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Among Ashes preview – A horror game within a horror game

Among Ashes preview header
Image: Rat Cliff Games

What’s better than a good game? A good game within a good game. That’s what Among Ashes appears to be, a first-person horror developed by Rat Cliff Games that’s set to launch later this year.

Set on a stormy night in the noughties, Among Ashes opens with what most PC gamers would likely be doing at the time: playing a game. As you dig into Demon’s Blood, a Quake-style first-person shooter, however, your friend Mark messages you via your computer’s Awesome Messenger program.

It’s here that you get your first taste of how inventive Among Ashes is, with it having you switch between programs like you would in real life. You even be nosey if you wish, checking out the rest of your contacts in the messenger program to see your previous interactions. Eventually you’ll have to turn your attention to Mark, though, and you’ll find that he’s got a present for you. Something cool but creepy.

Clicking the link he provides takes you to a ‘Nightmare Fuel’ message board, where an indie developer has provided a link to his final piece of work, titled ImSorry.exe. His post seems eerie and unsettling, but a free game is a free game, right? You may as well download it.

Among Ashes preview 1
Image: Rat Cliff Games

Inspired by the likes of Silent Hill and Resident Evil, the game freely distributed by the mysterious indie developer is Night Call, a first-person horror in which you play as Jack King, a policeman investigating the report of screaming being heard at a manor. Things appear off the moment you arrive, when you’re greeted by a strange maid who seems devoid of emotion. And then things go from bad to worse.

What’s neat here is that Night Call is fun to play in itself. Being presented as an indie game developed in the noughties, its visuals are suitably retro, and its mechanics are appropriate for the time. You have limited saves, for example, via notepads that are dotted around the manor, and the combat feels very much like Resident Evil, though with the addition of being able to block incoming blows.

It’s the puzzles here that could prove to be the highlight, though, requiring you to put your thinking cap on. Mark giving you some clues via Messenger is a nice touch, adding to the sense that you are indeed playing a game within a game. It’s only once you’ve made a bit of progress in Night Call, however, that you get a true taste of what Among Ashes has in store.

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Image: Rat Cliff Games

Coming face-to-face with a freaky young girl in-game, you hear a disturbance in your apartment. You pull yourself away from your computer, revealing an abode that looks pretty much photo-realistic. You head out into the corridor, finding some broken glass on the floor, probably caused by an open window. As you close the window there’s a knock at your door. And after that… well, you might begin to wonder if there’s something otherworldly about that Night Call game you’re playing.

That’s where our time with Among Ashes ended, unfortunately. But this 30-minute-or-so snippet of gameplay has really got us on tenterhooks for the full experience. It appears to be genuinely immersive and intriguing, combining the best of both classic survival horror and modern psychological horror, and we can’t wait to play more. If you’re a horror fan this is a game to keep on your radar, then. And even better, a demo will available from 15th April via Steam, allowing you to try it too.

Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!