Alone in the Dark: Illumination Preview: Less Alone Than Before

It’s been a long while since the name “Alone in the Dark” graced a new video game, and with the series’ last installment hitting in the center of the last console generation and sporting hints at a sequel that never materialized, it was starting to look like another entry in the franchise might also vanish in the darkness.

Alone in the Dark: Illumination bears the AitD moniker, but it is perhaps not the return to form fans of the series, which started with one of the forebears of the survival-horror genre back in 1992, were hoping for. So let’s get that out of the way right now: Illumination is neither a sequel nor a true reboot of the original series; it’s altogether something different that mostly borrows overall atmosphere from its namesake.

Instead of a horror title focused more on puzzles and combat like players might have been used to in earlier games, Illumination takes what might be considered a more Left 4 Dead or latter-day Resident Evil approach. It’s a third-person shooter on its face, with players working through a ruined town called Lorwich in Virginia, in a series of campaigns to discover what has emptied it of its residents and replaced them with eldritch horrors. Here the emphasis is on strategically fighting and fleeing.

The hands-off demo for the game shown at PAX Prime 2014 detailed a little of what players can expect out of Illumination: a focus on various forms of combat against a variety of enemies, determined by which characters players choose to take into action. The demo showed off the Hunter character, a weapons master who focuses purely on guns (of which he will have six at launch), and only one of the several monsters players will face in the game.

Illumination separates itself from being purely comparable to Resident Evil 6 or Left 4 Dead by introducing a strategic element to the battle: light. Enemies are invulnerable so long as they’re engulfed by darkness, which means players spend much of their time running around levels to light fires and switch on lamps that will create pools of light in which they can fight. Enemies also “drain” light sources, so they won’t last forever — creating a potentially panicky combat scenario in which you must manage light sources, plan attacks and retreats, and use weapons as dictated by the immediate situation.

The four player classes also mean that Illumination will, at some point, support up to four players in a cooperative mode. The other classes each have their own abilities and styles of play to augment their standard firearms, changing up the dynamic of parties depending on who you have with you. The Priest is a healing class that can also summon holy light against enemies; the Engineer creates gadgets and traps to control crowds and block off checkpoints; and the Witch adds lightning attacks that can also double as useful light sources. Though they’re still being experimented with, expect some synergies between the characters to make them a more effective fighting force, like using Engineer traps along with Witch lightning to take down lots of enemies, for example.

In the single-player mode, players unlock each of these new characters by rescuing them during a campaign mission, and once you’ve unlocked a character, they’re available for all the other missions, including ones you’ve already played. Illumination also includes some roguelike elements to increase replayability, such as levels that load out with different areas blocked or opened each time you play through, and randomized pickup locations. You won’t find health and ammo secreted in the same places on every run, nor will objective items necessarily always be waiting where you expect to find them.

The cooperative mode, which developer Pure FPS will either make available at release or patch in soon after, supports as many as four people in a map, and they’ll scale to increase difficulty alongside an increased team. The game will include four campaigns with three levels each, and each level will take around 20 minutes to complete, the developers estimate — which amounts to around 12 hours of single-player content and more for players who return with teammates as in Left 4 Dead.

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