by Chris Capel, reviewed on
How To Do A Survival Horror Game Properly
Think of the scariest game you’ve ever played. It’s not as scary as Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
Seriously. I am a big fan of the survival horror genre, from early examples like Alone In The Dark and Realms Of The Haunting to modern terrors such as Bioshock and Dead Space. I have taken in big-budget fare like Resident Evil and Silent Hill alongside lesser-known titles such as Clive Barker’s Undying and Eternal Darkness. And I’m telling you right here and now that Amnesia *beeped* me up more than any of them.
Developer Frictional was behind the similarly pant-wetting Penumbra trilogy and Amnesia is similar in some respects to that series. This is most easily seen in the incredible physics system both games use. Most items can be picked up, rotated and thrown. For the most part this is utterly useless - particularly the rotate option, no Resident Evil-style item rotating puzzles here - but it does add an element of creative freedom and realism to the proceedings. Yet there are moments when picking up stuff sure comes in handy. When you are trapped in what seems to be a dead end, you might just escape by piling up a load of random junk and jumping out of your predicament.
Are you ready? Then we’ll begin…
Amnesia is set in medieval times. Daniel, your character, finds himself in a strange castle at night bereft of his memory. A note, written by Daniel himself, says to journey down to the castle’s inner sanctum and kill a feeble old man. It soon becomes clear that something terrible has been unleashed in the castle and that reaching his objective won’t be that easy. As you progress through the game, you will learn that everything seems to hinge around a mysterious Orb.
While this story does rely on the age-old “you have lost your memory, find out everything” plot device, Amnesia gets away with it by doing it really well and having it in the title. Nothing like a bit of upfront honesty to appease a critic’s wrath. The story also shows more depth than you would expect beforehand. You’ll discover most of the back story by finding logbooks similar to for instance Bioshock.
As you load Amnesia for the first time, it warns you that you are entering a game that is not to be won or sped through. You have to take your time and immerse yourself to get the most out of it. There are no guns or weapons and the monsters are too strong to face in a straight-up fight. They can only be overcome in two ways – running or hiding.
Apart from the action of running or hiding, Amnesia is very much a point-and-click adventure game, albeit a first-person one. There’s an inventory where you can combine items, and puzzles to solve with those items, using objects in the world around you to your advantage or just your wits alone. Some are pretty devious, and will definitely get you thinking and exploring the environment in just the way the developers intended.
The scariest survival horror ever made
It’s not always clear what to do next