When we were children, we saw something in the shadows at night in the unlit rooms of our home. We’d feel eyes on us as we would reach for the light switch on the wall, and the sudden shift from natural evening luminescence broken by the sudden shock of light. The darkness and those who hid inside of it banished to the crevices of our homes, all in a single moment. They hid, but those figures, those eerie eyes, never went away. They’ve been waiting to make their return, waiting here for you. Welcome to the Golden Oak Motel.
The story of Camel 101’s Those Who Remain is deeply embedded in the cultural experience of rural America and the art that the desolate isolation of these places that inspired the brilliant works of authors the like of Stephen King and directors like Stanley Kubrik. Tonally, it feels pulled from the shelves, with its mysterious tale of missing persons, and strange lights in the woods. The common story of a man riddled with guilt and sorrow over the slow destruction of his family, and his infidelity that he used as an outlet that has morphed into an albatross hanging from his neck, threatening to invert itself into a noose at any moment.
Tension makes or breaks an experience. Romantic, action, thriller, horror. These are the core moments of the artistic experience found in those heart pumping, gut-wrenching, palm-sweating moments that define some of our greatest memories in Gaming. The controller gripped tightly, as we question if we can make that next jump. When the boss’s health is all but gone, but you’ve lost track of its attack pattern and you’re out of heals. Tension defines some of the best moments we’ll have in a game.
Tension is the core focus in Those Who Remain, as you take the role of both victim and investigator as the events surrounding you and the nightmare scape you’ve found yourself in. Exploring the Pacific Northwest, in rural Washington as you move from the roadside Golden Oak Motel all the way back home to Dormont, WA while avoiding those that wait in the shadows for you.
The tension caused by an ever-present threat of shadowed masses, Those Who Remain focuses heavily on the enemies who disperse as quickly as they did in our childhoods and remains your only weapon against the darkness. But you’re not alone in your journey. You adulterous lover, Diane was the one who invited you out to the Motel after all. You went telling yourself that you’d need to break things off, but you never get the chance. A sudden series of events causes you to chase after your car, and ends with you, alone, on an empty road. Except you’re not alone. They’re here. Avoiding them leads you to seek refuge from those who hide in the darkness, their weapons drawn to take your life, standing before you. As though asking you to take that final step forward towards eternal oblivion.
But tension isn’t all Those Who Remain is bringing to the table. A guiding light has been seen showing up around Dormont, and not just on the outskirts of town or in the woods. Appearing in the middle of the streets or down some alleys, the light takes you into a world different than our own, where time is both in the future and the past, where physics is tampered with on an intimate level, and where those who hide in the dark hold great influence. There is something really enticing about the mystery, and there were moments I had to stop moving, take a deep breath, and charge into a room, feeling like I was desperately trying to survive. Even though I had not even been told that my life was in danger.
This is a tight line to walk, keeping such suspended tension throughout the game. Tilting back and forth between the instincts of fight or flight. While the demo demonstrated this brilliantly, never truly letting me feel a level of being more than barely in control, there remains a definitive question of whether Camel 101 can accomplish this, and even if they can, will players be willing to take such a high strung journey?
There are great and terrible mysteries that await as Those Who Remain releases on May 15, 2020 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, with its Switch version launching later this Summer.