Happy Halloween, readers! Yeah, I know it’s early, but I picked this game due to the season. I wanted something scary. When I asked on Twitter about a few titles, this one (which wasn’t in my list) was unanimously picked. Hell if I can argue with that. Read on… and journey with me.
Story: As the game begins, you are stumbling about an old spooky castle trying to keep a memory of the basic details of yourself. But, your struggle prove futile as you ultimately wake up deep within the castle and only remembering that your name is Daniel.
As you look around the run-down place, the pink “pepto-bismal”-like substance on the floor seems to be the only thing that doesn’t belong. And following it leads you to a desk with a note to yourself before you willingly destroyed your own memory. It will tell you of your mission, namely to kill an old man who is deep within the castle named Alexander. But it will tell you something else as well: something is trying to kill you. Described only as a “darkness” it is unstoppable, relentless, and inevitable. It is even now taking over the castle, and in order to do what the notes says, you will have to keep ahead of it. There is no description of it beyond that you can not stop it.
From this grim beginning, playing through this game will take you down what is easily one of the most disturbing tails I’ve ever seen of self-discovery, monstrous powers of Lovecraftian nature, and no holds-barred horror. Since discovering these details is part of what makes this game, I can go no further, but suffice it to say, Alice has been dethroned. This is now hands down the darkest game I have ever played.
Graphics: Be ready. In all it’s glory, this game is insanely beautiful when it wants to be, revealing scenes that are otherworldly and amazing… and then it changes, desecrating the scene before your very eyes. However more often then not, you will have to look for the beauty in this game. A lot of the gameplay relies on the use of light sources and darkness in the environment. As a result, there are many many areas in the game that look great, but the quality is just a little bit wasted on the room being in damn near pitch black.
Though the environments are hardly the only things to get your attention. Be warned, just like the story, there is a lot visually in this game that is not for the feignt of heart and definitely would not be in anything kids would be allowed to see if this were a movie. Mutilated body parts, monsters that are just human enough to be truly disturbing, torcher devices… this game is not afraid to do it all… and sometimes it shows you the end results. For these parts, the graphics are not good enough to make the not-so-strong stomached need a barf bag, but the ideas are very strong and very brutal.
Further adding to this are the insanity effects of the game. I will go into it deeper when we get to gameplay, but your state of mind effects what the game shows you. I’ve personally watched roaches crawl across my screen, huge ugly white spiders suddenly cover a room I had to go across, as well as the standards of swimming/blurred vision depending on how well the character’s mind was holding up at any given time. Depending on how you are doing, all this beauty/horror may lead you very much astray.
Sound: To go with the visuals, sound will also play a major part of the game, both to give you an idea of what’s going on as well as setting the mood. The music, while limited, plays on the fears this game is drawing on perfectly, leaving you genuinely nervous and tension filled for most of the game… either because you know something that wants to eat you is nearby or because there is silence… and you are waiting to hear anything that might warn you of danger.
Add to this some really good voice acting and amazing sound effects for ambiance/monsters/madness, and this game is going to go that much further to terrorize you.
Gameplay: Amnesia is a true horror/survival game. You play from a 1st person perspective, but you literally have no way to defend yourself… ever. Instead, you will have to survive by keeping your wits about you and learning to hide and/or run when necessary from the horrors that share this castle with you.
While struggling with this task, you will also be asked to complete puzzles that will allow you to progress both through the castle and through the story. You will spend time picking up key items, moving things around, climbing ladders, and all kinds of other interactions in the environment through a system Frictional Games first introduced in the game Penumbra and brought over here with great effect. When you can interact with an item, your dot in the center of your screen becomes a hand and clicking will either pick up the item for your inventory or “grab it.” From here, your mouse now moves the item like it’s in your hand… be it opening/closing doors/drawers, picking up and throwing rocks (right-click for throwing) or pushing/pulling bigger things into position or out of your way. It all works very intuitively and lets you get right into the events of the game.
Your smarts are also important in paying attention, both to clues and the environment. You are being hunted, and if you want to win, you need to be able to not only come to terms with that, but deal with it, using everything you see/hear to know when to hide, close doors behind you to by time or even to keep hidden from whatever is following so it doesn’t see and destroy you. Because they will. Most monsters in this game can kill you in one or two hits, so if you are caught, you are probably going to die.
Thankfully the game is a little more forgiving then this sounds, however. The important details that hint at your current goals are automatically written down in your journal, allowing you to never lose your goal. Meanwhile if a monster does kill you, the game uses a checkpoint system as well as an autosave so you are not just done… nor will whatever killed you necessarily be there when you get back. Things change between deaths, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse.
And all this comes with a nice bundle of mental issues that can strike your character as you move through the castle. Anytime you witness something that looks super-natural, spend any length of time watching a monster, or even are in the dark, your sanity is ticking away. As it get’s lower, your vision will swim or blur, your movement will become sluggish, you will start seeing things that are not actually there, and finally, you will fall to the floor and curl up into a fetal position and black out. And while your mind will heal itself to a functional state during this, you are open to anything that happens to be out there. In some well secured areas, this may not be a big deal, but in others, you might never wake up as a monster chews on you in your catatonic state.
Again, however, this game does give you a little grace with this mechanic…In addition to getting back up after blacking out, you can get back sanity slowly by standing in a well lit area. Some puzzles cure your mental state entirely as a reward for completing them as well.
Bugs: Honestly, I couldn’t find a single bug that wasn’t literal and in the game. This game ran perfect and was fluid as hell.
Overall: Amnesia is not a fun game. I have to be up front about this now. It is immersive as all hell, and it will leave you begging for more every time you leave. It will be sitting there, making you want to load it up and see what’s next, all the while dreading it at the same time. I can only imagine that minus the horror element and allowing for time/technology, this is exactly why Myst hooked so many players.
And to this end, this is a game I really heavily recommend EVERY player who is old/mature enough to try this game. It will not be everyone’s choice game when they get out. In fact I imagine most gamers will think it’s either too slow, two scary, or some combination of the two. But this is the kind of game that any gamer becomes a better gamer for having spend an hour or two to experiencing it.
And if it leaves you wanting more, then you my friend, are in for a wild ride. I won’t need to explain why you have to have the game at that point. You will just understand like I did when I finished with the demo myself.
Source: Gamestop PC Downloads