Horror is often bulging with contradictions and illogical deaths. Take, for example, the hapless victim who runs into a dead end when hounded by a machete-wielding murderer, or deeper into the unsettling darkness of the woods where unknown terrors lie in wait. On the other hand there’s Edward, the everyday man you’re embodying in Those Who Remain, the type of horror protagonist who is decidedly more aware of the dire situation he finds himself in. Despite being unwittingly caught up in the spooky affairs within the sleepy town of Dormont, he seems to regard the scenes of terror and panic unfolding around him with the detachment and fatigue of a man who desperately wants everything to blow over. Scenes of sheer exasperation in the game are absurdly common; Edward routinely shouts variations of “Not you again!” as he scrambles from yet another blood-thirsty demon that’s frantically clambering towards him.
It’s not difficult to empathize with Edward’s circumstances–and by that, I mean the exhaustion of going through, over and over again, the onerous cycle of looking for the right object to unlock the next objective with, and painstakingly searching for clues that will move the plot along, while eluding a freakish behemoth that’s screeching for your blood. To put it plainly, Those Who Remain is essentially a three-dimensional version of a find-the-hidden-object game, where flinging furniture about and peering into every single desk drawer you spot are par for the course. Edward wanders about a lot just to look for things–into a luxurious mansion, the town’s post office, the national library–and even traverses through into a parallel, alternate dimension to hunt down more keys, letters, and in one instance, weed killers.
Like many horror games, Those Who Remain is also draped in shadows, which piles on the growing tedium and frustration of searching for these items. Even in the midst of looking for these in murky corners, Edward also has to constantly seek refuge in illuminated spots against glowy-eyed specters, which can be seen silently observing him from the pitch darkness of the abandoned town. The notion of giving your enemies such a distinct form seems like a novelty in a genre that usually presents them as some wispy, unknowable force, but the ruse soon wears thin after you realize there’s not much more to this idea. In the end, the impenetrable darkness simply functions as an invisible barrier that prevents you from wandering into places you shouldn’t be in just yet, while hardly posing any real, active danger.