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Developer: Frictional Games
Publisher: Frictional Games
Launched: Out now
“The only thing we must fear is fear itself,” Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, before being misquoted in just about everything. If Roosevelt were still alive, I know he would’ve made an addendum to his inaugural speech to include Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Or maybe he wouldn’t have. Amnesia is about fear, after all. Oahu is the central premise. Pure, unadulterated, terror. Chill, icy fingers clawing at the rear of your neck sort of terror, those of the creeping dark and Cthulhu, Hesselius, the home of Usher. It is a Gothic supernatural tale of crumbling castles, ancient artefacts and evil from since the beginning. And fear. Fear of insanity, fear of the dark, anxiety about the unknown. Dozens of fears -from childhood to adulthood- happen to be deftly plucked from our psychs by Frictional Games. What we’re given is a masterwork of horror, perhaps the initial game to ever capture the classics so perfectly, to create something so vile with so much love.
The sport starts with Daniel waking in Castle Brennenburg, a crumbling ruin filled with echoes of their glory days; a dilapidated and macabre homage to Castle Dracula, and numerous other horror story locations. Daniel has amnesia. The initial clue he finds is a note from himself, telling him to kill his mentor, a person who dwells within the furthest depths of the castle’s basement. This – and also the fact Daniel is greater than a little unhinged – is all you’re given. Using a protagonist with amnesia is one of the most tiresome, contrived plot devices around. Not too here. It’s achieved startlingly well in the offset, with almost no emphasis on the fact Daniel can’t remember things. It’s really a device employed for discovery, to allow the ball player to uncover the events on their own, without a continuing inner narrative from Daniel to shatter the immersion. This one thing is worth high praise indeed.
The story’s told in fragments, via scattered notes, snatches of recalled conversation, and momentary flashbacks. All of these gel with the game perfectly, never intrusive, never revealing an excessive amount of, just brief glimpses into the field of Brennenburg before the ball player entered into Daniel’s shoes. However it is Brennenburg since it exists throughout the game which is the real star. Simply given the job of reaching a mysterious ‘inner sanctum’, the journey from the castle is just one of exploration, of interpreting the remains of the castle, of uncovering the mystery for oneself. It’s atmospheric to some fault, with all the rooms immaculately designed; fallen chairs clatter across the ground while you bump into them, rotting fruit sits discarded on shelves, broken walls and windows spill into corridors. Puzzles litter the location. Not one of them feel arbitrary. They’re mostly physics-based, using a perfected type of the mechanic Frictional explored inside their Penumbra series. The left mouse button acts as you, with realistic gestures necessary to manipulate objects. This is an amazingly tactile system; slamming doors, pulling beams, sliding open drawers, everything feels natural, organic and without complication. It adds a level of immersion you do not get by pressing some control. Most of the puzzles have multiple solutions. There was one instance, for example, where I’d to break open a sizable toadstool to find the spores inside. I jumped down and up on it several times, damaging the plant. A rock would’ve worked as well, or even the hammer and chisel I’d within my inventory. To provide greater number of these solutions away would ruin the fun of discovery, but naturally there’s plenty of room for experimentation.
Taking care of of Amnesia that leaves no room for manoeuvre, however, is the combat. There’s none, whatsoever. That’s not saying there aren’t enemies, actually, as there most surely are. But Daniel doesn’t have way of fighting back, and this can be a gutsy and rewarding move for the developers. Instead, all enemies have to be avoided through different means, whether it is from distraction, hiding, or just running as quickly as it is possible to. A few of the game’s scariest moments stem from fleeing in terror, an unseen horror snarling at your back, thunderous footsteps the sole indication they are still coming. You cannot stop. You won’t want to stop. The sole respite is that patch of darkness up ahead, where maybe it is possible to hide and permit the monster to pass through.
But Daniel doesn’t such as the dark. This forms the crux of 1 of Amnesia’s most fascinating mechanics. The majority of the game is swathed in darkness. You’ve got a lantern, with limited oil, and a chance to light candles and lamps with tinderboxes. Oil and tinder are only round the place, the first kind in especially short supply. It provides an incredible balance of risk/reward; stay within the darkness, which in turn causes Daniel’s sanity to empty, slowly sending him crazy since the screen blurs and in the end he goes mad. Or, spread slightly light around, at the chance of negating much-needed hiding places and revealing stuff that are best unseen. Looking at horrific events also causes Daniel to get rid of his grip, and there is anything heart-poundingly intense than crouching inside a corner, looking at the floor as a monster shambles past, understanding that sanity is draining every moment, but that when you look into the face of the aggressor it’ll get oh so much worse. Solving puzzles and making progress recovers Daniel’s sanity, but it is a constant battle for survival inside a dark, unyielding place.
Amnesia is the type of game that might be cheapened with specific incidents detailed ahead of time. Most of them, those involving monsters at least, are largely unscripted or at best look like. I cannot stress enough just how much the bingo benefits from experience and discovery. Indeed, initially I actually got caught with a monster there was clearly a faint sense of disappointment, with all the knowledge that i was conscious of an amount happen the very next time. It wasn’t enough to ruin the sheer, cloying panic that occurred when the next monster turned up, plus it was largely unavoidable, but it did dampen things slightly. Luckily this occurred a reasonable way into the game, such could be the intensity from the drive for survival that Amnesia instils in the players.
High of that is right down to the utterly superb sound direction. As the voice acting itself is a touch sub-par in places (although far from awful), the ambient sound that gradually builds right into a swelling crescendo of strings and bass, is pitch-perfect. The drip-drip of unseen liquid echoes through dank corridors. Chains rattle and sway within an impossible breeze. Around a large part, the lowest moan could be heard. Silent treks through empty rooms are punctuated by distant shrieks of agony in the castle’s long-dead prisoners. One room in particular, well-lit and otherwise safe, was made much more terrifying from the nearby barking and whining of hungry dogs. Would they appear? Did they? Questions best left unanswered.
It isn’t a long game, also to a degree that is to Amnesia’s benefit. Clocking in at anywhere between 5 to 10 hours, it never outstays its welcome. A long time and also the tension dons off. It felt, though, like it could’ve benefited from a couple of more set-piece sections. They’re where the overall game really shines, one particularly rivalling almost everything I’ve played when it comes to inventive methods to scare the player. The last quarter from the game isn’t quite as much as the typical with the preceding parts, that is more a trapping with the horror genre itself than the usual flaw from the game particularly. It’s still an amazing experience, however, and also the occasional little dodgy acting or slightly obscure puzzle for the end does almost nothing to reduce this. With Amnesia, Frictional Games has established probably the most important horror titles of the medium, a game title which you aren’t even a passing interest within the genre would prosper to play. At night. With headphones on. The way it should be.
Boy does Amnesia nail running away. It nails running away like Mirror’s Edge nailed running away, which is a bit of a damning indictment with the latter game, because it was ready a sexy free-runner leaping and rolling with the rooftops of the futuristic cityscape, while Amnesia is approximately a mentally unstable man fumbling doors open and squatting in cupboards. Then again, Mirror’s Edge also gave you the option of fighting as opposed to running. Amnesia doesn’t, which is among the bigger explanations why it is the scariest game I’ve played in years.
Amnesia’s also unusual to get a horror game, which being a genre has a tendency to put horror first, panic second, creepiness third as well as the actual game fourth. With Amnesia, you’re also getting an engaging first-person adventure game which could have stood by itself had developer Frictional Games chosen to visit like that.
Amnesia’s plot alone is intriguing enough. Waking up around the stone floor of some ancient castle without any memory whatsoever except their character’s own name (‘Daniel’), the player’s first discovery is an oddly brief letter from Daniel to Daniel, telling him to descend to the castle’s basement and kill a guy named Alexander. As you explore the castle further the plot thickens eagerly and ominously, with diaries, rooms and panicked notations all providing scraps of the much larger plus more unpleasant picture.
This exploring uses up the majority of the game, which is made all the more engaging using it . excellent grabbing mechanic Frictional used in the Penumbra titles. You click the mouse to ‘grab’ objects inside the world (a door, a boulder, a drawer), and then move the mouse to interact your object within an immersive and intuitive way. It is a system that’s as good for ransacking somebody’s study since it is to turning some dusty, forgotten valve. Or, perhaps more relevantly, slamming a door in the face of a monster. But we’ll reach that in a moment.
It’s not necessary to eat, that i feel is missing a trick. I loved fighting for clotted milk and sour vegetables in Pathologic.
Physics aside, nosing around Amnesia’s castle also holds your interest as it constantly rewards you with details, pick-ups, bits of the story, surprises or varied environmental puzzles which frequently use that same grab mechanic, otherwise particularly imaginatively. But the puzzles don’t have any inventiveness they make up for in difficulty, with plenty of these sat inside a sweet spot where they’ll rarely stump you, but nonetheless have you feeling smart.
If this type of physics-puzzler-mystery concept was expanded on, I’m sure a great deal of men and women would like to listen to it. But clearly Frictional had other ideas.
It requires balls to complete a horror game right. There’s a believe that of the many recent high-profile horror games lately, Dead Space and F.E.A.R. 2 gave you sufficient weaponry to level whole buildings, Resident Evil 5 and Siren: Blood Curse traded some of their series’ spookiness for more gung-ho action, Alone At nighttime featured ludicrously overblown stunt sequences and Alan Wake gave its monsters enough of a weakness that they’d probably be eligible for a disabled parking stickers. Scaring players is all about a lot more than inserting jumpy moments and a quivering string soundtrack right into a level lit being a seedy club. It’s really down to deficiencies in empowerment and control, that is a reasonable acquired taste that none of the big publishers will fund it.
Amnesia is not only a game title where you can not fight the monsters. It’s a game where you cannot look at the monsters. Doing this drains your sanity and boosts the chance they’ll spot you. Sometimes this not-looking is not a problem since the monsters are invisible, however in places it is the most horrible thing on the planet. Imagine it. You’re hiding from the monster within the sole pocket of shadow in the room, and all you can do is stare at the ground.