About a year ago in the name of keeping October spooky, I picked up and reviewed Amnesia: The Dark Descent. To put it bluntly, the game completely floored me and I found myself quickly putting it up as the game all horror games should strive to reach. So when I found out a sequel was in the works, I couldn’t be more excited about it! If they had released this game at full price, I would have bought it at launch. As soon as the pre-order was announced for $15, I snapped it up on Gog.com. And now as I sit here having finished the game, I’m not sure this new romp into madness was even worth that.
Story: I do have to hand it to the Chinese Room, they sure know how to tell a story through digital means. This one starts very simply, however. You are simply a father looking for your children. You wake up in the middle of the night from a nightmare about machines the likes of which would exist in Dr. Frankenstein's lab and realize your kids are missing. Getting up, you begin searching for them.
Your search will lead you through your house, into your own meat plant, and through a journey of horrific self-revelation, and while there are not a lot of twists and turns on the way, the path is just littered with lavish details that will make you think and make you cringe as you slowly come to realize just what has been going on. And then just as you are allowed to take it all in, it ramps everything up into a frenzy and you into wanting to bring this to an end, both to see how it ends and to… well… I can’t tell you, for to do so would be to spoil it all. It is, however, worthy of the name of the franchise, so if you have played The Dark Descent, you should expect as much.
The story is one of this game’s top points and if it were not for the fact that it really needs to be told from the first person view to have it’s full effect, this could have been an awesome movie for all the care that went into it.
Graphics: Just like the story, anyone who played the first Amnesia would expect nothing less then gorgeous and disturbing environments/creatures, but darkness clouding the view of a lot of it. And in this category, the game both comes short and goes well beyond any expectations you might have. You can expect to be absolutely wowed by the level of detail this game offers in just about every room, corridor, and alley you find yourself in throughout the adventure. Simply put, this game is once again another gorgeous title.
However, there is a bit of a trade off here, as it has environments that would have in the previous game been designed so you could navigate in the complete darkness due to a night-sight system. This time will offer you nothing of the sort, so you will be looking at just about everything through the light of your portable lamp, and the result is that nothing appears all that foreboding in it’s own right. What is foreboding instead is when that light flickers and you know something is about to happen. Simply put, this game looks fantastic, but it just doesn’t carry the same level of malevolence the original did.
And the enemies don’t help this much either. I am not spoiling anything to tell you all the enemies in this game are all pig-monsters, and on their own they are finely detailed creatures. However, they really are just not scary or disturbing. They are not even really cool. They are just what happens to inhabit the world you are traveling through, squealing in rage when they see you and looking really funny if you happen to catch them just walking around.
So the end result between the two is kinda a duality. As a game, it’s a damn good looking title, but as a horror title, the looks fail to do their part to keep you on edge.
Sound: Just like the story, this time around the sound is absolutely amazing. The sound effects are limited by design, but what is there fits, from the splashing of liquids in a tank you have to carry to the squeals, gurgles, and background noises of creatures you will face, it all is done with an expert hand.
This includes the voice acting, which this game has a fair amount of, especially as you consider there are all of four characters in the game who can talk. Everyone fits their part perfectly, and I have to give extra credit here since children had to be played.
But the real star of this game is the music. Especially as you get to the end, the soundtrack is simply amazing, perfectly placed, and would be a treat to listen to on it’s own. This game is a feast for the ears in all the right ways, and this will be one of the main ways the game captures you into it’s world.
Gameplay: And this, sadly is the weak spot of the newest Amnesia title. This game is not so much a survival horror, as it is just plain horror, using almost none of the tricks established in and used to enhance the original so much. You have no inventory, and the lamp you have is electric. It will not run out of batteries no matter how much you use it. There are no sanity effects, so monsters are no longer events in and of themselves, but rather just another occasional obstacle to work around. Combine these and this is a very tame game for the legacy set before it.
But for newcomers who do not have The Dark Descent to paint their expectations, this game is still going to lack here. Right away you will notice there is almost nothing you can interact with. A Machine for Pigs will not let you pick up anything that is not somehow necessary for the puzzles of the level you are in outside of moving chairs or opening some drawers, greatly reducing the time and enjoyment you will have just exploring the rooms to find the creepy things any horror game should have.
Nor would I call exploring the right word. Through the entire game, you are guided and not allowed to stray off the path. You will find many places with many many doors, only to have them either not open until you do something else or not open at all. With the exception of 3 parts, in fact, you will always have only two ways you can go: forward and back. And often the game will deny you going back as well! As for those three parts, they are all rooms in which you have to hit switches in different locations or collect items as such, and bring them to one place to open that forward path. And even then, they don’t go far from the trail, so there still isn’t even an illusion of player choice here.
As for those switches and items, that’s about as deep as puzzles in this game get. There is nothing like gathering parts and having to figure out how they go together. Anything like that automatically snaps into place only in the right place and doesn’t move afterwards. The most you are going to do is go to point B, pick up what you obviously needed at point A, and bring it back. Other then that, their idea of puzzles is finding buttons and switches (and even those wont let you do them in the wrong order).
So yeah, you won’t be so much playing a horror game as marching through a haunted house.
Bugs: Honestly, I couldn’t find a single bug in this game. It ran great and it never faltered.
Overall: I really wish I could have higher regards for this game. Frictional Games proved what they were capable of when they released Amnesia: The Dark Descent upon the world. It was sinister, creepy, disturbing and simply an experience not to miss. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, however, does nothing but let the Chinese Room fall short of this in their name. For all the challenge this game will offer, and for all the freedom it lets you have while playing, you might as well just open up Youtube and watch a play-through. I actually recommend you do provided you find one that reads all the details you find, because the story is still awesome and I would be doing you a disservice if I told you to skip that. But as for the game itself, it’s just not worth it… not until it’s in the bargain bin.