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Video Game / House of Ashes

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"In Sumerian myth, they say the souls of the dead dwell deep underground in the House of Ashes. Where they lived on dust, plagued by the demons of the underworld."

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes, also known simply as House of Ashes, is a Survival Horror Adventure Game developed by Supermassive Games and released worldwide on October 22, 2021 for PC, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. It's the third game in an Anthology of horror games called The Dark Pictures Anthology.

Set in May 2003 as the first phase of the U.S. invasion of Iraq draws to a close, CIA field operative Rachel King joins an elite military unit on a raid of a suspected underground chemical weapons facility in the shadow of the Zagros Mountains. Once King and her unit arrive at the coordinates, they're ambushed by a local patrol led by Sergeant Salim Othman. An earthquake opens sinkholes in the ground during their ensuing firefight and both sides of the fight are tossed into the ruins of a buried Sumerian temple. In the darkness beneath the Mesopotamian Desert, something evil is awakened, and ancient, unstoppable creatures begin their hunt.


This game is a follow up of the game Little Hope, that came out in 2020.

It is to be followed by the next game The Devil In Me.

This game provides examples of:

  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Averted, making it back to once stable ground where fresh supplies are available is usually done to give the protagonists a lost superweapon, here the only thing at the surface is a couple boxes of flares the party makes do with.
  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Rachel is in a relationship with Nick despite still being married to Eric, but she has been separated from Eric for some time.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Just after reaching the alien ship, with Jason and Salim. Salim declares that, after all that has been happening, they are being judged by God. And he reflects that he believes he's failing as a father because his son won't stop stealing, and, depending on choices in Salim's first chapter, might be upset that the last thing his son would hear was how angry he was. Jason will reflect on the Green Zone checkpoint incident, where he ordered Nick to shoot a "suicide bomber", only to realize it was a woman with groceries, listening to music on headphones.
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  • Actionised Sequel: In contrast to the other games in the series, the characters in this one are not Action Survivors, but trained soldiers, and as they're still in the final days of the Iraq war, they have access to high-end mutitions and weaponry to use against the monsters. The first fight of the present day isn't even with the monsters, but the American soldiers getting ambushed by Salim's unit, and there's several sequences where Eric and those with him get into a pitched gunfight with Salim's commanding officer, Dar, without any monsters being involved. The final battle even highlights this, as the survivors hole up in the farm building when an eclipse occurs just as they reach the surface, allowing the vampires to continue pursing them above ground. Running low on Ammo, they instead use a combination of flares and knives to hold off the vampires long enough for the eclipse to end, with a Team Shot of those still alive to emphasize the pitched action to ensue, rather than a suspenseful and tense confrontation like has occurred before.
  • All Deaths Final: As a recurring theme in the anthology, any character who dies will stay dead and the game will continue without them.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • All M4 carbines seen are fitted with Magpul PMAG magazines and MOE buttstocks, which would not be developed until 2007 and 2008 respectively.
    • While some American characters wear period-correct versions of the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA), others don't do so. Jason's IBA corresponds to later production versions in terms of how many PALS loops it has and is in MultiCam at a time when the pattern was still under development. Nick wears a PASGT vest, which is unusual but not particularly egregious since a small number of these were still being worn on operations in 2003. While Eric's plate carrier is somewhat ambiguous in design and has a passing resemblance to the then-contemporary Force Recon FSBE Amphibious Assault Vest (albeit being in black instead of the correct Woodland pattern), those worn by Rachel and Clarice are too modern; Rachel's plate carrier is particularly anachronistic due to using laser-cut holes for pouch attachment instead of PALS loops (with such laser-cut vests only really coming into use during the second half of the 2010s).
    • Averted when it comes to some characters' usage of ALICE components since these were still being used in extensive numbers in 2003.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Unlike previous games which feature a group of Action Survivor civilians, House of Ashes follows a group of soldiers.
  • Anyone Can Die: Like every game in the anthology, all of the protagonists, even non-playable characters, can die depending on the player’s choices.
  • Armor Is Useless: Balathu wears metal mirror armor common for heavy infantry in Sumerian times. The main playable characters wear Interceptor Body Armor and a mix of (somewhat anachronistic) plate carriers. None of it is any use. Justified with the modern armour, as the characters aren't facing opponents with guns or explosives for much of the game (the main things their armour is meant to deal with), and aren't wearing a lot of armour, leaving most of their bodies exposed.
  • Artistic License – Military: Several.
    • The Marines have M4 carbines customized with Magpul MOE stocks; in addition to being anachronistic, such customization by ordinary Marine 'grunts' would not yet be allowed. All of them also have an M203 grenade launcher, which is typically issued at a scale of one per fireteam.
    • Jason's IBA vest is in MultiCam, which was in development at the time but had yet to be adopted by any branch of the United States military, and even by the 2020s few (if any) IBA vests are produced in that pattern
    • The US soldiers salute with their palms facing outwards, but the US military salutes with palm facing downwards. The British military uses outward-palm salutes, though... and Supermassive Games is based in the UK.
    • Semper Fi, the Marine motto, means Always Faithful, not Always Loyal as stated in the game.
  • Artistic License – Space: There were only two solar eclipses in 2003, and while one did happen in May (specically, the 31st), annularitynote  wasn't visible in Iraq, or anywhere in the Middle East. Annularity was only visible in Greenland, Iceland, some other Scandinavian islands, and the northern reaches of Scotland. Partiality may have been visible in Iraq, but it wouldn't look like it does in the game. Of course, it wouldn't look as cool or allow for the final battle on the surface against the vampires if it was accurate.
  • Asshole Victim: Merwin in particular is portrayed as a bit of a Jerkass, bullying Joey, openly disrespecting Eric, and hitting on Clarice. And then he's killed by the vampires or the player's own actions.
  • Bittersweet Ending: One ending variation has Salim successfully escaping the underground ruins, but he is captured by the American military and held as a prisoner of war, making it very unlikely he'll ever see his son again.
    • Even the best ending achievable is this as Lampshaded by The Curator: while all of the main cast lives, they are left traumatized by their experiences. Experiences they'll never be able to share with others and thus unlikely to recover for a long time.
  • Body Horror: Humans that become vampires painfully stretch and contort as well as turn a Undeathly Pallor, and a full transformation leads to them sprouting a pair of horns and their two front teeth pushed out for fangs. The foot-long parasite that causes vampirism has fangs and spines along its body, implying that it grows inside their victim's skull.
    • Balathu or Kurum, whoever wasn't turned into a vampire, can be found preserved by alien slime in the depths of the spaceship. The thing is, the slime only covered part of his body, leaving half of it a rotted skeleton, including half of his head. And he is still alive and conscious after 4,000 years.
  • But Thou Must!: In-Universe: Salim doesn't want to get involved in any conflict with the Americans, but his commanding officer Dar wants to attack them and is getting every able-bodied soldier he can to muster an attack force on them. Even if Salim tries to state that he needs to find his son, Dar makes it quite clear that he'll shoot him if he doesn't accept the mission.
  • Call-Back: The car accident Rachel and Eric mentioned? They were hit by a bus outside the town of Little Hope.
  • Canon Welding: After Man of Medan and Little Hope gave almost no indication that they even took place in the same universe,note  House of Ashes firmly establishes connections for the whole anthology:
    • The archaeologists' camp that the marines find in the underground temple belongs to the expedition whose mysterious disappearance made front-page headlines in 1947, as seen in a newspaper found by the Duke of Milan group on the Ourang Medan.
    • During the flashback to their honeymoon in 2000, Rachel and Eric drop by the same diner outside Little Hope where the opening and final scenes of that game take place. In fact, the collision where Eric loses his leg happens on the same highway Anthony drives along right before his own bush crash twenty years later.
  • The Centerpiece Spectacular: The assault in the temple is probably the biggest setpiece in the game, wherein multiple decisions come to a head and the heaviest combat, which can include busting out a heavy machine gun, takes place. Several plot points take place the Ancient One makes their first appearance, Rachel is infected, Dar dies and if Clarice made it she dies too and kills Eric if she can. By contrast the final battle is a much grungier affair that has the party stripped down to their last pieces of equipment.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In the first chapter after the prologue, one of the computers displays a warning that an eclipse is soon to pass over the area. In the finale, the eclipse comes and hordes of the creatures come out to attack the party one last time.
    • The rusted truck in the background of raided farm falls down on the first vampire Salim fights.
    • Name-dropped as a secret Achievement/Trophy, unlocked by having Rachel use the old Vickers machine gun against the creatures when they attack the dig site.
    • Depending on player actions, Eric can find out his explosive-detecting UV light wands burn the creatures to the point of eventual combustion. After Rachel gets infected, he can use this knowledge to force the parasite out of her body by shining the light on her.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Salim loses his assault rifle underground before an attack by a vampire. Luckily, a truck was nearby and its steel beam just happens to be the perfect weapon against the vampires.
    • Dar never encounters a single monster during his multiple hours spent running around and shooting at the Americans underground.
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: Though they’re not exactly divorced, Eric and Rachel’s estranged relationship is one of the main conflicts and driving forces of the game, fueled further if Eric discovers Rachel’s affair with Nick.
  • Doing In the Wizard: At the end of the game, it's revealed that the vampires are actually aliens who have been turned into Parasite Zombies by way of a Pupeteer Parasite. That said, unlike the previous two games in the series, the creatures actually do exist and are not hallucinations induced by toxic gas or a combination of PTSD and head trauma.
  • Doomed by Canon: A magazine clipping in Man of Medan references a team of archeologists disappearing in the mysterious Zagros Mountains. They haven't been seen since. This is in reference to Randolph's expedition, which took place just after World War II.
  • Doomsday Device: The American unit believes the Iraqis have this in the form of chemical weapons. They’re wrong; it's far older a threat, and potentially much worse.
  • Downer Beginning: The prologue ends with Balathu and Kurum being killed by the vampires despite their best efforts to escape.
  • Downer Ending: If none of the protagonists survive, the US Government just writes the entire mission off and covers it up. There is also a variant where Jason is able to escape, but has acquired a fatal infection due to accidentally breathing in fossilized vampire dust.
  • Dramatic Irony: The plot is kicked off by satellite scans locating an underground area that the Americans think is a missile silo housing Sadam's WMDs, but the player is aware that it's likely the ruins of the ancient kingdom seen in the prologue and what's down there is certainly dangerous, but not what they're looking for.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The U.S. Marine characters are all part of Force Recon, while the Iraqi Army characters are all from the Republican Guard.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • In the prologue, an Akkadian and Gutian soldier are forced to work together when unknown creatures attack them in the middle of a battle.
    • The surviving Americans are forced to team up with a surviving Iraqi soldier, Salim Othman, in order to fight against the creatures.
  • Evil Takes a Nap: After the vampires exhaust their supply of available victims, they hibernate in cocoons until disturbed, whereupon they’ll awaken, kill or convert the intruders and fall asleep again.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Depending on whether Jason and Salim can set aside their differences, Jason can actually risk his life to rescue Salim when he's left behind in the vampire mothership. He will also vouch for Salim's character during his debriefing, considering him a closer comrade than any of the CIA agents debriefing him.
  • Foreshadowing: In the tale's beginning, the Curator lights 5 candles that represents the 5 protagonists of the story and whether or not they're still alive. When Rachael is dropped over the cliff edge, either through Eric cutting the rope or the old rope snapping from the strain, the candle representing her flickers, but doesn't go out, showing that she's still alive despite the seemingly-fatal drop. Accordingly, outside of those 5 characters, everybody else cannot be saved, only having their method of demise altered by their actions.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Regardless of the ending that you pick, the CIA will ensure that the story will never be brought to light.
  • Hope Spot: At the very end of the game, the surviving protagonists end up escaping from the caves and out into the daylight, finally safe... then a Solar Eclipse occurs and the heroes are forced into one final battle with the vampires. Except now they're critically low on ammo and have to resort to fending the vampires off with knives and flares.
  • Horned Humanoid: Humans infected with the parasite grow a pair of horns, as seen with Joey, Clarice, and potentially Rachel. Balathu's can be hard to see because they blend into his helmet.
  • It Can Think: While it is correctly pointed out that the vampires are too savage and feral to form a functional civilization, they are more intelligent than they initially appear. Notably, if Rachel is killed by the Ancient One and turned into a vampire, the two of them are shown being able to communicate and coordinate, with the vampire Rachel looking to the Ancient One for orders before attacking.
  • Love Triangle: One exists between Rachel, Eric, and Nick.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Averted. Salim eventually recognizes that the 'demon' adversaries stalking them throughout the abandoned tomb are vampires, and says as much to Jason, who scoffs at the idea that they're being hunted by fictional monsters. Salim just points out that, even if they're not traditional vampires, between the blood drinking, weakness to sunlight, bat-like appearance, and ability to turn humans into others like them, they tick so many of the boxes that they may as well just call them that for lack of a better term.
    Salim: My father once told me, if something looks like shit and smells like shit, you don't have to taste it to know it's shit.
  • Our Vampires Are Different:
    • They feed on blood, are apparently immortal, and burn to a crisp in sunlight (or UV light), but in this instance they’re the result of alien parasites infecting both humans and a ship full of different, bat-like aliens that crash-landed on Earth millennia ago. Their fangs also sprout from their incisors rather than their canines (and these fangs are created by the creature themselves, the original incisors are violently ejected from the mouth), and the parasites seem to be able to reanimate the recently deceased even if they were killed by other means (though they don't seem to reanimate the bodies of those they eat).
    • When Eric first encounters the Ancient One, he can attempt to ward it off with his assault rifle or his cross. Neither is even remotely effective, but the cross actually does delay the Ancient One longer than the assault rifle does, as it causes him to stare at it curiously for several seconds as opposed to bullets which just piss him off immediately.
  • Parasite Zombie: The vampires are the result of unfortunate hosts being infected with an extraterrestrial, slug-like parasite that reanimates their bodies after death as bloodsucking undead monsters.
  • Period Piece: Unlike the previous two games, which were contemporaneous in terms of setting, this game primarily takes place in 2003.
  • Plot Armor: Nick cannot die until the last few chapters due to having the bombs needed to set off the explosion in the hive, while Jason and Salim cannot die until the final two chapters as their character arc is an essential part of the game’s theme of putting aside differences to work together. Since Salim also has the most knowledge of the creatures, he is ultimately the one to kill most of the vampires and share his knowledge about them to the group.
  • Prequel: It's technically a prequel, chronologically being the first game in the The Dark Pictures Anthology. This is true in both the Intro-Only Point of View (which takes place during Narām-Sîn's reign in the 2200's BC as opposed to the others games' 1947 and 1972) and in the main game (which takes place in 2003, whereas the other two games are implicitly set the same year they were released, i.e. 2019 and 2020).
  • The Remnant: Salim's captain, Dar, is the leader of a Republican Guard unit and wants to launch an ambush against American forces he knows will be in the area, even though the war has been over for weeks and all the soldiers like Salim have gone home to their families.
  • Relationship-Salvaging Disaster: Eric and Rachel have an opportunity to reconcile their strained relationship while trying to find a way back to the surface.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: In the prologue, Balathu and Kurum have the potential to betray each other. If a player does this, their character is cursed to live an eternity as a partially rotted skeleton fully aware of 4000 years passage of time. Much, much worse than being a powerful undead minion. Downplayed in that this fate befalls one of them anyway, even if they choose to stand together.
  • Rule of Symbolism: In the beginning of the story, the Curator lights 5 candles on his desk before starting the tale, each candle of which represents one of the 5 protagonists and gets snuffed out when they die.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Joey will inevitably die in the Iraqi ambush in the first act after he is mortally wounded by gunfire. That is until he came back alive as a monster.
  • Seen It All: The CIA agents at the end are totally unfazed at the revelation that there is an ancient alien spaceship full of alien vampires buried under Iraq, as they casually mention it reminds them of a similar incident that occurred in Winterfold before talking about getting hot pot.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Nick is this prior to the game's beginning, due to an incident 3 weeks earlier. By the end of the game, all of the characters are confirmed to be this by The Curator in the Everybody Lives ending.
  • Take a Third Option: There's actually a trophy/achievement for resolving the Love Triangle by having Rachel survive the game after rejecting both Eric and Nick.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Jason and Salim start off like this after they're separated from the rest of the group. Depending on the player's choices, they can grow out of this, or remain as this for the rest of the game.
  • The Underworld: The Zagros Mountains are a real location in the Middle East, where ancient Sumerians believed it was the entrance to the underworld. It really houses a massive nest belonging to an ancient race of vampire-like monsters of extraterrestrial origin.
  • Violation of Common Sense: The best ending can only be achieved by not having the reinforcement helicopters stay nearby. If you have them stay nearby, Salim won't have time to get away after the final battle, resulting in him ending up in CIA custody, with the implication that, as an enemy combatant involved in an event the US wants to cover up, he's going to spend the rest of his life in their custody. Having them not stay nearby gives him five hours to start his journey home after the final battle, with the CIA not finding him and showing little interest in tracking him down.
    • You also have to let Merwin die, because otherwise, he'll repair the old radio and allow the others to call for help.
  • War Is Hell: Part of Jason and Nick's trauma stems from them mistakenly killing an innocent Iraqi civilian after believing she was a suicide bomber.
  • Weakened by the Light: The vampires are fatally intolerant of UV light, to the point that even the moonlight hours will cause them to combust. This is a problem specific to the parasite rather than the host species, as the infected Joey is also affected by it. UV light can also be used to cure infected people should they be exposed early enough, forcing the parasite within to flee.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The characters will call each other out if the player makes them make bad decisions.
  • What the Hell, Player?: The characters calling each other out for bad decisions are made as if they’re calling out the player themselves.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The game's entire story shares many similarities with the penultimate chapter of Eternal Darkness, where a modern war in Iraq uncovers an underground ancient temple full of bloodthirsty monstrosities. The protagonists must blow up the site hoping to bury the horrors for good, and they are also opposed by a warrior from the ancient world who has become one of the monsters himself.
  • Xenomorph Xerox: The Vampires are this. To the extent that the alien ship they came to earth on has some extremely H.R. Geiger-esque architecture.
  • Your Mom: Joey and Merwin spend most of their time trading these jabs with each other. Rachel's not above giving one as well.
  • Zombie Infectee:
    • In the historical expedition, Mary was one. She later succumbs.
    • If Rachel brings Clarice back to the rest of the group, everyone points this out about her and the question comes up as to whether or not to execute her before she turns. On the one hand, their worries turn out to be overstated; the parasite needs to kill the host first before it can mutate the body, so Clarice isn't going to suddenly start attacking them before dying first and being dead for several minutes. On the other hand, not executing Clarice turns out to be the wrong choice, as vampires attack and in the confusion Clarice dies and is forgotten about long enough to mutate and eventually attack and kill Eric.
    • Even if she doesn't get killed by the Ancient One, Rachel still gets attacked and implanted with a parasite by one of the bat creatures. Towards the end, after she realizes she's been infected, she'll attempt suicide with a white phosphorous round and will blow herself up if you go forward with the button prompt.