Horror games are in a turbulent period right now. While former AAA juggernauts like Resident Evil and Silent Hill stumble around like drunken babies, the indie scene is growing over saturated with bland rip-offs and tedious jump scare marathons. There’s practically no market for proper horror anymore. Big budget publishers will no longer support traditional spookfests if they don’t have an action-oriented bent, meanwhile steam is exclusively populated by abhorrent variations on Slender and Five Nights at Freddy’s.
For those of us who truly love the genre, it’s a disheartening state of affairs. We just want something new, something different. Hell, at this point, we’d actually just settle for something half-way decent. There’s been no shortage of exciting little games announced recently, but for whatever reason they all just keep disappearing or getting postponed. Most notably, the terrifying-looking Silent Hills was tragically cancelled by Konami (for inexplicable reasons) and the game’s first-class teaser, P.T, had its existence basically wiped from history. You can look it up on YouTube now, and there are some attempts to recreate it on steam, but that’s about it. It’s gone.
Months went by with hopeful (Naive) fans desperately clinging to the possibility that the game could come back from the dead, however, eventually they had to accept the unfortunate reality of the situation. It was time to move on. It was a dark day for the genre, but all was not lost! A rather promising looking ‘spiritual successor’ to Silent Hills was announced soon after.
This new indie game, entitled Allison Road, had all the things that gamers loved about P.T; methodical pacing, intrigue, atmosphere, unnerving sound-design, a single-location setting and a creepy-as-hell ghost lady. Not only that, but it had a few unique selling points of its own, including a startlingly farmilar depiction of a British suburban house (which added an unnerving element of realism to proceedings), intense looking stalking sequences, and an enticing mystery. The gameplay trailer set a really good foundation for the game, raising questions, demonstrating impressive visuals, and most importantly of all, being genuinely scary. It was just the thing that was needed in order to save the horror genre.
Alas, it’s almost as if there’s some kind of supernatural curse on the Silent Hills legacy, as just like its predecessor, Allison Road fell victim to an abrupt and unceremonious cancellation. The disappointing news hit in June, and just like with Konami’s game, the reasons behind this baffling abandonment were vague and mysterious. No one external to the project’s development knows exactly what happened between Lilith LTD and Team17, suffice it to say that the latter dropped out of the project, leaving creator Christian Kesler without a leg to stand on.
We can’t speculate on who was to blame (I nominate that it was somehow Konami), nevertheless gamers were hit with yet another crushing and seemingly unmotivated disappointment. Despite being so horribly betrayed in the past, we were willing enough to open up our hearts to something else, only to have the exact same situation repeat itself. What did we have to look forward to now? A Resident Evil VII that is looking to join the ever growing legion of Outlast clones? Whatever crap steam is showcasing these days? There was at least an actual sequel to Outlast I suppose, but even that got delayed (I’m honestly awaiting the news that it too will be cancelled. I wont be caught off guard again)
But perhaps the old saying is true (and by ‘old saying’ I mean ‘that thing everyone knows because of The Dark Knight’), maybe the night is darkest just before the dawn. Because now, we might just be getting Allison Road back. In an interview with IGN, Kesler has confirmed that development will continue on the game, this time under a new label called Far From Home, which it turns out he co-founded with his wife. Nawww.
Don’t expect the game anytime soon however, as Kesler will now have to resume development as a solo effort. Not to worry though, Kesler is more than accustomed to this style of working, as this was the original situation prior to the developer taking on help. Kesler claims to be confident that he can handle the workload and finish the game to a high quality standard, and given what he’s done with it so far, we have no reason to doubt him. Who knows, in the long run this delay may have been the best thing to have happened to the game. Just imagine, we could now be getting a high-quality horror game with professional technical execution, and with no publisher interference. This could end up being a proper artistic vision. One man’s clear intention, brought to life with a distinct personal stamp.
As Kesler himself pointed out ‘“In September, it’ll be two years since an idea out of a notebook started to come to life’ and now it looks like we might finally see the end result of that journey. This is clearly a project that has had a lot of time and effort poured into it, and Kesler has reportedly spent the last month or so tweaking the story in order to make sure that all of that thought shines through in the finished product. If that’s the case, we could be getting something really special.
Gaming journalism is so often cluttered with negative press and embarrassing controversies, from publisher dishonesty, to the exploitation of consumers and high profile disasters. It’s nice to have some of our faith restored then. Allison Road is a precious rarity, an indie horror game with ideas and competent execution. It might have basically started out as glorified P.T fan-fiction, but it’s now evolved into its own thing. With Silent Hills well and truly dead, it’s a beacon of hope for the entire genre.
If it succeeds, we could see a Renaissance for horror…. or it could just be the next thing that every indie hack tries to imitate……. Either way, here’s hoping that Kesler can finally realise his vision and bring us the game that clearly means so much to him. We need more of this kind of passion and devotion in the industry. After all, Allison Road’s resurrection has the potential to galvanise an entire genre, and that’s an exciting prospect for everyone.
NOTE: If the game is eventually released and sucks, then I’m just gonna acknowledge that that could happen too. For insurance.