A drunk, suicidal man hangs onto consciousness as he thinks about his life’s mistakes. As he comes to realise what he must do he jumps into his car and heads to a motel.
As you take control of the man, Edward, he’s just arrived at the Golden Oak Motel and he’s talking himself into breaking up with his estranged girlfriend. There’s a sense of shame and dread hanging in the air. Horror games are supposed to drum up the tension until it pops, but in Those Who Remain the protagonist’s sense of shame is morphing into a nightmare and you can sense it before it appears.
Exploring the motel I head inside the abandoned receptionist where the radio on the desk plays an annoyingly creepy song in the background. Finding no one, I grab the key to Room 2 myself and head there.
As the door opens the sound of a running shower can be heard. Is my secret lover inside, waiting for me? The phone rings before I can check: a voice whispering “stay in the light.” I rush to the bathroom. Again, there’s no one but as I leave the bathroom to check the small motel room there’s the sound of skidding tires and my car disappears off into the distance. It appears to have been stolen.
I follow the road and not after long I see silhouette shapes watching me from the distance. They dare not move as I dare not approach them. They’re not scary, but they’re certainly creepy. Ghostly apparitions just standing there, watching me.
The power starts to go out. Human instinct drives me to run for the one remaining source of light next to a run-down truck and a generator of some sort. I can see the ghastly figures standing in the middle of the road again. Staring at me; I think they’re my characters shame manifested. As I attempt to slowly creep towards them I feel the life draining from me as I get closer. I cannot interact with these figures, even if I don’t know what they are.
I turn the generator on and the highway lights up again – the figures disappear. Light seems to be their enemy.
The 30 minutes I spent playing Those Who Remain mostly played out similarly to its opening segment. The tension on the cusp of bursting into something more, but never showing its hand. The creepy figures that spend the game starring at you aren’t scary as you see them so much, the mood they emit is off-putting, however, and the sense of dread that I felt at the motel never left.
In the last segment of the demo, I came to a run-down, empty gas station that introduced me to the games puzzle system.
You’re in need of a light source at this point to keep these shadows at bay as continue forward along the highway, so you need to find a way into the gas station. However, it’s surrounded on all sides by the ghastly creepers staring you down. Touching them is game over.
As you explore the area you’ll find a car but as you approach the vehicle an invisible force stops you from interacting with it. Behind you, a new building appears out of thin air with a blue glowing door, and when you walk through the door you’ve been transported to the gas station again, but in a new realm. It made me think of Stranger Things straight away, so I’m going to just call it the upside-down.
In the upside-down, you can find a spray canister to remove vine-like objects that were growing around the car and travel back to the real-world to find the car is now interactable. Its headlights will find you a way around the back to the gas station in peace, but there’s a plank blocking the way that’s ridiculously heavy. Travelling back to the upside-down you find it’s weight is nothing in this world as you knock it to the side allowing you to clear a bath inside the station where a lighter awaits you.
My time with Those Who Remain ended shortly after this with a trailer playing that teases monsters that are to come. There are some potentially interesting characters ahead, one of which you run into on the side of the road near the end of the demo who warns you of ‘Mother’. I didn’t see her, but developer Camel 101 has revealed she’s this seemingly unbeatable force that will chase you and you must run from her to survive.