Do not – I repeat – DO NOT play this game around kids or grandparents.
Frictional Games’ Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a first-person survival horror game which has been on my to-play list for a while, for no other reason than to check out the game that reduces so many adults scream into puddles of fear. If you have somehow missed this, you can watch the video above or head to YouTube and google “Amnesia reactions”. Screaming, cursing, hiding… Amnesia is not a game for the faint of heart.
The first thing Amnesia tells you is NOT to try to fight the creatures you’ll come across. Good thing, because you are given exactly zero weapons with which to fight, but what an introduction. Before the game even started, I was already jumpy at the boogeymen I’d come across.
Soon after I came across a letter from myself, telling him to go kill a man in the basement. “I hope you remember your hatred of Alexander,” the letter says, “or this will seem gruesome.” Another thing, is apparently a Shadow is chasing you, so beware of that. I’m always up for a bit of gratuitous killing so off I went.
For the next hour or so, I explored meandering halls, dead-end rooms, and crumbling staircases, all the while looking out for these monsters everyone was so afraid of.
Amnesia is mostly a game of exploration. You shuffle from one dark room to the next in search of clues and items with which to solve puzzles, like opening secret passageways and mixing potions.
The controls are pretty fun, and usually you’re told how to interact with certain items, but others like opening a locked door, or grabbing certain items are up to you to figure out.
Make sure to read the notes and diaries, even those that seem long, because they’ll often contain clues as to where and how to solve the problems.
The twist, during all this exploration, is that anytime you are in the dark for too long – at times, it seemed like five seconds was too long – your vision fades, a weird ticking sound fills you ears, your breathing becomes ragged, and controlling your character is increasingly hard.
To prevent this, you soon find yourself rushing from window to window, lighting fires and holding up a lantern that is maddeningly quick to extinguish and use up your precious oil. This is the beauty of Amnesia, in that you’re not only forced to deal with the environment and enemies, but you have to manage yourself, too.
This creates a double jeopardy of tension, when you’re slowly losing your sanity, but must stay in the dark to avoid the creatures.
Ah yes, the creatures. For about 90 minutes I saw nothing, save for the shadow of a creature, one time, which quickly disappeared. But when they do show up… oh boy.
Like I said, you start the game with precisely no weapons, and while you can throw objects you come across like chairs, barrels, books, your throw is so weak you might as well be swatting flies with a grain of sand. Besides, looking at them drains your sanity at an exceedingly fast rate.
The only solution then, is to run and hide in the shadow until the creatures leave. To me, Amnesia has to have been created by a child, and nothing anyone tells me will convince me otherwise.
The game brings to life all the boogeymen nightmares you had as a child; shambling, faceless, at times invisible, creatures waiting at every turn who you hide from by burying your face into the corner of your closet and never looking up.
Because if you see them, then they see you. Amnesia pretty much works like that. You see a creature? You run, stuff yourself into a corner, a closet, the teeny space between a barrel and a bookshelf, and – since you can’t look at the creature – stare at the ground until it leaves – or until you go insane.
This turns into a tension-filled game of hide-and-seek that’ll have the most prude player cursing a storm. So like I said, do NOT play this game around impressionable kids or grandparents with the ability to whoop your behind.
The object of the game, aside from killing Alexander, is to put together an Orb. This Orb, which was found during an excavation in Algeria, is the reason you’re here. When you first put it together, a Shadow began to follow you, and kill your loved ones. Alexander, the Baron of the castle, invited you to Brennenburg, promising he could get rid of the Shadow. In exchange, all you have to do is round up and capture people to be tortured.
To remain spoiler-free, that’s all I’ll say on that point. Any gamer knows to look out for twists, but in my opinion, this one was pretty cool.
The game progresses from halls to bright sunshiny rooms to saunas to tunnels that are filled with tunnels and more creatures that will slash you if any part of you is in the water. The whole game is basically about putting in positions that could not be any worse for you.
Throughout the game, a constant drone of creepy music keeps you on your toes, and the visuals expand and retract like dilating pupils, making you feel like you, too, may be losing your mind. I actually found myself having to take breaks every couple of hours or so, because the effects had me feeling a little nauseated at length.
The game has three endings depending on your actions, each culminating in a final showdown with a very nude Alexander the Not-So-Great, or better put, the environment around him. I had to check out the other two endings and… let’s just say I got the wrong one.
Feel free to see what we had to say about Slenderman