games, being the successor to the popular 2015 title Until Dawn and a cousin of the 2022 title The Quarry.
Each game in the series is standalone and in no way affects the other games, having its own unique characters, setting and story. However, they all exist in the same universe and are linked through The Curator, a mysterious character who accompanies and guides the player in each installment.
Currently, installments of The Dark Pictures Anthology have been released since 2019. Games are released once a year (usually during autumn), while teasers and information about the newest installment tend to appear six to three months before its release. While the first two games, Man of Medan and Little Hope, were only available on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, starting with the third installment, House of Ashes, all subsequent games will also be available on Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5.
The Dark Pictures Anthology has a strict auto-save system that prevents players from reloading the save file to an earlier point in the game if they regret their decision. The only way to change the player's choice is to start a new game or play chapters individually (which is available only after a full playthrough), giving the opportunity to overwrite an old file or create a new one. This system was reworked in the third installment, House of Ashes, giving players the option to reload the file before finishing a playthrough.
The anthology is designed in such a way that to see all the content of each game, the player has to complete it many times for different scenarios and endings with different combinations of circumstances and surviving characters. All of the games in the anthology are fairly short and take 3-6 hours to complete (in Shared Story, the walkthrough is shorter due to players playing multiple chapters at the same time at some points). Each chapter has two protagonists (one per Cut), although there may be more, either because the chapter is divided into segments or during action scenes.
Throughout the games, players face moral dilemmas (leave behind or save, run or fight, etc.) and are given three or two choices - rationality ("Head"), emotionality ("Heart"), or say/do nothing. However, the player is given 5 to 10 seconds to make decisions, depending on the situation. Large and important decisions that can affect the outcome of the game are recorded with Bearings. After making a decision/action, the current protagonist's traits and/or relationships are updated, which the player can view in more detail and see what and how they have changed them.
The gameplay is mainly focused on exploration and finding useful items and collectibles (pictures showing possible future events and secrets revealing the game's lore deeper). When finding collectibles, they are saved and available to the player, even if they have not found them in the current playthrough. Collecting all or specific secrets, as well as beating the game, rewards the player with bonus contents (comics, concept art, interviews, etc.).
Apart from the exploration, the game contains action scenes in which the player either has to perform QTEs (pressing/mashing a certain button or aiming somewhere) for a limited time or pass Keep Calm! segments (pressing the buttons in time with the heartbeat). Starting with the second installment, Little Hope, right before a QTE appears, the players get an alert.
Starting with the third installment, House of Ashes, the anthology features three difficulty levels - Forgiving (Easy), Challenging (Normal), and Lethal (Hard) - which affects the speed of the QTEs and Keep Calm! segments. The player can change the difficulty settings at any point in time while in a playthrough.
Finally, the anthology offers several game modes: Theatrical Cut and Curator's Cut (singleplayer modes that allow players to play the game from a main or alternate perspective respectively) and Shared Story and Movie Night (multiplayer modes that allow two players online or 2-5 players offline to play the game respectively)
- Prologue: The player is introduced to two false protagonists, initially in an everyday situation. By the middle of the prologue, the main threat of the game arises and the false protagonists die, in a desperate attempt to escape or fight.
- The prologue serves as a tutorial, teaching the player the basic mechanics.
- Act 1: The player is introduced to the five main protagonists and one or more supporting characters, their personalities and main interactions between them are shown. As a result of unfortunate circumstances, the group is trapped in an ominous place and isolated from the outside world, with no way to call for help or escape. As characters explore locations in search of a way out, they begin to face dangers and eventually separate.
- By the end of Act 1, a protagonist can die.
- Act 2: Separated characters gather in groups of 2-3 people and try to find each other. As they do so, they take turns facing individual threats and may die. By the end of the act, during another escape from danger, all surviving characters reunite.
- By the end of Act 2, two protagonists can die among which may be the protagonist who can die in Act 1.
- Act 3: After the reunion, the surviving characters are fully focused on escaping, while at the same time, begin to learn the full picture of what happened after collecting enough secrets. In the final chapters, the protagonists face the threat one last time and either survive the night or die.
- By the end of Act 3, three protagonists can die, leaving the remaining two alive for the finale so both players in Shared Story can play.
- Epilogue: A new day is coming, and with it the end of the game. The finale is presented as a cutscene, which shows the results of the player's playthrough and the fate of the protagonists.
- Although the end sums up the game and there are no dangers or threats seen, some or all protagonists can die in it, depending on the player's past decisions.
During the game, at the end of each act (sometimes with exceptions), the player ends up in the repository, where they encounter The Curator. He summarizes each act, comments on the player's actions, and may even offer them cryptic hints, helping the player learn the main secret of the game and avoid mistakes. At the end of each game, the Curator bids farewell to the player, before teasing them the next installment of the anthology.
After the credits, there is always a short announcement trailer for the next game in the series, which gives the players a brief information on the setting, key characters and threats, as well as the release information.
Main article: Season One
Currently, the anthology has four games confirmed out of eight planned, with three already released. The first four installments make up the first season of The Dark Pictures Anthology.
- Man of Medan (August 30, 2019)
- Little Hope (October 30, 2020)
- House of Ashes (October 22, 2021)
- The Devil in Me (Autumn 2022)
- Press Kit Edition - an exclusive edition for Man of Medan. In addition to the game, it features a skull-shaped clipboard with the wind rose and a trio of pocket watches.
- Collector's Edition - an exclusive edition for Little Hope. In addition to the game, it features a Mary's poppet figurine, 2 pins (ship and poppet), a 4-disc steelbook, and a cloth map of The Dark Pictures Anthology universe.
- Pazuzu Edition - an exclusive edition for House of Ashes. In addition to the game, it features a vampire figurine, a sticker set, an eclipse pin, and an art print.
- Animatronic Collector's Edition - an exclusive edition for The Devil in Me. In addition to the game, it features an animatronic bust figurine, a Lonnit Entertaiment business card, a hotel card with envelope, and a map of the hotel's island.
- Volume 1 Edition - a collection bundle featuring Man of Medan and Little Hope, their respective pins, a 4-disc steelbook, and a cloth map.
- Triple Pack Edition - a collection bundle featuring Man of Medan, Little Hope, and House of Ashes, their respective pins, a 4-disc steelbook, and a cloth map.
- Volume 2 Edition - a collection bundle featuring House of Ashes and The Devil in Me, their respective pins (eclipse and drawing compass), a map of the hotel, and House of Ashes playing cards.
As part of the anthology, each installment has similarities to other games. All of them:
- ...are based on one or more legends and events from the real world, as well as inspired by similar works:
- Man of Medan - based on the legend of the SS Ourang Medan, with some elements from Japanese Unit 731; inspired by the movie Ghost Ship.
- Little Hope - based on Salem and Andover witch trials; inspired by the Silent Hill series and the play The Crucible.
- House of Ashes - based on Iraq War and the kingdom of Akkad during the reign of Naram-Sin; inspired by Alien, Predator, The Descent series and the novel At the Mountains of Madness.
- The Devil in Me - based on America's first serial killer Henry Howard Holmes and his hotel "Murder Castle".
- ...have five protagonists of the same category, one of which is the "odd one out" and is different from the other four:
- Man of Medan - young adults, with Conrad, Alex, Julia, and Brad being American tourists and Fliss being their skipper from French Polynesia.
- Little Hope - members of college, with Andrew, Angela, Taylor, and Daniel being students and John being their professor.
- House of Ashes - members of the military/special forces, with Rachel, Eric, Nick, and Jason being American units and Salim being an Iraqi soldier.
- The Devil in Me - members of a documentary film crew.
- ...have their name written in the appropriate style and containing its respective symbol (except Man of Medan).
- Man of Medan - written in a font used in ships' names.
- Little Hope - written in a font similar to sticks; has a twig effigy symbol in the letter O in "Hope".
- House of Ashes - written in a font similar to cuneiform; has an eclipse symbol as the letter O in "Of".
- The Devil in Me - written in a font similar to blueprints; has an architecture compass symbol as the letter V in "Devil".
- ...focus on the specific type(s) of horror genre and one or more type(s) of threat that often appear(s) in there:
- ...feature a lead actor protagonist, a key item/character/location, and a background indicating the game's theme on the cover; all this is done in a key color palette also related to the theme:
- Man of Medan - Conrad (Shawn Ashmore), the SS Ourang Medan, and a map of the South Pacific Ocean in the 1940s; the key color is blue, which symbolizes water.
- Little Hope - Andrew (Will Poulter), an effigy hanging over a campfire with Mary dancing along it, and a slightly burnt map of Little Hope in 1692; the key color is yellow, which symbolizes fire and aged paper.
- House of Ashes - Rachel (Ashley Tisdale), a Pazuzu statue and different Sumerian carvings with cuneiform writings, depicting histories or mythologies; the key color is orange, which symbolizes sand.
- The Devil in Me - Kate (Jessie Buckley), World's Fair Hotel with the killer, and map of Wisconsin along the border of Lake Michigan; the key color is red, which symbolizes blood.
- Characters on game covers are usually assumed to be the central protagonists. However, this isn't always the case:
- Andrew does play a major role as he is very active and the finale depends on his decisions.
- Conrad and Rachel are not, as they are on the contrary among the least active and most killable characters in their groups, giving up major roles to Alex and Jason respectively.
- While the full anthology is planned to consist of eight games, if the series is successful enough, it will be expanded.
- One of the anthology's plans was to use the typical "Previously in... (Title)" system to introduce every chapter on each installment as Until Dawn did, but since chapters were very short, they decided to abandon this idea.
- Currently, each installment has a gag where the protagonists find and succeed/fail to use the radio to call for help. This gag has also been used in other Supermassive's horror titles, such as Until Dawn and The Quarry.
- Most of the characters' models are taken from previous Supermassive's games, such as Hidden Agenda, The Inpatient, Bravo Team, and Shattered State.
- Subsequently, future installments reuse some characters' models from previous installments of the anthology.
- Despite the fact that all games aren't directly related to each other, each of them has references to other installments that either represent the game's theme or have story-related information.
- So far, the anthology has two versions of the intro.
- From Man of Medan to Little Hope – The skull slowly turns to the side, revealing the compass, from which the name of the anthology appears in a haze.
- From House of Ashes – Series of fast-paced pictures with scenes from the previous and current games, ending with a fast-track version of the old intro. In The Devil in Me, some scenes were removed and screams and whispers were added:
- Man of Medan - Alex underwater from Dive (removed) and the Sailor Girl smiling behind Conrad from Glamor Girl.
- Little Hope - Burning Clarke family's house from Family (removed), Mary showing her poppet from Playing Tricks, and Andrew, John and Angela encountering the Drowned Demon from The Crossing.
- House of Ashes - Rachel turning back after hearing a vampire's screech from Bloodbath (announcement trailer version).
- The Devil in Me - A shot of the robotic corpse from the announcement trailer.
The Dark Pictures Anthology
|Season One||Man of Medan • Little Hope • House of Ashes • The Devil in Me|