While I love Supermassive Games’ standalone horror projects such as 2015’s Until Dawn and this year’s The Quarry, I am less enthused by the studio’s The Dark Pictures Anthology series. Man of Medan and Little Hope were boring as they lacked interesting characters and offered unsatisfying lore behind their antagonists; however, the third installment, House of Ashes, had a likable cast and some genuinely fascinating lore. With Supermassive finally finding its footing with The Dark Pictures Anthology, I was looking forward to what the next anthology entry and season one finale, The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me, offered.
I got a hands-off preview for The Devil in Me, presented by Bandai Namco and Supermassive’s game director, Tom Heaton, as the latter explained the inspirations for this upcoming title and how it looked to improve on the formula. Each of the characters in the main cast has a more distinct role to play within the overall dynamic of the group, making them memorable. Also, its murder house setting and new interactive gameplay mechanics, including puzzles and traversal, might make it the most engaging Dark Pictures game to date.
Just a normal funhouse
The Devil in Me is inspired by H.H. Holmes, the real-life man who is known as America’s first serial killer. He is known for having a hotel filled with traps and would lure his victims in before allegedly killing them. The hotel became known as the “murder castle.” While it’s believed that most of the rumors surrounding his exploits were exaggerated, it makes a great premise for a horror game.
The game follows a production company called Lonnit Entertainment, creators of a documentary series called Architects of Horror. The company is looking for an enticing place to shoot its finale about H.H. Holmes, which would garner interest in a second season. This is also an interesting and rather meta premise, considering The Devil in Me is the season one finale of The Dark Pictures Anthology.
The star of The Devil in Me is Architects of Horror’s host Kate Wilder, who is portrayed by actress Jessie Buckley (Chernobyl, Men). Other characters include Charlie Lonnitt, the owner of the company; Mark Nestor, the cameraman; Jamie Tiergen, the lighting expert; and Erin Keena, the audio intern.
What makes The Devil in Me’s cast immediately stand out compared to Supermassive’s previous ones is that they all have clearly defined roles. They’re not just a hodgepodge of random people, like some teenagers at a summer camp as in The Quarry or a group of friends as in Man of Medan. They each have expertise in a specific aspect of film production, making them easier to distinguish.
They get a call from someone named Grantham Du’Met, a wealthy architect and collector who invites the crew over to check out a hotel that would be perfect for their documentary finale. Unfortunately, they quickly realize that it’s an almost exact recreation of H.H. Holmes’s murder castle and find themselves getting separated and in a life-or-death situation. This is where the true fun of The Devil in Me begins.
Adding more engaging mechanics
Unlike previous Dark Pictures games, The Devil in Me features a new inventory system where players can pick up items to use. Each character also has a unique tool related to their area of expertise. For example, as Charlie is the CEO of Lonnitt, he carries business cards around which he can use to pry open drawers. Meanwhile, cameraman Mark can use his camera to take pictures of the horrific things happening in the hotel. It can also be broken, lost, or given to other characters, which adds another wrinkle to the franchise’s non-linear storytelling and an engaging twist on a tried-and-true adventure game mechanic.
The Devil in Me’s biggest innovations come in the form of its more involved puzzle solving and new traversal mechanics such as climbing ladders, shimmying across ledges, and pushing boxes. The puzzles provide a sort of Resident Evil-like feeling to the gameplay not present in the more movie-like Dark Pictures games. Although I couldn’t tell if there was some sort of time limit to solve puzzles, Heaton said, “you’ll need to find codes hidden or disguised in the world, untangle antique fuse boxes, and find your way out of mazes. So get your thinking caps on because if you can’t work them out, people are going to die. But no pressure!”
The new traversal options also enhance segments that are usually relegated to just quick-time events in Supermassive Games’ previous titles. These might seem insignificant, as many third-person action-adventure games already have these elements, but they offer a lot of much-needed engagement and minute-to-minute suspense that this style of game sorely needs.
Venturing into the unknown
In the 15 minutes of gameplay that I saw, I wasn’t able to see The Devil in Me’s accessibility options. However, given Supermassive’s track record, I can hope they’ll be extensive, such as being able to change button mashing prompts into simple hold button ones and making the timing for quick-time events last longer.
Supermassive Games mentioned that The Devil in Me includes the franchise’s bloodiest deaths yet. The end of the gameplay footage shows Erin and Kate trapped in separate locked cages. Breathable oxygen slowly gets sucked out of both, with both Mark and Jamie being forced to choose who lives as flipping the switch in the middle of the room only allows the oxygen to flow back into one cage. The other person coughs up blood and grimly suffocates. This is a moment that will stick with me until I see what’s next when the game launches.
The Devil in Me looks to be a more grounded experience compared to previous Dark Pictures entries, which had more supernatural elements and a sense of mysticism. This more realistic approach will help it stand out and possibly make it the best and scariest game in The Dark Pictures Anthology yet. I’m curious to see what direction The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me takes when it finally releases on November 18 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.