Those Who Remain is an ambitious horror game from Camel 101, which is imaginative, unique, but at times, finds itself stumbling before it can even crawl. There’s a lot of promise here, but the most important thing, we need to talk about it all in our review. So let’s get started.
+Unsettling environmental art and settings that create a very uneasy setting.
+Puzzles offer significant amounts of challenge
+The story conclusion does come to an end based upon the choices made
+Overall story is absolutely astonishing and definitely deserves a chance
-Extremely frustrating due to very little direction given
-Framerates on a PlayStation 4 Pro are very inconsistent
-The gameplay loop can become very redundant
-Way too dark and will require players to adjust their gamma settings
When it comes to the horror genre, I’m undeniably a fan of the overall type of genre that it actually is. I’ve spent plenty of time with Agony on PlayStation 4 and PC. I’ve almost pushed through everything I could handle when it came to Outlast and Outlast: Whistleblower. I’ve even worked my way through Resident Evil VII: biohazard in recent years.
So when I heard about Camel 101’s horror game, Those Who Remain, a part of me began to grow interested in a game that took away my ability to fight back against my foes and would see me work my way through the game in a cat and mouse situation, one where patience and situational awareness, but, it does come at its own cost: You will die, more than you can to do so, but we’ll talk about that soon enough.
Those Who Remain has a promising premise and the ability to open up for a long-run series
When it comes to horror games, you know that the more occult it gets, the better. Among the genre, one of my favorite games blurs that line, combining both the occult with horror survival as players attempt to push their way through what they have to offer such as that of what Agony and Outlast 2 in their prime.
My first impressions, during my first experience with Those Who Remain wasn’t the best as I spent a good 15 almost 20 minutes running around the introductory locale, attempting to find a hidden key placed carefully under an item, which makes it so you can progress your overall story.
This isn’t the only time you’ll encounter this. The entire game is like this. You will dig through desks, moving items, working against the clock in some areas or another, and working as quickly as you can to complete your task before you. Some are things such as finding a hidden key that might be in a dresser drawer, a note that could be hidden underneath a pile of books, or even bouncing between our world and the next in order to fix a broken puzzle.
The issue here? It’s hard to control Edward at times and because of performance issues or limited ability to flip a light switch or what have you to keep the shadow’s away only to find that you stepped a hair two far and have caused a wonderful little shovel to be impaled into Edward’s chest.
Those Who Remain tries to lure you in with a tale of tragedy and heartbreak
The story itself is a beautiful attempt to bring something cohesive together, one that brings the occult together, forging an idea of this life and the next, a spirit of vengeance that aims to exact revenge for those who had been wronged. Your role is one that connects rather well to the story that unfolds as Edward, a former family one who lost his family in a mysterious tragedy.
To drown his sorrows, he is one that seeks comfort in slightly destructive behavior with a mistress, of whom he intends to meet at a hotel in the middle of nowhere. Once there you find that no one is there, your car is not working, her bags are in her room, the shower is running, but she herself is nowhere to be found at any given time.
The story from here unfolds the moment he journey’s to Dormont, a town haunted by strange, humanoid creatures that can only survive within the shadows. This is where the game takes a unique twist in the horror-survival genre, seeing Edward navigate the streets, buildings, and homes he must through the use of well-lit rooms that he will navigate.
Some puzzles will include you taking the time to transition from the real world and the beyond, or whatever it is, in order to find missing pieces. However, this gets redundant and you will find that you’ll end up restarting quite a bit due to a rather shoddy checkpoint system. The story itself is actually remarkable, using both the occult and tragedy to power the overall experience.
While supernatural elements are the core treatment of the game, it is worth noting that the core elements to the story are rather well, but unfortunately, there are some that are left incomplete, causing unanswered plotholes to remain intact including the idea of what happened to Edward’s mistress, what caused him to become involved in the events in Dormont? It’s all quite frustrating no matter how many times you beat the game, but that aside, there are core elements that are completed that help bring the story full circle.
The use of light and darkness is captivating, but, it does cause some troubles to arise later in the game
One key issue that arose while working through Those Who Remain isn’t the fact the game isn’t good, but rather, it’s hard to see and navigate each of the levels due to the use of shadows and lighting effects. No matter what setting the game was in, it was too dark to see, one that often required going into the options menu and cranking up the gamma setting.
The use of shadows, to the extent that Camel 101 did throughout Those Who Remain does make it tough to decipher what shadows are safe and aren’t, making it tough to truly enjoy what their game has to offer. Often times, shadows are instant death and the creatures are hard to spot from time to time, as stated, causing untimely deaths.
It also makes it difficult to determine how far into a room you need to go in order to flip a light switch or even continue on with a room. There are even moments where the game will bug out and not guide you properly to your next area after any given point of time. You will find that you will go into a darkened area, one unsafe for entry, which will lead to your untimely death. It’s frustrating and at times, quite infuriating as you may end up starting an entire puzzle over.
This is not to say there isn’t an adequate sense of challenge to the game, because there is, but there are even moments when what should be simple exploration is a rage-inducing nightmare. One of the moments has you walking down a street heading to a store, the reality you are in keeps fuzzing in and out, making it so you consistently are transitioning between both worlds as their veil begins to thin.
Your time in both is limited and you have to navigate a maze-like puzzle, the catch? In your world the shadow people will kill you, in the spirit realm or whatever it is, they are temporarily gone and you have to navigate this experience in that manner. There’s another issue too: You will have die, die, and die some more if you pop out at the wrong time.
At times, Those Who Remain is an astounding masterpiece that is overshadowed by its hardships
If you are to brush away the dust, there are some admirable feats that Those Who Remain manages to pull off that many others haven’t. Unlike Outlast and Agony, we have a game that uses its atmosphere to its advantage, which uses it to drive both narrative and atmospheric art to an entirely new level. While the graphics aren’t cutting edge or even on par with the other two, it’s still rather admirable.
There are moments where you will find more stories in one single environment than you will in the entire spoken or written narrative. Moments such as when you enter the room of a young teenage boy. You can see his angst, his pain, and even his want to be loved by the metal posters on his wall, clothes neatly folded, but somehow, still disheveled in one way or another.
His desk is painstakingly organized to show the tediousness of his father’s brutality. You’ll even find some signs of his want to escape from it all, his biggest regrets, and the sadness of his life (spoilers if we were to go further). It’s unsettling, heartbreaking, as his room isn’t the only example of this. There are others too, which makes it tougher to not enjoy the atmospheric storytelling that gets overshadowed by the earlier mentioning of just how dark this game actually is in its use of light and dark graphics settings.
Even the moments when you pierce the veil and step into another world, whatever it actually is, you can’t help but appreciate the use of otherworldly crafting, making some of these designs some of the best there ever is. It’s just sad it’s ultimately let down by troubling gameplay and performance issues.
You won’t find much to be impressed with when it comes to audio. You’ll have to get used to books, boxes, trash cans, and the likes thumping to the floor. Just nothing really pops out at you besides the sound of a nearby shadow person preparing to gouge out your heart. Literally.
The light at the end of the tunnel – The Conclusion
Reviewing Those Who Remain isn’t an easy thing to do. On one hand, it’s a puzzle-based novel, one that tells most of its story through written documents you will find, some of it is through its atmosphere and settings. The ultimate drawback is that it seems like there’s no real cohesion, which this game could have benefited from, but that doesn’t go without saying – it has its moments.
This isn’t one to just rule out if you decide to go for it, the adventure itself is creepy, unsettling, and truly one I wish I could have enjoyed more than I did. Ultimately, it was let down by performance issues, a lack of variety in gameplay elements, and its overreliance on “search and obtain” mechanics. While there are a few amazingly designed puzzles, this is not one I can say will really pop out and draw you in.
Those Who Remain
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: Camel 101
Publisher: Wired Productions
Release Date: Available Now
It’s a shame really as you can tell the developers at Camel 101 really put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into their game. Had it just had a bit more Q&A to it, perhaps a bit of user feedback, Those Who Remain could have easily stood side-by-side with some of the most beloved puzzle-themed horror-survival titles out there.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook where he interacts with his followers quite a bit!