Sometimes its better to have Amnesia

It was a lonely weekend where other games were currently not cutting it.  I decided to try out a new single player only game.  One can usually find gems in games like Bioshock, Fallout, and Mass Effect.  However, I was looking a new scare your pants off game; and considering I have already discovered those other gems long ago, soemthing else needed to fill the void.  In comes a newer indie game “Amnesia: The Dark Descent”.

To start, this is not your casual horror game.  The kind of horror game where your girlfriend might giggle as she clings to one’s arm but harmlessly watches on….no.  This is a horror game that keeps you from going to the bathroom because that 15 feet to the toilet is completely dark.

The title gives a very good summary of the game.  You are Daniel, a single man who has just woken up in a castle room with absolutely no memory of past or present…..and the game treats you to the exact same conditions.  You have no idea who this person is initially, why he is here, and absolutely no story to start off with.  As you do find information, you soon realize what type of person you really are.

Amnesia: Dark Descent monster

Quick! Hit it with a brick!

Part of what makes the game suspenseful is it’s major enemy, the Shadow.  At first sight, this drew memories of the 1999 movie remake of House on Haunted Hill.  The shadow is a shapeless supernatural figure that can happen to take shape as a couple horrific monsters.  The 2nd part that makes the game suspenseful is that there are absolutely no ways to attack enemies; the only actions available to you are to run and hide.  Don’t worry though, the game slowly allows you to realize this before the baddies will start coming out of random corners.  Once it does, you better know whats behind you because if you don’t start running immediately after something pops out, you will die.

The gameplay plays like a click and drag game.  You control the speed at which you open cabinet doors or desk drawers.  This does add to the immersive nature of puzzles and the environment.  However,  you are only limited to basic drag movements (up, down, left, right, and circle) and they do not play deeper into puzzles (a missed opportunity).  They also include a sanity meter.  My last experience with a sanity meter was Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube.  It was a very fun experience and gave you very real reason to keep your sanity up.  However, with Amnesia, when your sanity gets low, you are only treated to blurred vision and bugs crawling over your screen.  It feels more like an afterthought punishment than anything.

Sadly, this game does have even more faults, which warrant a no go on a recommendation.  Level design seems very lacking.  There is not much to the design so scenery is lacking.  Even when the shapeless Shadow can take any shape, you will usually see the same monster many MANY times.  You will quickly notice this and be able to plan accordingly.  The game relies heavily on pure story and simplistic puzzles.  The story is quite nice.  It allows one to follow a story of madness.  However, the puzzles seem to just be filler.  Allowing one to spend some time to go find other story elements while they look for another item.

You can say this is the horror counterpart to a Jason Bourne movie.  Amnesia tells a wonderfully dark story but only treats the player to a handful of gameplay elements.  If you are looking for a game that could help instill a fear of the dark, and has a good horror story,  I would definitely recommend it.  However, if you are the casual player looking for a deeper gameplay experience, there are other scary games to go to.  Its a bit of a shame.  If this was by the right AAA publisher, this could have gone further.

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Rating: 3.3/ 5 (4 votes cast)

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