So this has been a long time coming, but I never really mustered up the courage to play Amnesia until quite recently. It had been installed on my computer for a few months until I finally said “I can do this.” and just manned up. Anyway, I won’t really cover gameplay and the like since there isn’t much to talk about. I may gloss over it at some point to explain to the general public what this game is all about. For now, however, I’ll just cover the atmospheric and graphical content of this masterpiece of thriller/horror games. Without further ado, below is my review of Amnesia. Allow me to preface this by saying holy cow is this game terrifying. You guys owe me for toughing it out and screaming like a little girl throughout the majority of this fear-inducing thrill-ride…or at least a cake of some sort. Anyway, Amnesia’s ability to terrify the pants off of most the general populous comes from its amazing and well-done graphics and atmospheric content. I’ll start off by talking about the atmosphere, as most of the experience delves from this little point. Whereas most thriller games rely on things suddenly popping out from the screen or cheap tricks such as that (IE Dead Space and Dead Space 2), Amnesia takes a completely different route and makes you fear what you usually fear, the things you can’t see. Nowadays the horror genre is plugged up to the brim with shooters. Take Resident Evil and Dead Space for example. While they are very well done and the monsters are as grotesque as the mind can get them, the only thing scary once you pick up a pistol is the lack of ammo or health kits. Nothing terrifies you once you pick up that all-powerful zombie/necromorph slaying weapon.
Amnesia is unique in the aspect that it takes away your ability to fight back. While a follow-up to games like Penumbra, Amnesia remains at the precipice of horror mainly because it perfected the formula. Armed with your trusty lamp and tinderboxes, you might find it in yourself to brave the dark depths of Brennenberg Castle to stop a madman. Along the way you find yourself venturing deeper and deeper into the dungeons below the mighty stone structure being chased by an unforeseen and dangerous being. You have no trusty sword, no plasma rifles, no nothing. You have a light that can get you killed if you leave it on at the wrong moments. You don’t have hordes of enemies you need to cut down in order to get the next key item. In actuality, I believe that at most there are 2 to 3 monsters roaming the maps at a time, each of them just as bloodthirsty as the next.
Now, where this gets interesting is that for a majority of the game, or at least for the first half of the game, the enemies don’t actually spawn…or at least I’m fairly certain they don’t until after a certain water part. Without knowing that, it took me a good couple of days playing hour after hour late into the night with no lights on to reach the inner sanctum where you see the maliciously terrifying fountain I have posted above. Consider that fountain the halfway point where everything gets scary as all heck. Well…that’s a bit of an overstatement. The game starts out scary as heck. You begin the game in what amounts to a drunken stupor, wandering the hallways close to the exit of Brennenberg with nothing more than diary pages to catch yourself up on the storyline. Along the way things get really really dark, and suddenly you find yourself scared witless with nothing more than sunshine and ponies to keep it together.
This game does a really good job of making you second guess yourself. With eerily simple mechanics such as opening doors and lighting torches making you think twice about what lurks in the dark. I’ll start by clarifying about the doors. You open a door as you would in real life, holding the handle and either slowly opening it at a snail pace or slamming it open and facing whatever horrors wait behind it. This incredibly simple change in user interface intensified the fear I felt at having to open a door whenever I wanted to progress. Along with the stereo sound and the consistent bump-in-the-night sounds, I quit early more than once to give myself a little breathing room…and literally regain my sanity.
Overall I loved playing the game when I could handle it. Just going through the beautifully rendered castle despite hearing the monsters roaring at me with each step. After learning only after I’d beaten the game that I could have actually just sped my way through the first half due to no monsters spawning, I was a little disappointed. There wasn’t much I could do after the fact, and I definitely didn’t want to go through another playthrough, so I simply just let it be. The fact that I could barely get myself through the first half without scaring myself pantsless should be enough of an indicator as to how terrifying I found this game. I’ve found that more often than not when visiting forums, however, the viewpoint is completely different. I wasn’t aware of how many people found this game lackluster…either they weren’t scared, hadn’t played the game, or were lying. My bets were on the latter two.
Anyway, the game works somewhere along these lines. Your character has both a health and a sanity meter. When either meter goes down, you hallucinate, you fall to the ground, unable to get up until you regain your sanity, or you die. I’ve actually read after playing that most of the things I’d seen were mere hallucinations due to my sanity being low, or scripted events. I’m not sure how to conclude this so I’ll end by saying if you enjoy this type of game, Amnesia is definitely worth your money. With it being on sale on Steam regularly, you’ll probably even be able to pick it up for under 5$.