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Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare Review - You can just turn on the lights and it won't be so spooky.

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare Review

Rating: 3,3
A basic survival horror with some breaks in flow due to weak communication of what to do next and a story that lacks nuance.
Developer:Darkworks SA
Publisher:THQ Nordic

I was introduced to the first Alone in the Dark through PC Gamer's Classic Games Collection disk. At first, it wasn't the horror that intrigued me, but the hilariously bad melee fighting animations. But eventually, I came to appreciate that the horror was not based on jumpscares, but on unsettling circumstances and imagery relating to the supernatural.

I became interested in The New Nightmare because it was the latest game with better graphics. Instead of an old guy, the new Edward Carnby is a younger, trench coat badass. I played the demo and was intrigued by the horror and mystery. The demo ended before entering the mansion, and I could only imagine what horrors lurked inside. However, the game was poorly received by critics and was often compared to Resident Evil, even though Alone in the Dark was the pioneer of the fixed camera survival horror genre. I never played Resident Evil, and at the time, I believed in being loyal to who did it first rather than who did it best. Today, after seeing it on GOG, I have decided to entertain the curiosity of my younger self.

Gameplay

This is a third-person survival horror with fixed camera angles. You go through the paths that are open, shoot enemies, scavenge items, solve puzzles, and find a key or code to unlock the next area. At the start, you have the choice of playing as Edward Carnby or Aline Cedrac. They start at different locations, take different paths, explore different areas, and do different puzzles, so you should play both to get the full experience.

Oddly designed mansion

Much of the game involves exploring a mansion to uncover its secrets. Locked and blocked doors limit the paths you can take, but there is some amount of open exploration since multiple doors are unlocked early on. The open-ended design does create some confusion. There is a door that lets you access the attic level through a long spiral staircase, but it just leads to a locked door. When you go up there, Aline will contact you and tell you to listen for a hollow floor to find items. But the hollow floor is behind the locked door, and she will contact you before you get the key to unlock it. This led me to waste my time searching the accessible area for the floor only to find nothing. In fact, allowing me to go to the attic level without the key was a waste of time. The developers could have locked the door to the stairwell to the attic instead of locking the door at the top to save you the hassle of having to run back down the stairs after finding out you don't have the key.

In fact, the game does this a lot by not telling you what key you get when you pick them up. You just get a generic "You take a Steel Key" description, which left me wondering what door it opens. It is only when you examine the key in your inventory that you are given a hint to what it opens, such as "1st F East". However, this is not always accurate because the attic key is labelled "2nd F West" even though the attic is on the third floor. As such, there is still a bit of trial and error in figuring out what key works for a particular locked door or drawer.

The mansion also has some design oddities:

The excess of doors makes the mansion look bigger and more complex than it actually is, and the lack of basic facilities makes the mansion feel less homely compared to the first game's mansion. Overall, it is poorly designed and not a place I would live in if it weren't haunted.

Statue with scratch marks on the floor indicating it can be pushed Notice the scratch marks on the floor. This means you can push the statue, which allows you to find a code on the back of the statue for the combination lock on the front of the statue. This gives you access to the attic key. I figured out the code the long way, but it can be the first puzzle you can solve as soon as you step into the mansion, allowing you to get into the attic early. An off-camera door It seems like a design oversight to have a door you need to go through be off-camera. I was left scratching my head as I wondered where to go next until I checked the map to find this door.

Weapons

One thing to note about two of the guns is that they fire multiple shots at a time, but the ammo count displayed in the inventory is the number of bullets, not the number of shots. This creates a false sense of abundance where the amount of shots you have is half or a third of the number you see in your inventory, so don't waste ammo. It makes you think you have a lot of ammo so you are not afraid to use it, but understanding basic math and seeing that it takes 9 shotgun shells (3 shots) to kill a single zombie will make you realize you don't have as much ammo as it looks. However, as long as you make your shots count, ammo should not be an issue. You should be careful not to waste ammo because there is no melee combat.

Customized revolverA double-barreled revolver that fires two bullets at a time and has six shots per reload. It is the most basic weapon and is only effective against the weakest enemies. Ammo is also relatively scarce compared to the shotgun because you are not expected to use this much after getting the shotgun.
Triple-barreled shotgunThe shotgun fires three shells at a time and has three shots per reload. This will be your staple gun for dealing with most opposition throughout most of the game due to the relatively plentiful ammo.
Grenade launcherFires projectiles that explode on impact on an enemy or sticks to the environment and explodes after a small delay. It has five shots per reload and fires one grenade at a time. Because it is explosive, it can hit multiple enemies at a time, it does more damage than the shotgun, and the explosion does not hurt you, so use it to quickly deal with groups to save time and shotgun ammo. However, terrain collision boxes are huge, so the grenade projectile has a tendency of getting caught by invisible corners and not hitting the enemy.
Rocket launcherFires projectiles that explode on impact. It has three shots per reload and fires one rocket at a time. Like the grenade launcher, it can hit multiple enemies at a time. It is functionally redundant to the grenade launcher.
Plasma cannonA flamethrower with short range and weak damage. It cannot lock on to enemies, but you can hold down the fire button and turn to sweep with it to stunlock multiple enemies, but it will dilute its already pitiful damage. Because it cannot lock on, it has a hard time hitting small enemies, making it a generally awful weapon.
Lightning gunThe best weapon in the game to the point of trivializing combat and turning the last part of the game into a repetitive slog of zapping everything. It fires a continuous stream of electricity that auto-targets multiple enemies, stunlocks them, and kills them faster than the guns, basically a more effective flamethrower. You only get it late in the game, but ammo for it is plentiful. The only downside is that it has limited range, but there are no ranged enemies, so it deals with everything.
Photoelectric pulsarA prototype weapon that requires charging up before firing, and is short ranged, but it does massive damage in one shot. You get it after the lightning gun, and it is particularly effective against the bigger enemies in the area when you get it, but it is not reliable when the enemies are right in front of you due to its charge-up time, making it a very situational weapon.

Overall, there is not much in the way of balance and synergy between the weapons. Rather than use the right tool for the job, you just use whatever you have ammo for. At most, you will be switching to your revolver to deal with small enemies, but the shotgun will be seeing the most use, eventually being superseded by the lightning gun for the last part of the game.

Shooting zombie with shotgun Shooting enemies is just a matter of facing them, letting the auto-targeting do the aiming, and then pulling the trigger. There is not a whole lot of skill involved. Lighting gun zapping a dog UNLIMITED POWAH! It really is as simple as point in their general direction and hold down the fire button. Repeat until credits roll.

Inventory saving

You will be using the inventory screen a lot because there are no hotkeys for equipping weapons and reloading them. You will reload your gun when you run out of shots in combat, but it is better to reload from the inventory screen because it reloads your gun instantly in the safety of a paused game. Reloading in combat has an animation during which you are vulnerable, inventory reloading allows you to avoid taking hits, especially when dealing with multiple enemies. You can also heal at any time with first aid kits through the inventory screen. The problem with this is that it means you have little incentive to run for your life, even though this is a horror game. However, if you don't need to fight, you can save ammo by running away since enemies cannot follow you through doors.

Saving the game is done through charms you pick up, so you save through your inventory screen and you have limited saves. However, the game is not challenging enough to incentivize save scumming. I have not felt the need to use save charms beyond exiting the game, so I was swimming in them by the end. Saving does not save your state at the moment you use the charm, it saves at the point you enter the room, which means loading the game will reset any progress made in the room before you saved. This is actually useful in one instance in Aline's playthrough, where Edward will tell you a sequence of numbers through the radio that is not automatically noted for you to review if you missed it. If you realized too late that you should have wrote them down, you can save and load the game to go through the radio conversation again. Of course, this is more like a design oversight than a useful feature.

Inventory screen Some items can be combined and examined, and some puzzles require you to do that to proceed. You have to find both halves of a torn photograph to combine them to find a complete code on the back.

Creatures of darkness

Most of the monsters do not have any special mechanics and do not require much skill to fight. Shooting enemies will stun them, and repeated shots will stunlock them, allowing you to finish them off without them being able to retaliate. However, some enemies phase out of reality momentarily after being shot, which prevents an immediate follow up shot from connecting, so you have to wait until they have recovered before firing again to save ammo, but it does not add much challenge. The vast majority of encounters involve only one enemy type, and there is no synergy between different enemies, so encounters are just obstacles to scratch your itchy trigger finger and delay your progress. The game does not provide the names of the monsters, so I will be using the names used in the wiki.

Dogs of DarknessEvil dogs that run up to you and bite you. Just shoot them with the revolver or shotgun until they die. Personally, I find them to be more terrifying than most of the other enemies because of their speed. However, you do not fight many of them beyond the beginning of Edward's playthrough
ArachnocidGiant spiders that can drop from the ceiling to hug your face until you shake them off. More annoying than dangerous, but still creepy. Use the revolver to take them out to save shotgun ammo.
OphtalmicidA slower, but stronger lizard-like creature that phases out when you shoot them, granting them brief invincibility, requiring you to avoid shooting too fast to not waste ammo. The shotgun will be your primary method of dealing with them as the revolver takes too many shots to kill them.
PhocomelusAn alligator creature encountered in the few areas where you wade through water. They hide under the water and always pop up behind you to attack. All you have to do is aim your gun and spin around like a turret until it appears. The auto-targeting will lock on and allow you to shoot it.
HybridSlow, but durable zombies. Requires a full shotgun to kill, but otherwise easy to deal with. Make sure to use inventory reloading to avoid reload delays if you are dealing with more than one in a confined space.
PhotosaurusA fairly durable creature that is afraid of light. It is repelled by your flashlight, and disappears if you turn on the lights in the room. Even though they are afraid of light, you will have to kill them anyways because they will approach and attack you if you are not constantly shining your flashlight on them, especially when there is more than one. Aline's playthrough will put these against you when you are unarmed, and you will have to use your flashlight to protect yourself. While you can lock on to them with your flashlight, you will have to switch between multiple targets, and it is hard to move and keep the light on them at the same time because of the movement system.
Sprawling PlantA tentacle monster that bursts out of a bed when you approach. There is only one in the entire game, and defeating it just requires shooting an oil lamp hanging above it to burn it to ash, which makes it a trivial encounter. It is perhaps the most horrifying monster in the game, but its horror is undermined by how easily it is defeated.
ProcuraptorA boss enemy you fight in the library as Edward. Like other enemies, it gains momentary invincibility immediately after being shot, so you have to time your shots, and it takes a lot of shots to kill.
LuxratSmall, weak reptilian creatures that attack in swarms with hit and run tactics. Because they are small, the flamethrower has a hard time targeting them, so the revolver is a more effective option.
Night RipperA big, walking worm creature that cloaks itself until it gets close to attack, and its attacks hurt. The flamethrower is the best option before the lightning gun because it stunlocks them and you are going to be engaging them at close range anyways. The photoelectric pulsar takes them out in one shot, but you will need to switch to the lightning gun if they get close.
Alan MortonThe final boss of Edward's playthrough. He chases you around to swipe or grab you. He cannot be killed conventionally and cannot be stunlocked, but you have to shoot him enough to weaken him, and then finish him off with a convenient magic spear found in the environment. He is hard to outrun, so in order to get distance, you have to bait him to take a swipe and then run away. The battle itself fails to communicate what you need to do because the spear is in an out of the way area that you must find by accident.
Obed MortonThe final boss of Aline's playthrough. He approaches you slowly and you just need to shoot him enough, but he phases out and gains invincibility after being hit, so you need controlled shots. Do not use the photoelectric pulsar on him like I tried to because the auto-targeting and hit detection is glitchy. The shotgun is much more consistent.
Small enemies biting the player character Ow, my balls! The flamethrower is absolutely awful against these crawling enemies.

Shallow light mechanics

You would think that a game called "Alone in the Dark" with light switches and a flashlight would have enemies and environments that react to light and make the darkness dangerous, but the light mechanics are minimal. There are no encounters that depend on the light in the room or require you to be careful with flashlight usage. It seems like so much more could have been done to create unique gameplay mechanics with light. You could have enemies that become hostile to turning on the lights, but there would also be enemies that are vulnerable to light that approach and attack you in the dark. You would need to position yourself such that you can use your flashlight to weaken the attacking enemies while not disturbing the docile ones. You could also have enemies that are invisible in the light, but visible in the dark so that turning off the lights in a seemingly innocent room will reveal the horrors that infest it. Instead, what you get is a standard action game of shoot them as they come.

The developers introduced the idea of invisible enemies in a cutscene near the beginning, but failed to follow through on it. I really wished they could make invisible enemies work because invisible horrors are the most paranoia-inducing kind of enemy. There are a couple of scripted jumpscares where the lights in the room turn off suddenly. One is just a pure jumpscare where zombies briefly flash on the screen, and another has enemies that spawn in the room. This suggests to me that the developers considered making encounters based on the light in the room, but the idea was not fleshed out.

There are some light-based puzzles. The features of some rooms change when you turn off the lights, but this mechanic is not used beyond a single, simple puzzle to figure out what you need to use an item on. There is one puzzle that requires you to use a blue lens on your flashlight to find blood markings on different walls to determine a code you need to proceed. There is also another puzzle that requires using a focusing lens on the flashlight to trace a pattern on the wall. This is the one instance in the entire game where you need to use analog controls to properly trace the pattern and I found it to be the most interesting puzzle in the game. But overall, the puzzles are simple and won't blow your mind.

Room with lights off showing secrets Turning off the lights in this room reveals what you need to interact with to proceed. In Edward's playthrough, you interact with the wolf head. In Aline's playthrough, you interact with the box. I wish there were more room transformation puzzles like this. Blood pentagram revealed with blue flashlight The pentagram is only visible when you shine the blue flashlight on it. It is part of the code for the keypad on the right. Unnerving jumpscare music played when this is revealed, and it did kind of spook me. Puzzle that requires tracing a simple hourglass pattern with the flashlight So awkward was this puzzle that the developers felt the need to explicitly tell you what you need to do.

Tank controls

Instead of just moving in the direction you press, you can only move forward, backwards, or turn, which is like driving a tank. Even though camera angles are fixed, movement controls are relative to your character. When you press forward, your character will move in the direction he/she is facing. Controls for turn direction is also relative to your character. So if your character is facing the camera, pressing the button to turn right will make your character turn to his/her right rather than your right.

The main reason for setting up the controls this way is so that when the camera changes for a new area, the movement controls do not suddenly change. This allows you to just hold down forward to keep moving in the direction you were going in the last screen, which is especially useful given the amount of backtracking you have to do. However, it does create a bit of confusion when turning, and it makes your character feel slow and vulnerable, which fits with the horror setting. However, encounters are balanced so that you don't need fast and responsive controls. Combat is mostly standing your ground, but you can run forward to reposition or walk backwards to manage distance.

Shooting enemies is done by holding down a button to raise your weapon, turn your character in the direction of the enemy, and then press another button to shoot. You will automatically lock on to the enemy when you face in their direction, so you don't need to be precise. You know your aim is lined up on the enemy when your character starts tracking movement. However, it is important not to get surrounded if you are facing more than one enemy. Turning is too slow to fight flankers, so you have to quickly deal with what is in front of you and then run forward to put distance from the others to have time to turn around.

Gamepad or keyboard

The game was designed for gamepad because there is no mouse support for menus. Even then, there are problems. Movement is digital, but the game forces you to use the analog stick for movement, which is sub-optimal due to the excess travel of the stick. The d-pad cannot be bound and is not used for anything. It is only possible to use the d-pad for movement if you have a mode switch to swap the d-pad and analog stick. However, for the one flashlight tracing puzzle I mentioned, you will need to use the analog stick. If you are using an XInput controller, the triggers cannot be bound, but you can switch to DirectInput or any compatibility mode to let you use the triggers, which is useful for holding down to raise your weapon.

Keyboard is viable, although you will have to rebind the keys to the more ergonomic WASD + Numpad system since it defaults to using the arrow keys. One thing to note about key binding is that menu controls are the same as in-game controls and changes will apply immediately. If you change the button for moving backwards from Down Arrow to S, suddenly the button to move down the menu will be changed to S while the others stay the same, which creates confusion. The button to interact with objects is also for selecting menu items, and the button for the flashlight cancels out of a menu, so the buttons to change your bindings will change as you change them, so it requires a bit of fiddling around.

Story Summary

Edward Carnby is a private investigator investigating the murder of his friend, Charles Fiske, who died on Shadow Island. Aline Cedrac is an ethnology professor specialized in an ancient Amerindian tribe called the Abkanis, and she wants to find Obed Morton, who is living on the island and might be her father based on an old photo. Both were hired by Frederick Johnson, who works for a shady government agency specializing in paranormal activity called Bureau 713 under the direction of Christopher Lamb, to retrieve and translate some Abkanis stone tablets on Shadow Island. They fly to the island, but then a monster attacks the airplane, so they are forced to parachute down to the island.

Edward Carnby personal profile Hi, my name is Edward Carnby, and I own a double barrel gun. Edward Carnby and Aline meet Unfortunately, she does not touch his triple-barreled shotgun. It has been such a long time since I read the PC Gamer article on this game.

Exploring an infested mansion

Edward lands in a forest and makes his way to the manor to meet up with Aline, who landed on the roof. However, supernatural monsters inhabit the island and the manor. Eventually, Edward meets up with Aline inside the manor, but Aline wants to split up to pursue her own objective of finding Obed, considering they are stranded on the island without a plane and might as well pursue their objectives.

Edward meets an elderly Abkanis man named Joseph Edenshaw, who cryptically tells him that his arrival was predicted in legends to stop the powers that be and that he should go to the library to find out more. Aline also met Edenshaw, and Edenshaw claims he needs help finding seven small statues depicting Abkanis gods to carry out a ritual that will stop what is happening here. As he explores the mansion, Edward finds various books explaining what happened.

A family of dark science

The Morton family established its wealth by Richard Morton starting an oil company in 1889. He was approached by Judas De Certo, a suspicious character dabbling in black magic who seduced Richard with the promise of commanding powerful creatures of darkness. Richard was eventually led to Shadow Island and built the manor to research the Abkanis ruins. Guided by De Certo, Richard began practicing black magic involving kidnapping and human sacrifices.

Richard's grandson, Jeremy, was a genius inventor and became friends with Edenshaw. He continued the dark research of his ancestors using more scientific means of studying the creatures of darkness, but he began having second-thoughts after realizing De Certo was evil. He discovered that the creatures of darkness were vulnerable to light, so he developed weapons that could be used to fight them. He had twin grandchildren, Alan and Obed. Their parents were against the research and wanted to leave, but Alan was particularly interested in the World of Darkness, so he passionately continued his family's research in seclusion while Obed skittishly followed along and plagiarized Alan's research to gain social prestige and resources from Bureau 713.

A plot to infest the world with darkness

After peering through a telescope in the observatory, Edward spots Obed in an old fort on the other side of the island. He contacts Aline by radio about his findings, and then leaves the mansion to find the Mortons' secret lab where the research took place. On the way, he discovers a circle of Abkanis steles, each corresponding to a cardinal direction. He contacts Aline about this and she tells him to count the markings on each stele in the order she tells him based on the information she gathered. With the numbers he gives her, she deduces that it refers to today's date, and the date corresponds to when the gate of darkness can be opened due to the aligning of the planets. Alan's goal is to open the gate to the World of Darkness and merge light and dark.

After finding the lab, Edward discovers proof of Bureau 713 being involved with the Morton's experiments. Obed had been working with Lamb and has provided Lamb with the Abkanis translations Edward and Aline were sent to retrieve. Edward suspects that Fiske's death was staged to lure him to the island and carry out Lamb's personal goal of gaining access to the World of Darkness. Edenshaw also claims that Edward's appearance on the island was not just due to Fiske, but an inherent instinct to fight the supernatural, implying that Edward might be an Abkanis descendant who has come to fulfill his instinctive duty to protect the world from darkness, especially since Edward is an orphan. Aline also discovers that Obed Morton is not her father.

Edward, Aline, and Edenshaw pursue Alan to the gate. A stone tablet on the way to the gate explains that the gate should only be opened at night because the creatures of darkness are attracted to daylight and will come pouring out if it is daytime. When they meet up with Alan, he talks about how he created the perfect being and wants to populate the world with his creatures. He performs an incantation to open the gate, and then enters it. Edward and Aline pursue him because he has the last of the seven statues Edenshaw needs, and they need it before sunrise.

Fighting through hell

Edward and Aline get separated from the start, so they take their own separate paths and fight through the World of Darkness in pursuit of Alan. Suddenly, they are contacted by Johnson. Johnson explains that he is a government agent who infiltrated Bureau 713 to spy on Lamb, but his cover was blown. He tells Edward that Lamb killed Fiske because Fiske knew too much about Shadow Island. He tells Aline that the picture evidence of Obed Morton being her father was fake. He also reveals that there are other gates in the world, and Lamb knows where they are and how to open them. He apologizes for having deceived them and arranges a helicopter pickup for Edward and Aline.

Edward and Aline catch up to Alan, but then a horribly mutated Obed appears and tackles Alan into a pit out of revenge. Alan dropped the seventh statue on a ledge in the pit, so Aline jumps down and retrieves it. They are separated, so they both find a way out. As Edward and Aline explore their respective areas in search of small statues needed to open the exit door, Edward encounters a partially mutated Alan while Aline encounters the mutated Obed. Edward defeats Alan by using a magical Abkanis spear found in the area, while Aline shoots Obed enough to help him come to his senses so that he sacrifices himself to help Aline escape. Edward meets up with Aline, gives Edenshaw the statues he needs, and escapes to Johnson's helicopter. Edenshaw uses the statues to perform a ritual that destroys Shadow Island with a powerful light, saving the world from darkness.

Edward doing the limbo in a transformation sequence Ow, my spine!

Story Analysis

Weak science fiction horror

The last part of the game is a repetitive action slog through lots of enemies and linear maps, especially because the lightning gun trivializes combat. It completely goes against the survival horror nature of the game and comes across as a rushed job. Instead of infiltrating the heart of evil that will consume your very existence if you are not careful, you are just running through caves as a one-person army mowing down everything in your path.

Contrast this with the caves of the first game. You encounter a giant worm and water monsters you cannot defeat and have to run away from. At the end, you encounter a horrifying tree that is the source of the haunting and contains the spirit of the villain who wants your body. You were not more powerful at the end of the game than you were at the beginning, and defeating the boss was more about a struggle to push forward against all opposition than a combat showdown.

The horror of The New Nightmare is more science fiction than supernatural, which diverges from the first game. Even then, the horror is not all that compelling. While there are some supernatural elements, they only make up a very small part of the setting. There is a notable lack of ghosts, which were arguably the most horrific entities of the first game. The creatures of darkness are described as having a crystalline DNA structure that is reactive to light. However, there is nothing particularly horrifying about this fact compared to the body horror in other sci-fi games like System Shock 2 or X-COM: UFO Defense. There is no disturbing explanation of the process when someone is mutated into a hybrid.

Good sci-fi horror is not so much about the science as it is about conveying a narrative of ruthless biological invasion that taps into your sense of disgust. Science is the means of understanding this narrative and realizing even more horrifying implications that make us fear for what is to come, but nothing like this is present in The New Nightmare. Horror is not about being modern and realistic, but about triggering aspects of the human condition. We fear things that are beyond our control and threaten us, which includes abstract psychological threats, which is why supernatural horror works and why The New Nightmare should have stuck with it instead of trying to shift genres.

Blasphemous gods

The Abkanis gods were basically aliens who travelled the cosmos, discovered Earth, conquered it from the creatures of darkness by driving the creatures underground with powers of light, and then created humans to keep the creatures sealed away. In other words, they are nothing like actual Native American gods, which personify or anthropomorphize various phenomenon in nature. It is important to understand that gods do not literally exist, but rather they are used as metaphorical explanations for why nature, even human nature produces the outcomes that it does. Nature does things that are beyond our control and against our intentions. It seems so haphazardous, yet it led to the creation and sustaining of life, so it appears as if nature is guided by an invisible will that prefers life. However, the Abkanis religion is nothing more than an arbitrary origin story of humans; it is not an attempt to model nature. Each of the seven gods are just battle colleagues with their own ways of fighting the creatures of darkness. They don't manage the various aspects of nature and just left after creating humans.

Edenshaw said that Edward was sent by the gods. Of course, Edward did not literally receive a message from the gods to go to Shadow Island. As a private investigator, Edward is self-motivated to fight against the dark ambitions of others. A belief in justice is rooted in the instinctive desire to survive and thrive, and success in surviving and thriving is the will of nature. Edward was sent by the gods in the sense that nature self-regulates through the competing interests of those who are alive, and the end result constitutes the figurative will of a god. However, the Abkanis gods are just aliens, so it is unlikely they can control the movement of nature, and they most certainly didn't contact Edward to do anything, which means the idea of being sent by the gods was written as superstitious fluff without an understanding of the nature of gods.

Even though the Abkanis are Native American, for some reason, their gods' names derive from Greek. Hecatonchires is the chief god, but as soon as you look up the name, you will find that Hecatoncheires is a part of Greek mythology referring to giants with a hundred hands. Why would Native Americans use Greek names for their gods? What is even cringier is when Hecatonchires speaks to Edward and Aline using archaic English words like "thou". It appears that the writers had a eurocentric view of gods, so they ended up shoehorning this blasphemy.

You might say, "Muh suspension of disbelief!" Well, the more you have to consciously filter out wrong ideas, the lower the quality of the work. Good works are well-researched and teach you things. If you consume stories from a position of ignorance and no one points out the inaccuracies, how do you know what to suspend your disbelief on? You might end up embarrassing yourself in thinking that "Hecatonchires" is based on Native American language and beliefs. And you might claim suspension of disbelief to dismiss criticism for a story you thought to be good.

Giant statue of Hecatonchires But thou must! Do my will on earth as it is in heaven and in exchange, I shall give thee thy daily bread! Lots of bread! If the darkness prevails, long will the breadlines be!

Dark and light morality

Darkness is treated as an evil force that must be suppressed by the light, yet Earth has day/night cycles that are not explained by this model of reality. Why does the darkness exist? What would happen if there were eternal daylight? If there is a god of light, is there a god of darkness? Contrast this with Terranigma, which asserts that light and dark exist in balance. Light creates while dark destroys what is not necessary. You play as a character who represents the dark because he destroys monsters who infest the earth, but he is guided by the light to save the world from excess destruction and restore balance. It is a more nuanced and compelling model of nature.

The idea that good must prevail over evil is a simplistic worldview. If good is such a good thing, then why is there evil? Because good and evil is a poor model of human nature and fails at unambiguously categorizing every situation. When different people want different things, one person's good can be another person's evil, so you end up with political conflict over whose interests take priority. Leftists believe that minimizing suffering is good and hoarding wealth is evil. Rightists believe that maximizing happiness is good and stealing wealth is evil. Leftists believe in saving lives. Rightists believe in making life worth living. Violence can be justified to protect lives or property. When pursuing one has an opportunity cost of the other, there is no clear-cut good versus evil. But if an action goes against both, then you can safely say it is evil.

The New Nightmare doesn't have this kind of nuance. Alan is evil because of an intrinsic interest in the World of Darkness since childhood, not because he has some misguided belief about the greater good. He is a shallow villain who just wants to see the world burn with a bit of eugenics on top without explaining what exactly makes his hybrid human so great. The creatures of darkness are not even that powerful given that they are vulnerable to light and can be mowed down by a single human with a flashlight and a lightning gun, so what useful biological traits are there that anyone would benefit from? I predict the ultimate evolution of hybrid would be a vampire, and that can be a good thing because women love vampires.

Allusion to colonialism

The creatures of darkness are an alien life form, or more precisely according to the game's lore, humans are the aliens who were created by ancient aliens to colonize Earth after driving the creatures underground. I get the impression that the story was initially conceived to be about colonialism where you have a European mansion built over a Native American burial ground as the source of the haunting. However, I imagine explicitly writing a story about it would have been too controversial of a topic, so the writers put it behind a layer of abstraction that does not delve into the ethics of colonization. Considering that the alien gods are portrayed as the good guys, it appears that the writers had a subtly pro-colonialist view.

Had the game been about colonialism, it would have added an element of psychological horror. The haunting would represent the revenge of the natives for invading their land and killing their people. They would show you their one-sided narrative to gaslight you into believing you are the bad guy who must atone for the sins of your ancestors. Their goal is to take your body and spread their horror to the rest of society. Overcoming it would require recognizing that the natives were not a monolithic people, they engaged in their own wars and atrocities against each other, there were friendly relations with friendly natives, the end result was the creation of the freest and wealthiest societies in the world, and nothing good comes from perpetuating the cycle of revenge for something that happened so long ago. When you realize that the villains are just narcissists who believe their desires take precedence over yours simply because they exist, you will learn how to fight back and understand that you must fight back to protect the future from those who are stuck in the past.

The virtue of ancestors

The history of the Mortons presents a theme of multi-generational ambition and progress. The events of this story are only possible because Richard Morton had descendants to inherit his wealth and continue his research. This is important to understand because there can be no story, no meaning in life without our ancestors struggling to continue existing, making life better for themselves, and having descendants to pass their work down to. There would be no mansion for you to explore without the long-term efforts of the Mortons.

While most of the Mortons did horrendous things, at some point, one of the descendants had a change of heart and set out on fixing things. With the help of Edenshaw, Jeremy was the turning point in realizing that the creatures of darkness were dangerous and needed to be destroyed. Even though Jeremy engaged in plenty of unethical experiments before, his work in creating weapons to defeat the creatures should not be overlooked because you would not be able to save the world without them.

This is why it is important not to condemn celebrated historical figures for having a less than stellar history. When even Mahatma Gandhi is considered racist, there really is no such thing as morally pure people in reality. Capable people understand that a degree of evil is an emergent necessity when pursuing the things you want, so they can empathize with evil and tolerate it to the point of being able to say, "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind."

It also begs the question: If there were morally pure people, why didn't they accomplish anything? Because moral purity tends to go hand-in-hand with ignorance and deferred responsibility. You are only pure because you never had to make a real decision in your life and are living off of someone else's morally tainted success. Edenshaw failed to do anything because he was too naive to recognize the Mortons' evil, and too much of a coward to do anything about it. He just hand waves his inaction with a vague and mystical claim that his time has not yet come as Alan experimented on people. I suspect it has more to do with the Mortons paying for his living expenses. He finally does something because he is on the brink of losing everything anyways, so he might as well join The Right Side of History™ and blow himself up with the island.

People are only as good as you are ignorant of what they have done or failed to do, and there is no shortage of armchair altruists who are only morally pure in their own heads. Those who fixate on images of moral purity tend to be blind to the broader context that allows those images to exist in the first place. That cute bear family only exists because the parents killed and ate the families of other animals and won the competition for mates. We don't celebrate people because they were perfect, but because they did difficult things that are instrumental to our success today.

Final words

While the game is playable for a cheap adventure, it is ultimately a skippable experience. The New Nightmare did not give me the dark and terrifying atmosphere that builds on the themes of the first game that my younger self expected, and I have seen better games with similar themes, such as Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem.

The New Nightmare's failure to live up to the original is an example of why I no longer care about brand loyalty to the original. Even though both The New Nightmare and the original were owned by Infogrames, the people who developed them were different, which is why they ended up being thematically different despite sharing surface traits. Company branding obfuscates the actual talent behind the games, and the fact that the series is owned by people who did not create it shows why the concept of intellectual property is more about enriching middlemen than preserving the artistic integrity of a work. The newest Alone in the Dark game having been torn to shreds by critics shows why the owner of a series is not necessarily the best person to maximize its potential.

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