Clocked

How to keep your crew alive in House of Ashes

House of Ashes is the third instalment in Supermassive’s The Dark Pictures horror anthology. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure video game that will do its best to pick off your cast of characters one by one. With this in mind, we’ve created a spoiler-light guide to having a successful first run.

House of Ashes is all about making difficult choices and then dealing with the inevitable fallout. However, at least on higher difficulties, it’s also about mashing your controller’s buttons so furiously that I was left wondering if Supermassive were receiving commission for every PlayStation controller that Sony sells.

My controller hasn’t received this much punishment since I retired from FIFA online. Anyways, I digress.

House of Ashes starts with an ancient curse that can trace its roots back to a Mesopotamian king that got a little too well acquainted with the act of human sacrifice. Though the story really begins when a team of American marines and intelligence officers go searching for Saddam Hussein’s fabled weapons of mass destruction.

What they find is a whole different kind of terrifying. On this ill-advised and ill-fated mission you must try and lead your team to safety, although this is no easy task considering the wide array of threats the game throws at you.

house of ashes
Screenshot: The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes / Supermassive Games

House of Ashes rewards good decision making

If you want the majority of your team to survive on your first playthrough of House of Ashes then you’ll need to do a few things very well indeed.

First of all, you must be pay close attention to the decisions you make. An early key example of this is the decision to take or leave behind some special, flashy grenades that just so happen to be in violation of human rights protocols.

Take them, and you’re kind of a piece of shit. Leave them behind, and your team may well eat shit very early on. The choice is yours!

house of ashes
Screenshot: The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes / Supermassive Games

These sorts of dilemmas are further complicated by House of Ashes‘ relationship and bearing systems. Each decision you make subtly effects how characters behave in relation to each other.

For example, having Rachel reject Nick’s romantic behaviour may help her maintain a functioning relationship with Eric – but it also might mean that Nick is emotionally fragile and vulnerable at a time when he really needs his wits about him.

the dark pictures
Screenshot: The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes / Supermassive Games

Never let your guard down

Speaking of which, watch your screen with extreme diligence. Quicktime events commonly occur in House of Ashes and if the game catches you unprepared. the consequences may be devastating. You should be prepared to quickly, or furiously, press the right buttons at a moments notice.

That said, the game will at times try and tempt you into making a poor decision that you simply don’t need to make. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

Not all bullets need to be fired, just as not all ropes need to be cut. Trust me when I tell you that that is solid advice.

house of ashes
Screenshot: The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes / Supermassive Games

Keeping tabs on all your major past decisions is a wise move too. The difference between a right turn and a wrong turn might well depend on what you chose to do previously.

Finally, House of Ashes allows players to do more of their own exploring than past instalments of the series. Do it. The hints and information that can be uncovered, often in the form of ‘premonition’ tablets, is critical to successfully navigating certain situations. While difficult to interpret, these premonitions mean you aren’t going into dangerous situations completely blind. And that is definitely preferable.

That brings us to the end of our little House of Ashes guide. In all honesty it won’t be enough to stop you from losing some of your favourite characters over the course of your adventure. But outside of a collection of spoilers, which by the way really should be avoided, it should give you a fighting chance. And that, at its core, is really what House of Ashes is all about.

House of Ashes is out now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. Find out more here.