Supermassive Games has been building out something of a rollercoaster with The Dark Pictures Anthology; the quality of the franchise has been up and down without ever reaching the heights of the studio’s breakout hit, Until Dawn. As a result, my expectations were relatively low going into a preview for the anthology’s final entry, The Devil in Me. Turns out, they were at least met in most areas — if not exceeded — by the promise of possibility brought about by a handful of new mechanical elements.
The Devil In Me follows the typical Supermassive formula: you play as a group of regular people put in over-the-top horror situations, which play out differently depending on the choices you make. In that regard, if you’re looking for more of the tried and true formula, it seems you won’t be disappointed with The Devil in Me. The branching paths of previous entries make an expected return.
However, unlike other entries, The Devil in Me also seems to be leaning more into puzzles than previous installments with the addition of character-specific items. One character has a business card that can be used to unlock desk drawers, while another has a camera tripod that can be used to knock items off high ledges and are out of reach of other characters. It’s unclear just how integrated those mechanics will be in the long run, however, making my faith in them a little uneasy.
During roughly an hour and a half with the game, I was able to use character-specific items to find new evidence and further the story, but the main draw of including such abilities specific to each character seems as if it would be to recontextualize explorable spaces each time you visit them as someone new. I didn’t experience anything like that with The Devil In Me, though it’s possible that something of the sort could come into play in the full version.
Giving characters individualized abilities isn’t breaking new ground, but it’s a step in the right direction in updating the Supermassive formula that’s been growing staler with each new release. That, however, remains to be seen.
The Devil in Me also introduces locked doors and key hunts to the mix, but, similar to the new items and abilities, they feel a little shallow so far. There were two times I encountered a locked door, stopping my progression in its tracks; I looked around the environment for a key and, after finding it, continued on my way. That’s it, which means it isn’t much of a mechanical addition, even if it does break up the typical room-to-room exploration since you’ll be keeping your eyes peeled for specific items instead of the usual plethora of collectible documents and mystery clues.
I’m hoping that these keys become something more substantial in the finalized game, since I think leaving certain doors locked or open could result in interesting choices and narrative outcomes when things start getting lethal.
The unfortunate thing about the interactive film genre The Dark Pictures Anthology falls into is that it lives and dies by the quality of the writing, and it’s an area in which Supermassive has been historically inconsistent. The preview of The Devil in Me didn’t exactly instill confidence that the final entry would be the best written out of the bunch.
Previous Supermassive games often have cringeworthy dialogue that usually makes sense coming from teenagers, and it can feel like intentional homages to the campy horror classics of the 1970s and ’80s. Here, though, it feels a little more out of place coming from fully grown adults, especially when paired with some stiff acting and performances.
I’m interested to see what The Devil in Me brings to the table as the final entry in Supermassive’s Dark Pictures Anthology. My takeaway right now is that if you’ve been a fan of previous entries regardless of their overall quality, you’ll probably want to keep The Devil in Me’s November 18 release date circled. But I’m not sure if this will be one to win those over who have been disappointed with the studio’s mixed efforts to recapture the magic of Until Dawn.
The setting of a mansion full of traps run by a serial killer is certainly intriguing, but the game needs to make good on its new mechanical promises and have better writing than I was able to see in order to really stand out from the blander entries in the series — and end things with a bang.