For PC users, the games Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010) and the indirect sequel Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (2013) are old news. It wasn’t until the end of 2016 that Frictional Games re-brewed their game series for the PS4, in order to now also teach consolers to fear. In fact, Amnesia was one of the first survival horror games in which you had to confront uncanny powers without any weapons or tools. The game enjoyed great popularity among the PC community and received mostly good reviews as well. It was therefore only a matter of time before other studios took on this subgenre of survival horror and released games like Outlast or Slender: The Arrival to the gaming community. The following test will clarify for you whether the Amnesia series still provides nightmarish gaming experiences or whether it has degenerated into a boring walking simulation.
My name is Daniel…and I don’t know anything
In the first part of the horror series we take control of Daniel. The poor thing suffers from a condition that is well known among many video game protagonists, namely amnesia. We wake up in an old building and rise unsteadily from the ground. How did we get here? What were we looking for in this old castle? Still not quite sane, we pick up our first note, which reads “Follow the trail of the liquid and find its source,” and then stride down a long, dark corridor into our chilling adventure.
Already during our first steps it is noticeable that the graphics of Amnesia were not state of the art even then. So the purely graphic optics can only reach the quality of a game with benevolence that lies somewhere at the end of the PS2 and beginning of the PS3 era. Even the HD optimization cannot help that much. While you get rather shallow average fare graphically, the game knows how to convince in terms of sound. Then as now, the background noise is exceptionally good and perfectly captures the horror ambience of the abandoned castle. Whether squeaking doors, sudden gusts of wind or unnatural sounds from the depths of the walls, the atmosphere is so dense that you could slice it. A good sound system or headphones are almost mandatory for the game.
After following the strange shimmering liquid on the floor, we find a letter that our alter ego, Daniel, appears to have written on himself. We learn that in 1839 we are in a castle called Brennenburg near Prussia. We are supposed to find and kill a man named Alexander von Brennenburg and we are strongly warned of the “shadow”. After all, we now know our task and go in search of Alexander and our memories.
The warning about the “shadow” is to be taken literally in Amnesia. Darkness and dark places are not good for our protagonist and have a negative effect on his mental state. A display in the menu gives us information about our cognitive condition. If we are initially still awake and sane, after too many shadow baths we are plagued by headaches and delusions, which also affects our field of vision and walking security. Luckily, early in the game we find a light-giving oil lamp. She also helps us through the countless dark passages of the game. Unfortunately, the lamp has to be regularly filled with oil and tinderboxes and lit. Since these items are distributed rather sparsely in the game, you should use them consciously and sparingly.
To protect us from the creeping madness, it helps Daniel to successfully solve puzzles and discover new areas. An occasional helping of laudanum can also help further.
The tasks related to Amnesia are made up of a few varied puzzles and skill tasks. That’s how we have to For example, at one point in the game we have to cross a flooded basement without touching the water. We have to pick up boards again and again and build a kind of mobile bridge. This situation is also underlined in an exciting way, because something is lurking in the water for us, but we can only perceive the footsteps of an apparently invisible being. Should we clumsily fall into the water, these kicks will move in our direction as quickly as possible and woe to those who come too close! In such situations, Amnesia shows its strengths to the full. The sometimes tricky but always fair riddles of skill paired with the excellent acoustics and the staging stylistic devices create unique moments of horror and horror in which you breathe deeply together with Daniel as soon as you have mastered them.
Hide who can
As the game progresses, we encounter nightmarish monsters, the mere sight of which causes our sanity to drop rapidly. Lovecraft sends his best regards at this point. With no weapons at our disposal, we have no choice but to flee and hide in closets or behind doors until the danger is over. Hiding and constantly fleeing from the gruesome creatures may deter some shooter veterans, but these people will have less fun with the game anyway, because in principle we are defenseless against the dangers of the castle. Here we always have to rely on our wits and cleverness to escape unscathed from seemingly hopeless situations. A sometimes quite futile undertaking, but the feeling of having escaped the horror once again “very narrowly” motivates immensely.
Hello Justine. I want to play a game!
In the Amnesia addon, we reenact the suffering of the eponymous Justine, who finds herself in a lonely cell with nothing but a phonograph. This tells her that she will take part in some “tests” in the following hours. In the course of the game, she will encounter several characters in which she will be given the choice of killing the people or exposing herself to sometimes dangerous puzzles in order to continue her ordeal. Of course, the decisions also affect the further course of the game.
The addon seems to have taken the Saw film series as its inspiration, because the game actually has some exciting developments and a plot twist ready in addition to the puzzles. With a playing time of just 2-3 hours, the adventure is also ideal for a short but intense game night, especially since the various options for action motivate repeated playthrough.
pearls before swine
In the most visually appealing title in the collection, A Machine for Pigs, we take control of Oswald Mandus. The poor guy must deal with strange happenings in a London meat processing factory and free his two sons Edwin and Enoch from a diabolical machine lying below the factory. His greatest adversaries are the so-called “Manpigs”. Similar to the monsters from Amnesia, the human-pig hybrids will pursue us through the dark corners of the facility from time to time.
Unfortunately, A Machine for Pigs was stripped of some key features that made Amnesia so exciting. Our oil lamp now lights up automatically whenever the gameplay dictates it and we no longer need oil or tinderboxes, which means that there is a certain lack of thrill when using the lamp. The state of mind also no longer plays a role in this title. No matter how disturbing or nerve-racking our experiences may be, we can comfortably hide from the “pig people” for a long time and sometimes just sneak around them. The quality and sophistication of the puzzles also noticeably decrease compared to the predecessor. Thus, “A Machine for Pigs” remains the most beautiful part of the series visually and acoustically, but unfortunately also the least demanding in terms of play.
With the Amnesia Collection, fans of games like Slender: The Arrival or Outlast can’t go far wrong. Above all, the playful component in The Dark Descent is pleasantly high due to the tactical use of the oil lamp, the nerve-wracking hide-and-seek games and the clever puzzles. An example that many other walking simulations should orientate themselves a little more towards. The small but fine addon “Justine” also knows how to convince with its dense staging. The black sheep or rather pig of the series (“A Machine for Pigs”) is the most visually beautiful game of all things. Here the motivating gameplay of the earlier offshoots has been reduced so much that exploring the diabolical machine is at times really more of a pure walking game. simulation degenerates. That’s a shame, especially because the story is quite convincing and the graphic design with its wacky ideas is partly reminiscent of classic games like Bioshock. Anyone who has missed the Amnesia games so far now has the opportunity to close this gap in their gaming vita, although some nerve-wracking hardships have to be accepted, especially in the first part of the series.