Light horror fans rejoice, for The Dark Pictures Anthology - Little Hope cometh. The second game in a planned series of eight, this witchy tale is probably best thought of as a very fancy form of interactive fiction.
As expected, it's a self-contained story presented by the vaguely menacing Curator, who challenges the player to decide how each story goes. Your choices and reflexes will ideally keep as many people alive as possible (although there's nothing to stop you from going for the complete corpse set). It's now due out on the 30th of October.
Little Hope is set in one of those old American one-horse towns that are known only for an old legend about witches, and probably the one local who will stubbornly insist they're best known for their speciality cheese until the day he dies. A spooky, impassable fog has trapped four students and their teacher, and there's nothing for it but to wander around the town finding out what happened there and exactly how hosed they all are.
It feels a bit daft to complain that a horror series called "Dark Pictures" is set almost entirely in darkness, but it does feel like a waste of the solid graphics. It looks rather gruesome too, and sure enough the new trailer says it takes the series for "a darker turn". Players will control each of the characters in turn, walking them around, doing the occasional quick time event, and making decisions that will affect relationships, and even alter each character's personality, so if you have someone act consistently mean, they'll probably keep that up when you're no longer pulling their strings.
The other big pull is the multiplayer modes, which are clearly geared towards big nights in on the sofa with friends. The 2-player "shared story" mode has the second player control whoever is off screen while you're doing your own scene. "Movie Night" mode lets up to 5 of you pick a single character to control throughout, turning the whole thing into a sort of one-shot roleplaying game. The pre-Halloween release date might seem a natural fit for this, but I do wonder if they're not cutting it a bit too close for their own good.
Supermassive Games showed more of Little Hope in action last month. Most of that was characters ambling about in the dark, arguing with each other and frowning at things, so the horror might not be quite as unrelenting as the trailer suggests. Supermassive's earlier Until Dawn and Man Of Medan worked much the same way, with lots of downtime to explore, find exposition, and alternatively tense you up and let your guard down.
Last year's Man Of Medan was less aggressive with the scares and violence, but its premise and story were similarly straightforward. It won me over with its pacing, atmosphere, and performances. In my Man Of Medan review I compared it to films as much as to games, because it was going for that kind of tone. Uncomplicated, but competent. Entertaining rather than outright scary. People are gonna get killed off and you shouldn't take it too personally, or play too hard to win. It's all about the show, and I'm hoping that my optimism for the series is well placed.
The Dark Pictures Anthology - Little Hope is due out on the 30th of October on Steam. There's no store page yet, so keep an eye on its official website.