When I first saw Remothered: Tormented Fathers I knew I had to check it out. It looked like a thoroughly enjoyable horror game, complete with gritty yet quality graphics that were surprising for an indie title. Sifting through lackluster horror games on Steam can be a hassle, but Remothered looked the part, and I was excited to jump into another great horror experience. However, what I found in Remothered was much less than I expected.
You play as Rosemary Reed, investigating the disappearance of the daughter in the Felton family, Celeste. While doing so, she stumbles onto much more than she was prepared for. Trapped in the Felton house, Rosemary must discover what Celeste’s fate was while trying to escape the crazed residence of the Felton estate.
Remothered is a 3rd person survival horror game that tackles dealing with the game’s monsters in its own unique way. Around the estate are weapons, each with their own set damage. However, rather than attacking monsters head on, Rosemary can only defend herself. When an enemy captures you with a good amount of health, you can use a weapon to escape. A stronger weapon will stagger an enemy longer, allowing you to run and find a place to hide more easily. You can toss other items to distract the monsters of the Felton estate. There’s a large number of them, but they all serve the same purpose. Toss an object in the wrong direction to move a monster away and make exploration easier for a bit.
Killing monsters isn’t possible with these weapons, but this is because each monster is a character that drives the plot. This boils the gameplay down to mostly running, hiding, and solving small puzzles to progress. One playthrough is enough to uncover most of the story, but there are bits of lore around the estate you may miss your first time around.
The basic idea of Remothered is a good foundation to a proper horror game, but small issues quickly add up and take the experience down.
The Nitty Gritty
Remothered: Tormented Fathers is visually impressive. It’s dark but never so dark that I found myself lost or unable to see as a result. That’s not to say that I wasn’t frequently lost, but we’ll get back to that. Everything is gritty and dirty, making even well lit rooms feel haunting. While textures and static objects look great, the characters leave much to be desired. Rosemary Reed, the player character, moves sluggishly through the environment even when uninjured and running for her life. I joked that she ran like she was in high heels only to find that she was, indeed, wearing high heels. If I were in her shoes (pun intended) I would kick those heels off and run full speed from the “monsters” of Remothered.
Rosemary’s slow movement not only slows the pace of the game, it also gets you killed. A lot. The more damage you take the slower you move, meaning that once you’re hit your odds of escape are almost nonexistent when combined with sparse hiding places. I understand that many horror games use slow movements to build suspense, but in Remothered’s case, it manages to damage any built up suspense and turn it into annoyance. Moreover, the only way to heal after an encounter with a monster is to navigate safely to a save spot, which can be difficult to do while moving slow or with nowhere to hide. Cutscenes showcase just how awkward some animations can be in Remothered. It’s a pity because the character models are otherwise beautifully detailed.
The Persistent Monster Fallacy
Long have I held Amnesia: The Dark Descent as the most effective horror experience in a game. There are many reasons why I feel this way, but one of the most important is how Amnesia handles its monsters. Players may encounter a monster in Amnesia that they find difficult to get past. However, after a few tries, that monster will stop spawning to let the player progress. This might seem like a copout in the way of gameplay, but actually it helps Amnesia keep the horror in every encounter. Taking on the same monster repeatedly very quickly turns a horrifying entity into just another annoying video game enemy. Many horror games make the mistake of allowing their monsters to become annoyances, and Remothered is no exception.
I found myself dealing with the same monsters in the same areas too often. As I mentioned before, Rosemary dies easily as she takes more damage and tries to slowly escape from monsters with no place to hide. Healing must be done in the rare save spots and these can be difficult to reach safely. And while I was never lost due to darkness, I found myself very lost in the Felton estate. Much of the house looks similar and it makes it difficult to keep track of things. Everything came together to make monsters too difficult to deal with, especially with manual save states potentially setting you back quite a bit.
Lost and Confused
Another major issue that makes Remothered’s monsters difficult to escape is that the sound levels seem to be off. Monsters always sound closer than they actually are and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of deciphering the general location of the monster based on sound. This leads to turning corners that sound safe, only to bump right into the monster. When navigating through a dark environment, the sounds of enemies and other things around you is vital. Remothered sets some great atmosphere through its sound design, but enemy sounds need a fix to be useful.
Darkness and sound aside, the environment is visually very similar throughout. This does succeed in making a few places more memorable when they are different. However, I found that, if I was lost, it was usually because the Felton estate looked consistently the same. I tried to remember how many flights of stairs it took to reach the save spot, the master bedroom, the study, but all in vain.
The story in Remothered: Tormented Fathers is probably the best part about the experience, constantly twisting your expectations in unexpected ways. There’s enough ambiguity laced throughout that keeps you speculating while not becoming vague and meaningless. Indeed, from the game’s beginning, much is left unexplained and it makes it so even Rosemary feels like a stranger. In many games, it’s important to establish the character so that you care about the struggles that they face. However Remothered manages to transform the ambiguity around Rosemary’s character into a story element. Unreliable narrators within horror games help to center the focus on the experience of horror rather than character, and I think Remothered managed to tie this well into the plot.
The hook, the line…and the sinker
In the end, Remothered: Tormented Fathers suffers from too many issues to create a properly horrifying experience. The foundation for effective horror is there, but the finer details either fall flat or are simply missing. Remothered does too much to drag down the player with outdated saving mechanics and flawed sound design. Elements in Remothered are at times beautiful, but twitchy animation, off lip-syncing, and general sound design flaws subtract from what Remothered does well. However, the story in Remothered is really intriguing. It’s just a shame that it’s hard to wade through the rest of the game to experience it. I feel as if the small but consistent setbacks in Remothered could be easily tweaked and fixed. Doing so would bring to the surface Remothered’s more enjoyable aspects.
Available from Steam