Atari is returning to its Alone in the Dark series of survival horror games this holiday season with Alone in the Dark: Illumination, a different take on the franchise that's more similar to Left 4 Dead than the original '90s Alone in the Dark games or the 2008 reboot. Developed by a new studio called Pure FPS, Illumination brings co-op and online play to the series for the first time, and the studio is hoping it can honor the franchise's heritage while delivering something fresh.
Los Angeles-based Pure FPS is led by CEO Jason Brice, who was previously the head of the indie studio Plastic Piranha. That company released the first-person shooter Rekoil in January to a poor reception, but Brice told Polygon in an interview earlier this week that he learned a lot on that project, and that the two studios are very different.
"We took the foundation of what was working" at Plastic Piranha, said Brice, and "shed most of the Rekoil" team for Pure FPS. The new studio also brought on some former 38 Studios employees, and has been working on Illumination with a team of about 20 individuals, plus some outsourcing. The project came into being after a chance meeting between Brice and some Atari representatives during a Christmas golf tournament last year, and the company offered Alone in the Dark to Pure FPS.
According to Michael Allar, an engineer at Pure FPS, the studio looked at the existing survival horror market — and particularly, at indie titles that have made a splash on Steam, like Endnight Games' The Forest — and decided that it didn't want to compete with or rehash those types of games. In addition, Alone in the Dark has always been a puzzle-focused series, and Pure FPS wanted to get away from those elements as well, to focus on action.
Allar cited series like Alan Wake, Resident Evil and Left 4 Dead as inspirations for Illumination, saying that Pure FPS wanted to deliver a more action-heavy experience that retained the Lovecraftian creature and art design that Alone in the Dark is known for. Left 4 Dead, in particular, is an easy point of comparison: Illumination offers four playable characters and pits them against terrifying creatures. It's worth noting, though, that there isn't anything like the AI Director to govern Illumination's enemy behavior.
The Hunter is a descendant of Edward Carnby, the main character of the previous Alone in the Dark games, and his primary weapons are the assault rifle, submachine gun and flamethrower. The Witch is the great-granddaughter of Emily Hartwood, a protagonist in the original Alone in the Dark, and she's a magic user who packs a revolver as well as special abilities such as a lightning strike. The Priest uses dual pistols and religious powers, while the Engineer is an electronics specialist who wields a shotgun.
Illumination players will be able to choose any combination of the four characters and go through three different campaigns with four levels each. Brice explained that the stages are designed to be replayable: Certain events are randomized a la Payday 2, while the layout of the game world also changes when you die. In the level we played, we began in a boxcar and entered the same door twice, but it was locked when we respawned the third time, and we had to find a different way forward.
We didn't get the chance to play with other people, which is what Brice and Allar said is the ideal way to experience Illumination. But interested parties will get that opportunity soon: Atari launched pre-orders on Steam yesterday, which include access to the beta that Pure FPS plans to launch "around Thanksgiving." Alone in the Dark: Illumination is set for release this holiday season on Windows PC for $29.99.