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Those Who Remain preview: Stephen King and Stranger Things-inspired psychological horror

A new psychological horror game is hoping to tackle serious issues among the creeps, while juggling parallel dimensions with puzzle-solving. We speak with the developer about its inspirations.
Those Who Remain preview: Stephen King and Stranger Things-inspired psychological horror

Jump scares have become an expected inclusion in most modern horror games, but Those Who Remain is looking to buck tradition with an adventure of atmospheric chills. 

Developed by Camel 101 with Wired Productions, Those Who Remain sees you investigate the sleepy town of Dormont, Pennsylvania. As you may expect, this isn’t no ordinary town - with creepy ghosts boxing you into areas and pulling you into Upside Down-like dimensions.  

You play as Edward Turner, an ordinary man who travels to Dormont to end a secret affair he's having away from his wife and daughter. Things begin to turn sour, however, when he arrives at the Golden Oak Motel, where strange occurences start to arise. 

Those Who Remain
Those Who Remain's enemies might remind you of The Fog (Picture: Wired Productions) 

Other story details were largely kept under wraps during our preview session, but gameplay leans into the idea of battling with your mental stability. You’ll navigate areas only to be blocked by mysterious figures who kill you upon touch, forcing you to do some puzzle-solving where you use the light to keep monsters at bay and open the pathway ahead.  

It might sound reminiscent of Alan Wake, but Those Who Remain doesn’t have any combat mechanics. This is primarily a narrative experience where puzzle-solving and soaking in its atmosphere are the driving force. With story such a key component, it’s hard to judge from a small slice of the overall experience how it will all come together, but with three different endings determined by different decisions you make throughout, there’s some replayability on offer.  

Those Who Remains wears its obvious inspirations proudly too. The mysterious figures feel pulled from Stephen King’s The Fog, while there’s whiffs of Twin Peaks and Stranger Things in the small-town America setting. As a narrative adventure it's more playfully unsettling, designed perhaps for those who perhaps avoid other horror titles due to their high intensity.  

Saying that, there’s scarier demon monsters who also pop up throughout the adventure. We were shown one specifically, who forces you to turn back on yourself down a road in a scripted chase sequence of sorts. We were told these demons will have an integral role in the story, with different ones appearing across the 4-5 hour experience. 

Those Who Remain will likely sink or swim on the strength of its narrative, which we’re told will tackle heavy topics like bullying and suicide, but the components are all there for an intriguing alternative horror experience. How it will go down in an age where jump scares dominate Twitch streams remains to be seen, but for anyone looking for narrative-driven chills, this is one to keep an eye on.  

We spoke with Ricardo Cesteiro from Camel 101 about Those Who Remain’s inspirations, jump scares and challenges they face as an indie developer. 

Those Who Remain
Those Who Remain takes place in small-town America (Picture: Wired Productions) 

Where did the original idea for Those Who Remain come from?  

The original idea was a much simpler concept. We came up with the idea of making a game where the player couldn’t go into the dark.  

It was a great idea on paper, but then we tried making a demo and it didn’t quite work because light gets gradually darker, so it’s impossible to say to the player visually you can’t go here. So we came up with the idea of placing some kind of monsters or creatures in the dark so we could visually explain, “if you are going to go here, you are going to die”.  

These creates really tie with the story so everything started to make sense. Both the story and the concept of the gameplay started to evolve, and it just started like that.  

You mentioned you wanted to avoid jump scares, is that something you’re particularly sick of in horror games? Or was it just a creative decision for this title? 

It truly depends. I’m a huge horror fan but I rarely see a horror movie I really like. I think most of the horror movies are based on jump scares, the same jump scares which you see coming from a mile away. The good horror movies are the ones which don’t rely on jump scares, so you can apply the same logic to games.  

We wanted to create a scary atmosphere so that the player could always feel the tension without fearing screams would just appear out of nowhere. It was a choice we made from the start, let’s avoid jump scares.  

Who came up with the idea of the story and was it inspired by any other horror titles? 

The base of the story was written by myself, and then I showed it to the rest of the team. I was mostly inspired by movies and TV shows, not so much by games. The story draws a lot of inspiration from Stranger Things, Twin Peaks; the small American town where everything seems good and perfect, but there’s a dark secret underneath.  

There’s also Stephen King novels, so it’s a big mash-up.  

Those Who Remain
Certain demons will be a reoccuring menace throughout (Picture: Wired Productions) 

Your previous title Syndrome was survival horror, what did you learn from that experience which you’ve applied to Those Who Remain?  

Our previous title was a survival horror experience in space with combat, so we felt with the game having guns and combat, the focus of the game was only action.  

So we decided to step down and remove all combat, so we could focus on different gameplay mechanics. Of course, it becomes a challenge to create something different but that’s the whole idea of creating something new.  

What are the biggest challenges you face as an indie developer?  

The biggest challenge is bringing the game to the player’s eyes. There’s such a crowd of games coming out every week, so the biggest challenge is creating a game which brings something that can make the game stand out from the crowd.  

That was one of the main motivations to create new gameplay mechanics, we didn’t just want to create another scary game.  

What do you want players to take most from Those Who Remain?  

We didn’t just want to make a scary story. We wanted to make a personal game where the player has to make choices. The game has three different endings based on player’s choices, and we didn’t want to make just easy black or white outcomes, everything is on different shades of grey.  

So we wanted the player to experience what the main character’s going through, so when he gets to the end of the game, the player can reflect on the choices he made and how the choices affect others. We also wrote a story addressing stuff like bullying, suicide and infidelity. These are things that happen so I think it’s important for games to address these kind of topics and bring them to the table. 

Those Who Remains releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC in Q1 2020.