Suspected witches are hung left and right, with a child of seeming divine inspiration discerning the sinners. A terrible fire breaks out and devastates a family. A bus crashes, leaving four college students and their professor stranded. This all happens in the town of Little Hope.
After 2015's PS4 exclusive horror masterpiece Until Dawn, Supermassive Games went multiplatform with a spiritual successor, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan, a game I found to have interesting ideas with an overly safe narrative. I've now had the chance to play the second entry in this overarching series, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope and for better and worse, there are some major changes.
Little Hope draws on stories from the Salem Witch trials, with clear inspiration from Blair Witch and The VVitch. It's a game that sees several college goers lost in a town with an evil past, setting the stage for a centuries-spanning tale of sinful lies, dark arts, and supernatural events. It's a compelling setup and well-woven narrative that I enjoyed for the most part — right up until the ending.
There's absolutely value to be found if anyone is looking for some spooky seasonal thrills. However, your overall enjoyment will come down to your opinion of the ending, which I won't spoil for you. It's a choice that I personally disdain and while others may disagree, I can't shake the feeling of squandered potential still looming even after revisiting the game.
Bottom line: Little Hope delivers solid scares and weaves a clever tale that, unfortunately, collapses in on itself.
- Fantastic setting and atmosphere
- Strong narrative beats
- Improved gameplay mechanics
- Poor payoff for choices
- Overreliance on established tropes
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Bandai Namco. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.
What I like about The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope
|Category||The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope|
|Title||The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope|
|Publisher||Bandai Namco Entertainment|
|Minimum Requirements||Windows 10, i5-3470, 8GB RAM|
|Play Time||4-6 hours|
|Players||Singleplayer or two-player co-op|
While Man of Medan established a solid atmosphere through the use a slow build-up, Little Hope dives into the terror and establishes the stakes straight away. It's a constant juxtaposition of frenetic action and dark mystery, one that I appreciated even while bouncing between the different playable characters. Will Poulter (The Maze Runner series) stars as Andrew, one of the college crew who ends up stranded in the titular town of Little Hope. Pip Torrens returns as the all-seeing unplayable Curator and much like in Man of Medan, the Curator steals the show as 'A Conversation With Death' occurs both in song and writing.
Framing this ongoing miniseries of otherwise unrelated stories as the tales of a grim reaper simply filling in the blank spots of Death's books really works wonders for the overall gloomy atmosphere, which is strong in its own right. Without giving too much away, the tale of Little Hope relies on events happening in the present day and hundreds of years before, during the horrific Salem Witch Trials.
It's a framing device that wouldn't be out of place in The Twilight Zone, and the urge to uncover just what exactly happened makes for great storytelling. At many points, you're forced to choose between seemingly-equally logical options, making it all the more rewarding when a decision works out in the moment. The long-term payoff is far less engaging but before then, I simply couldn't wait to find the next clue.
While you don't have to play in co-op, I recommend you do if possible. After finishing the game in singleplayer, I tried out the story with Windows Central editor Carli Velocci. We both agreed that seeing different scenes while playing as different characters is a clever idea, forcing player communication and exploration. It also explores social aspects that the studio inadvertently created with Until Dawn.
Supermassive Games has also made improvements to the gameplay mechanics, signaling when quick-time events are coming so players aren't caught off guard, and adding a new adjustable camera for sections of the game instead of forcing players to rely on tank controls. There's also a number of accessibility options returning from Man of Medan, allowing players to simply hold a button instead of mashing it as well as adjusting the size and opacity of captions.
What I dislike about The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope
I won't dive in too far here for fear of spoilers but to put it bluntly, I'm extraordinarily disappointed with some of the choices made around the ending — choices which, ironically, are exacerbated by the earlier established promising story beats. The narrative setup is extremely compelling and as a result, the way it is handled makes it all the more of a letdown.
Narratively, it almost comes across as the developers being afraid to tie everything in this mystery together in a way that both makes sense and respects player choice, which is disheartening. The studio has made its unofficial mission statement about branching narratives and decision making, but it seems to throw that away by the end of Little Hope. After how safe Man of Medan's story played out, we're still left hanging. The masterstroke of Until Dawn's reveals is becoming like the exception, not the rule.
There's also issues of repetition occurring on a smaller scale. One particular character's (potential) fate is a near direct copy of how a character in Man of Medan goes out, something that I hope isn't going to be an established trope moving forward in the anthology. Retreading known ground is nothing new for horror games but as these games go on, it's going to take more to fool players.
Should you buy The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope?
To summarize it all, if Until Dawn is a horror classic and Man of Medan is an overly safe ship full of spooks, I'd say that Little Hope feels like two steps forward, three steps back. Mechanically, Supermassive Games has refined its craft to allow for new accessibility options and camera control, the addition of which are greatly appreciated. At the same time, the narrative payoff is simply lacking, which makes even a five-hour venture feel disappointing.
If current plans stay in place, there's going to be six more titles in The Dark Pictures Anthology. Moving forward, I hope to see Supermassive Games take more risks in the storytelling of these games. There might not have been salvation for the wrongdoers of Little Hope but I have faith this studio can find its storytelling precision again.
Do you have a friend or partner that enjoys horror games? If so, pick this up and give it a try. If not, I'd hold off for a bit before you try to discern the guilty from the innocent in Little Hope.
Horror spanning across generations
This second entry in The Dark Pictures Anthology moves the genre forward in some ways while playing too safe or regressing in others but if you're looking for some spooks this Halloween, you're sure to find them in Little Hope.