Amnesia: The Dark Descent – PC
Developer: Frictional Games
Release Date: September 8th, 2010
Genre: Survival Horror
Nerd Rating: 8/10
Reviewed by THEbipolarBear
Some horror games take place inside an insane asylum, but the best horror games send you straight to the insane asylum. Amnesia: The Dark Descent is one of these games, and it takes place inside the corrupt establishment of Brennenburg, in which the life is drained from victims to satisfy a malicious alien being known as The Darkness. You are David, or so you recall, and you drank a potion for the purpose of forgetting your past atrocities and setting right what you had made wrong. While this might be slightly cliché, the story doesn’t take away from the game as a whole. Instead, the game’s storyline is just vague enough to keep you interested throughout, considering it revolves around attempting to reach the “Inner Sanctum,” which is basically the HQ of evil monstrosities headed by your once mentor, now enemy, Alexander. Along your dark descent (tehe!) to stop evil Alexander, you meet various side-effects of his meddling with unnatural beings, such as gross, organic barricades, disfigured, malicious monsters, and an entity known only as The Darkness.
An instant classic, Amnesia is a very well made indie game that mixes both the basic puzzle-solving gameplay of previous survival horror games with an interesting take on your player’s sanity, much like the sanity meter included in Nintendo’s Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. This measurement of sanity as well as the excellent and inventive mechanics make the game more real than it could ever be without these aspects, leaving your character’s fate solely in your hands, with wit and swiftness being your only two weapons against a monster that will surely visit your dreams after a dramatic encounter in-game. And since it is your responsibility, more than ever, for your character’s survival, death comes at a debilitating and terrifying cost.
Amnesia can be broken apart into just a few aspects, as most games can, and all three of these aspects work together to fabricate a beautiful atrocity, which was apparently addicting enough to justify a sequel, named Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. These aspects are the interesting mechanics, the terrifying gameplay, and a conglomerate of all of the little miscellaneous features added in to give this title it’s extra “umph!” – or, rather, “OH $#!@!”
The mechanics are not gamepad friendly, due to its heavy reliance on the mouse-keyboard interaction, which makes Amnesia slightly inconvenient to me as a gamepad-loving, Steam-Big-Picture-embracing, HDMI-cable-abusing gamer; although, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed by a wireless keyboard and mouse. Take note of this complaint, because it will be the last one I make on the gameplay for the rest of the review. There is traditional WASD movement, with the mouse still used as the first-person camera controller, just like in its predecessors, the Penumbra Series. But wait, there’s more! You can also use the mouse’s buttons to open and close doors, drawers, wardrobes, and all hinged interactive objects. Using these same buttons, you can pick up all other objects and, when holding “R,” rotate them! This opens unlimited possibilities, from tearing down pictures hiding keys, to throwing vases, chairs, and everything else at the monster in a vain attempt to stop him, and even to turning to face the monster in a failed effort to slam a door in its face, which is both a true story and one of the most petrifying events of recent history. All in all, these mechanics never get wonky or dull and only add to the already well-developed game.
Amnesia‘s gameplay is very susceptible to players’ interactions. What I mean by this is if you play the game as if you’re Sonic, trying to rush through each objective in the game, death will become very repetitive, and the game will get old very fast. However, if you take your time and try to preserve your characters life, then you’ll find yourself shivering in fear behind a barrel as the door to your closet is hammered down – and you’ll be loving every heart-pounding second of it. The major downfall of this game is that, while it treats those who play the game as they’re told to a delightfully immersive horror game, it has no punishment for those who don’t play it by the rules. Even still, if you’re new to the game and thrown behind the controls halfway through a buddy’s game with no instruction other than to run from the monster, the game will feel as distant as Slender due to the lack of swift action and inevitable death. So, in a perfect world, the gameplay is incredibly immersive, and sets every player up for the scare of a lifetime, followed by an unavoidable chase scene in which you’re the prey – that is, if you’re sane enough to run after you’ve been found. However, the world is not perfect, and Amnesia‘s lack of compensation for this truth is the major fault of this game.
The little things are what really matters when a game is dropped, particularly a horror game. The biggest complaint I’ve heard of The Evil Within was the fact that a stab to the head of an enemy was an instant kill, despite the fact that the enemy already had a railroad spike through his frontal lobe. My most favorite features of Doom is the Doomguy’s facial expressions at the bottom of the screen. Both of these aspects were most likely disregarded by developers, but they made all the world’s difference in our minds. The same is true for Amnesia. Throwing a broom like a javelin? Amazing! Leaning around corners to check if they’re clear? Fantastic! Moving a giant beam with one hand while the other hand is just idly holding a lantern? Blasphemy! Overall, the pros do outweigh the cons, leaving user ratings to be overwhelmingly positive. Other minute details, such as being able to mend the sanity and health of Daniel on the inventory page and using chucked objects to distract monsters also add to Amnesia‘s dynamic nature, allowing for a playthrough worth sharing with friend or even the world, in the case of the famous YouTuber, PewDiePie, who basically built his channel on the game.
With all things considered, Amnesia fantastic game that has acquired a cult following that still actively produces mods and add-ons for the original game. This game deserves a good review, since it has given me 30+ hours of mentally-scarring entertainment. The graphics may not be extraordinary, the story might not be a Stephen King thriller, but the heart of this game is shown through the excellent mechanics expressed hand-in-hand with the interesting gameplay, creating a horrifying experience that no horror enthusiast should go without.
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