The upcoming survival horror game, Alone in the Dark: Illumination, had a closed beta last weekend where I got to try out the first zone of the game. Alone in the Dark (AITD) has origins tracing all the way back to 1992, and this upcoming game will be the sixth installment in the series.
The game’s title screen immediately startles the player with deafening thunder. In my version of the game I was only able to play as one character, the Hunter, and only had the option of one zone, “The Mines of Lorwich,” but had access to all the levels within that zone. Each level begins with a wall of text to help provide some sort of backstory to what is going and why you are there. From what I played, that is the only source of explicit information given to the player. Never did I encounter another character or even hear the voice of the character I was using, which added to the atmosphere.
Feeling bold, I decided to not do the first level and choose one I thought sounded cool. It began with me approaching an elevator that eerily opened upon me getting close. The elevator struggled a little going down as if the cable was about to snap and stopped at a lower level than my goal floor. Upon exiting, I walked forward about twenty yards before I realized there was a grunting sound behind me. I turned around to spot an ugly gray creature humping me and then I was dead. I did not witness any attack animations nor did my screen go red signifying I was low on health, I was just dead. Once dead, the only option given was to restart the entire level or to exit to the main menu. I exited to the main menu.
Confused about what just happened, I decided to play the first level like a proper player. Now being overly cautious, I slowly walk around where I spawned and looked for things to loot. Everything the player can interact with is shiny with objectives highlighted orange, which meant there is no such thing as interacting with objects besides the typical ammo, health, and main objectives. There were two available options for guns: an assault rifle and dual pistols where both include the character shining a flashlight where he or she aims. As I slowly made my way through what seemed like the right direction, constantly spinning to be prepared for an ambush, I came across my first enemy standing on top of a building. I fired wildly, emptying my assault rifle ammo into the zombie-looking creature until he finally fell. Though I had drained almost all of my ammo, I felt proud for slaying my first enemy. That feeling quickly faded when an identical enemy appeared on the building exactly where the slain one stood. It was at this point I learned this game is not about killing and instead about running. Sprinting away through doorways, I noticed the option to close a gate so I did and looked back through the holes in the gate to see if there was anything I missed. Four new zombie friends approached to assault the gate almost as though the game is set to spawn them when I hit the option to close the gate. I sat there shooting at them through the gate until the gate was decimated. Moving forward now seemed like the ideal option.
Progressing onward while constantly running from the creatures, I began to get frustrated with the running mechanics. The player is given two bars of what most would refer to as “stamina” that the player can use to sprint. If not sprinting then the character is walking at an incredibly casual pace. Luckily this was the first level so no creature could catch me even if I was walking during the bulk of the chase. After wasting several clips of bullets into the bullet-sponge enemies, I began to notice that the creatures glowed when they stood in lights other than my flashlight. When shot in this state they die instantly. Feeling foolish to not figure that out earlier, the level felt much less frightening and I was able to complete it without a death. The level ends in feedback of all the statistics one might care about like healing received, time spent, etc. All that stuff mins/maxers might care about.
After the first level the game got significantly more challenging with my death count becoming more and more depressing. I was constantly on the run as I did tedious tasks like finding three batteries and bringing them back to a machine but could only carry one battery at a time. I even had to do this same task again in a different level, all with never ending waves of enemies of course.
The game is filled with classic survival game tropes like when you loot an objective item in a seemingly empty house three enemies show up behind you or waiting for a door to open at a painfully slow pace while you fight off hordes of enemies charging at you. It does a good job at making you really feel alone in the dark. The whole time I was craving the sight of another individual or for there to be more lighting. The lighting of “Alone in the Dark: Illumination” helps that it is dark due to the graphics being nothing special.
This will be the first game in the series that offers multiplayer and after my play through I can see that it is made for such. I can see it being much easier and more enjoyable to have a friend with you (the beta only had the option of single player). I would not replay what I had or even continue where I left off if I was playing solo again. Unfortunately, it seems they ruined the game’s balancing by adding multiplayer, making it painfully difficult if one chooses to complete the game truly alone like the name of the series suggests.
Alone in the Dark: Illumination is scheduled to be released early 2015 for PC only.