The story of Those Who Remain starts out with depression, showing a man who seems to be at the end of his tolerance for a life which has thrown him bad luck. He receives a phone call to meet someone at a motel. A brief search later, his life is suddenly even more complicated. Shadowy figures line the darkness. His only hope is to stay in the light. Those Who Remain is a first-person horror experience, with a heavy emphasis on the ambiance of the areas you explore. You must carefully move through the environment, second-guessing any desire to run into a dark area. The story is based in a small town where a young girl died because of the actions of others. As you complete puzzles, you will have to make decisions based on these actions. Should one person be the judge, jury, and executioner?
Here’s what I liked:
How Horror Should Be — Growing up, I have always been drawn to horror-themed video games. I remember playing Silent Hill and being enthralled with both the story and the environment. I was fascinated with how a place could be so scary, then, once completed, looked almost heavenly. Similarly, in the town of Dormont, areas are covered in darkness. The blue eyes of murderous shadows dare us to get closer. Getting into that area requires light. There are many creative ways to produce light, and once the action is accomplished, you then see the area as normal, even peaceful. The same kind of feeling came to me as it did when I was younger. Pure relief. The danger is gone and now I can go anywhere I want. Freedom to be curious about my surroundings without constantly looking over my shoulder in fear of danger. While this isn’t a “survival horror”, it still elicits the same emotions that are usually associated with uneasiness. It feels strange to say this, but anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and regret are all emotions we don’t like to feel in real life but gravitate to in a fictional world. We can have these without consequence in our reality.
Problem Solving — There is a really cool alternate reality (think upside down in Stranger Things). You’ll come across it several times throughout the dreadful stroll through town. One section I really enjoyed was at the gas station. You go through a house door nearby and the world changes. There is a car door you can’t open, but in this other reality, you will see why. There are vines all around it. There’s also a plant killer nearby and you can use it to destroy the vines, allowing you to open the car door. The character even states “wow this is convenient”. I thought it was pretty funny because there really was no explanation as to why it was just lying in the street. I liked seeing the world from a different viewpoint and solving the puzzles in an alternate dimension to help me get through otherwise impassible doors. My absolute favorite puzzle takes place in a quiet church. You must read a story about someone’s travels and life. You then have three puzzles to complete based on that story. Since there were no guides at the time I played, I did everything on my own and it was quite satisfying to piece it all together by myself. I suggest trying it on your own instead of looking at a guide, as you will feel pretty accomplished for getting it right.
Judge, Jury, Executioner — As you piece together information on certain people, you are able to judge them based on their actions. You can either save or condemn them. Think what they did was shady? You find them, trapped, and are able to make the decision on the spot. What you do will make a difference as there are three different endings. Besides these people, you can choose to save or ignore a few other people that have nothing to do with the main events. Now you might be wondering why the character you control is given these decisions to make. What’s so important about him and how does he tie in? Well, you’ll find out. But it will be a question that lingers in your mind the whole journey through madness. The boldest decision is your first, having you decide the fate of a young teenager. Even knowing I needed to condemn for a different ending, I still sat there thinking how horrible my decision was.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Are We There Yet — There are a few instances where I got a little irritated. One example is having to find lion statues in a maze-like area. You move much slower while holding them, and they block much of your view. There is a giant monster walking around and if he catches you, then your checkpoint is at the start of the area again. While not that difficult, it was a bit annoying to have my line of sight blocked. Also, the monster is slow and when he’s walking around where you want to pick up a lion, you just have to wait. I wish there had been a checkpoint somewhere. There is also a forest scene I was having some problems with. You must throw a barrel into another barrel to knock it off a platform in order to raise the one you’re standing on. It felt based on luck and I actually had the barrel get stuck in between the terrain causing me to need to jump off a cliff. Also, the final house was so time-consuming that I felt it was drawn out much longer than it needed to be. You must follow a ghostly figure around and it goes on for so long that you lose interest in what they’re saying. When you play through again (there are multiple endings), you will likely hate coming back to these sections.
No Brakes — The main character doesn’t appear to be too shocked when the events start. He just goes with it. I would imagine anyone in this nightmare of a situation would be much more vocal or concerned. It picks up later, but the beginning lacks emotion from him. As far as the story goes, basically a young girl new to the town is bullied and is chased on a bike. She dies in an accident involving a cliff. Somehow she rides through a wooden fence breaking it and dies in the fall. I would have to look at that section again to tell if it was downhill. This is kind of the issue. I started playing detective thinking if it was even possible, trying to figure out if physics were accurate with how things went down (no pun intended). Your goal is to find all those responsible for covering up the incident to decide their fate. I just wish there was a stronger story. To me, this accident was more of a manslaughter than murder. Personally, I don’t know why anyone was even needing to cover these events up. It’s not like they would charge 13-year-olds with murder. I just wasn’t a fan of how the events panned out. I guess I would have wanted a worse accident that really was the fault of the kids besides a bike chase. Now the events with the main character made a little more sense; I liked that part of the story a lot. In fact, most of it is pretty good, just the main reason it all started was a bit on the weaker point.
There are a few things I wished could have been tweaked, mainly checkpoints in some places and a few shorter segments. However, this is an amazing title within the horror genre. I love that there are boundaries that lead to death instead just a fence we all know can be hopped over. It’s unique enough to be memorable and I had no problem playing through it multiple times, even seeing if I could complete it faster with each playthrough. If you’re a fan of horror, you should pick this up and experience it. This holds especially true if you’ve been wishing for the mood that Silent Hill gave you. What people take away from a game sometimes can really make you think. Those Who Remain, in particular, is about self-reflection in forgiveness and makes you realize you can judge someone on their mistakes yet never seem to consider the sins you’ve carried out. Don’t like all that psychology? The good news is, that ideology is placed in the background and at the core is a great creepy adventure with interesting monsters and clever puzzles.
Score: Highly Recommended
Those Who Remain was published by Wired Productions and developed by Camel 101 on Xbox One. It was released on May 28, 2020, for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.