Amnesia: The Dark Descent

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Amnesia: The Dark Descent review
Chris Capel

Review

Have a clean pair of underpants ready

Sailing For Adventure


The game does occasionally suffer from ‘Adventure Game Logic’ syndrome. Having only one hammer you can pick up and store in your inventory despite encountering dozens of identical hammers elsewhere does not make a lot of sense. There is no hint system either, which means that when you are stuck, you have to go online to figure out what to do next. I got utterly stuck in a huge area with lots of things to see and needing to be done, but no obvious way of doing them. I found the answer on the web and, knowing the solution, still wonder how anyone could have ever found it.

Still, those are the worst of my criticisms, apart from the lack of a user initiated save system. If the game crashes – which happened to me twice - you lose all your progress. But for the most part the auto-save system works just fine.

Alone In The Dark


The real highlight of the package is its sound design. Playing alone at night with headphones on is, frankly, not recommended. You’ll shit yourself. The atmosphere is built primarily based on sound which aims to give you a constant sense of things that ‘might happen any minute now’ and is utterly incredible. From the creaking of floorboards from the room above you, to the mournful piano playing echoing down hallways before ceasing suddenly when you enter the empty music room, through to the horrifying alarm-like wail of the monstrous things when they spot you. I have never played a game that has worked so hard to terrify while maintaining the illusion that nothing’s happening at all.

Graphically the game is fine as only First-Person PC games can be, with the monster design especially disgusting, though I doubt you’ll want to get near them to find out just how disgusting they look. Aesthetically the game evokes the Thief games: a brown medieval setting mixed with dashes of steam-punk machinery, combined with an abundance of darkness. Whereas darkness was your friend and light was something to be avoided or snuffed out in Thief, here it is oppressive and terrifying. A limited number of tinderboxes to light torches and a lantern that needs to be refilled with the meager amounts of oil you find are the only defenses against going insane with fear in the darkness.

Ah yes, sanity. The game tracks your sanity and when it drops too low weird things start to happen. It’s not like Eternal Darkness where it was fun to be insane, disconnecting your controller and giving fake blue screens of death. If your sanity’s too low here your vision starts to sway and it becomes harder to move. Just wait till you have to try and run from a “OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT” monster with your legs buckled, it is an absolutely terrifying experience.

Good night out there, whatever you are


Amnesia is different from its peers in that it offers a haunting First-Person survival horror experience without allowing you to have any weapons. The game is pure foreboding terror and plays on such base phobias such as darkness and vulnerability that most survival horrors seem to be forgetting these days. It pulls you in and keeps you there like you are starring in your own ghost story.

I can honestly say that I’ve never been as scared playing a game. I can still vividly remember a scene where a monster unexpectedly burst into the room and I was forced to hide in a wardrobe until it went away, all the while listening to it slobbering and growling just outside and praying loudly to the gaming gods for it not to open the door.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is pure, unrelenting survival horror. It’s a shame it’s not on consoles too, but if you’ve got a PC that can run it and don’t mind being scared out of your wits, then this one is for you. Just have a clean pair of underpants ready.

8.8

fun score

Pros

The scariest survival horror ever made

Cons

It’s not always clear what to do next