Review – Remothered: Tormented Fathers
The “survival horror” genre is a term attributed to a wide variety of games, yet also many titles that are outside the boundaries of the genre’s original definition. What defines a survival horror game usually comes down to how the scales of combat even out. In action games, it’s the hero who has the upper hand, making each scenario an exciting session of mowing down the competition. But in survival horror, the scales are tipped against you, giving players little to no method of defending themselves against an ominous looming threat, creating a tense atmosphere that makes gamers turn the lights back on. In recent years, games like Amnesia: Dark Descent and Outlast took character vulnerability one step further and forced players to hide in every closet and under every bed in a terrifying, but numbingly repetitive, game of hide-and-seek. Unfortunately, every positive quality of Remothered: Tormented Fathers is overshadowed by repetition and poor design choices that make this a disappointing start to a new trilogy.
Remothered: Tormented Fathers opens with Rosemary “Rose” Reed arriving at the Felton estate in order to investigate the cold case disappearance of Celeste Felton, the daughter of the unwell owner of the estate, Richard Felton. With great hesitation, Ms. Reed is permitted to speak with Richard Felton by Gloria, Felton’s nurse. But what begins as a friendly conversation quickly turns accusatory as the mysterious Rose Reed suspects that Richard was responsible for the disappearance of his adopted daughter and Gloria promptly tosses Rose out of the estate and bans her from returning. But of course, this wouldn’t be much of a story, so Ms. Reed ignores the warning and sneaks back into the house where players resume control and uncover the Felton family secrets while avoiding the twisted characters who so desperately want to get rid of her.
As the story unfolds through the six hour story, players will encounter plenty of moments that were intended as plot twists but were easily predicted, with the exception of a single reveal that was just too bizarre to anticipate; possibly even too bizarre to accept. The quality of the story can be described at best as a b-grade Japanese horror movie that doesn’t have an ending. Even knowing that this title was intended to open the door for two sequels, there just wasn’t enough closure at the end (which I had to look up) to leave Remothered: Tormented Fathers feeling like a complete experience.
Who hasn’t experienced a trilogy in some medium where an installment felt incomplete? It’s never good for a creator to publish work in that state, but I suppose that I could forgive it as it has become such a common practice. That is to say, I could forgive it if the rest of the experience wasn’t so rough.
Visually, Remothered: Tormented Fathers has an uncomfortable range of quality. There’s a wonderful level of realistic detail work that went into the environmental designs. Every shelf is filled with a variety of books, their order varied, avoiding the cut and paste look that can occur during fast development processes. As I explored Richard Felton’s manor, I truly got the sense that this was a wealthy man who had lived as a recluse for as long as he had. Papers were scattered about on desks in a manner that appeared well used and not disorganized, furniture was placed in a logical and functional way, and everything felt as grand as a manor should. Yet, in contrast with it’s realistic environments, characters were colored with a slightly different color pallet that often made them appear further in the foreground than their relation to the environment should have; like a disquieting pop-up book. Likewise, Rose’s hair moved and looked so stiff that it would have been better suited for Life Is Strange.
Worse yet, there’s no excuse for Fatal Frame‘s running animation. Rosemary is portrayed as an intelligent woman, but she refuses to take off her heels and run like a normal person.
Remothered: Tormented Fathers succeeds in making players feel helpless as they explore the mansion. Richard will follow players throughout the house donning only his gardening apron and his small scythe. There are other characters that will take his place for reasons I won’t reveal here, but Richard is the one that sticks out the most to me. While he is indeed the least ominous of the three featured stalkers, it’s hard to forget the sight of Richard.
As the naked landscaper chases players through the halls of his home, players are forced to hide in closets and underneath beds and couches as they solve puzzles that reward them with keys and open paths to new areas. But completing each task is a frustratingly tedious process of finding a hiding place, waiting eons for a clearing, and then running out of hiding and hoping that you aren’t spotted again. Players are able to pick up two categories of household items that will help them avoid or escape detection. Breakable objects such as (the odd number of) snowglobes scattered around the manor can be used to throw and distract enemies, while sharp objects such as knives and needles can be used to break free from their grip when you get caught. Weapons can only be used a finite number of times before they break, but players will have the opportunity to upgrade them, gaining a few extra uses.
Players familiar with survival horror games might think of this as standard procedure for the genre, but a single design flaw negates players’ skill and makes this cat-and-mouse chase one of pure luck. One aspect, if not the most important aspect, of designing a survival horror game such as this, is audio design. Audio clues are a crucial part of determining the location of your pursuer, but Remothered: Tormented Fathers lacks any semblance of directional audio design. Without being able to pinpoint what direction a threat is coming from, it’s nigh impossible to avoid walking straight into danger. Thankfully, there are at least audio proximity clues suggesting how close or far something may be, but it’s far from acceptable. As soon as players enter the manor for the first time, they’ll hear music playing from a gramophone somewhere within the house. It’s not clear at first, but players are expected to seek out the source and in doing so, they’ll discover something horribly wrong. The gramophone is actually on the second floor, but it’s possible to stand on the first floor, just beneath the record player, and it will sound as if you’re standing immediately next to the source. It’s an unbearable flaw that even further limits the clues that players have to make the right decisions.
Remothered: Tormented Fathers was a disappointing experience filled with long cutscenes, uninspired characters, and design oversights that over-complicate the game mechanics. In full disclosure, I was unable to finish it. I had progressed five of the six hours in when my save file was corrupted, forcing me to start from scratch. I survived for five hours, but eleven was simply out of the question. However, as the game isn’t without its merits, I’m hoping that Darril Arts is able to make the necessary corrections for the future installments.
Visuals are well detailed but inconsistent and often too surreal for the world created by Darril Arts.
A repetitious slog through puzzles and clumsy movement makes this more of a chore than anything else.
The atmospheric soundtrack complements the game’s environment, but the lack of directional audio design is a crippling oversight.
Fun Factor: 5.0
Glaring design flaws force players to make poor decisions that ruin the whole experience.
Final Verdict: 5.5
Remothered: Tormented Fathers is available now on PC and is scheduled to release on Playstation 4 and Xbox One later this year.
A copy of Remothered: Tormented Fathers was provided by the publisher.