Alone in the Dark is among the slew of classic horror games currently being remade for the modern age. Having bought the rights to the scare ’em series that essentially founded the survival horror genre from Atari, THQ Nordic and Pieces Interactive helm the ambitious reimagining of Detective Edward Carnby’s now 30-year-old tale – currently in its alpha stage of development, due at some stage in 2023 – but it’s far from a frame-by-frame retelling.
You see, this is not your average scale and polish reworking, or even the familiar from-the-ground-up rebuilds we’ve seen over the last few years by virtue of Capcom’s recent Resident Evil remakes and the incoming Dead Space and System Shock reimaginings. Instead, Alone in the Dark is a self-proclaimed love letter to the 1992 original – one that dives into the minutiae of a game clearly dated by modern standards, in order to recreate integral facets of its world and narrative. Why? “We can’t simply remake the 1992 original,” explains creative director and lead writer Mikael Hedberg during a hands-off demonstration at Gamescom 2022. “It would only be around three hours long!”
From A to boo
When revisiting a game now over three decades old, the technological chasm is obvious. In its defense, Alone in the Dark looked quite incredible in visual terms at the time, and while I myself didn’t play it until several years later (I was six years old when it first hit store shelves), I remember still being impressed by its looks towards the end of the 90s, in the face of far prettier games such as Resident Evil 2 and Parasite Eve. Alone in the Dark pioneered psychological survival horror, and championed the fixed camera angle which came to define the genre in that era. But beyond its front-facing aesthetics, games like Alone in the Dark are clearly dated in less obvious – not least in pacing and narrative arcs.
“That’s why we call it a love letter to the original,” Hedberg continues. “Right before we announced the game officially, there was a small leak of screenshots and everything, and so a lot of people online were screaming: ‘It’s a remake! It’s a remake! It’s a remake!’ Not only would a like-for-like remake of the original Alone in the Dark be a few hours long, it would basically consist only of one guy wandering around one house with some monsters.”
To this end, THQ Nordic has played and replayed the original game, running over every detail with a fine-tooth comb, in order to build the broadest, most sophisticated and farthest-reaching interpretation of its source material. For example, innocuous characters who existed only within the pages of in-game notes and memorandums in the original might themselves featured as a fully-realized character in modern-day Alone in the Dark. If others appeared in photographs, or were simply mentioned off the cuff in relation to the first game’s broader story, they might find themselves built up, with a presence and story to tell here. And, of course, more obvious nods to the 1992 OG are littered throughout Alone in the Dark today – the eagle-eyed nostalgics among us will surely enjoy cameos from throwback characters and antique pianos alike.
“For us, it’s about making a game that horror fans will love in 2023, while paying close deference to the original Alone in the Dark series – those great games from 1992, 1993, and 1994,” Hedberg adds. “We have the inspiration of the first game’s mansion, for example, but we also have portals that players will need to discover in order to understand what is happening in this world.”
Not so alone
At Gamescom 2022, THQ and Pieces showcased a playable prequel teaser starring Alone in the Dark 2 protagonist Grace Saunders that acts as an appetizer for what lies ahead. It will be made available for players before the launch of Alone in the Dark proper – and, with this and with everything else we’ve seen so far, Alone in the Dark looks moody, atmospheric, and, for me, a clever take on the process of remaking classic survival horror – something we’ve seen so much recently, as it applies to the survival horror genre.
Given the fact Hedberg’s CV already boasts lead writing roles on the likes of psychological horror classics SOMA and Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Alone in the Dark definitely looks like one to watch. Be that from behind the couch or through the gaps in your fingers.