Out now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, Those Who Remain is a horror mystery title from Wired Productions that was developed by Camel 101. Our review is based on the PlayStation 4 version.
Unfamiliar with the game’s premise, I went into Those Who Remain with an open mind. I had seen an early trailer for the game during Gamescom last summer, but knew very little about the gameplay or plot. The latter revolves around Edward, who is married and has a little girl at home but is also in a secret affair. It’s causing him distress, and he’s not doing too well as he frequently takes to the bottle. At the start of the game, he’s looking to end the downward spiral he’s found himself in and wants to end things with his mistress.
She calls him and tells him to meet her at a nearby motel, but when he arrives she’s nowhere to be found – and there’s no one at the front desk either. The controls for the game are fairly simple, suggesting something akin to a walking simulator is about to unfold. You enter the reception area, retrieve the key for what you figure out is your girlfriend’s room, but find the room is empty. Suddenly, you get a call telling you to “stay in the light” and upon exiting the room you see someone driving off with your car.
All that’s left for you is to follow the car down the road you saw it leave on, and head to the nearby town of Dormont. This is when the game shifts from a rather straightforward walking simulator into a horror title where it becomes clear what that message on the phone was all about. In the darkness on the edge of the road, you see figures peering at you with menacing bright eyes, and the creepy sight instantly tells you to not come too near and stay on the road.
As you hit darker spots, you instinctively look for ways to light up the darkness and create a safe path. Once you get to a house, the light switches become your friends. Before too long, Those Who Remain introduces puzzle game elements that involve switching between dimensions. Are you finding that the way is blocked? There might be a gateway nearby that allows you to travel to another version of your reality where you can alter things that will help you progress.
Though not unique, this dimension-bending puzzle mechanic along with the creepy atmosphere that helps push a mysterious narrative is where Those Who Remain is at its best. Unfortunately, once other mechanics are introduced the game starts to stumble a little bit. Stealth and chase elements are introduced for enemies that aren’t just ominously peering at you from the dark, but instead move towards you.
While Resident Evil 7 has shown us that these sequences can be thrilling and integral to the plot, the level design in Those Who Remain makes them feel like unwanted distractions that can feature cheap deaths and needlessly having to retrace previously made steps because the checkpoint threw you back further than you were expecting. It takes a bit of the narrative suspense and momentum away because of it, which is a shame.
The narrative is very much about a mystery that you’re trying to unravel, so having these ‘action’ sequences with somewhat generic monsters feels like padding that the game didn’t need. Instead, the focus should have stayed with the narrative, which along with the creepy atmosphere is definitely worth it if you enjoy this genre. The climax of the story isn’t what I was hoping for, but I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself. Those Who Remain certainly could have been a lot better, but it shows enough potential that I’m curious to see what Camel 101 does next.