Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a new game by Frictional Games, developers of the acclaimed Penumbra series. I personally never played Penumbra because there was something about it that just didn't interest me much, but the positive buzz surrounding Amnesia and some info I picked up made me give the demo a whirl.
Basically, Amnesia is a survival horror game. When I say survival horror, I don't mean Resident Evil. I mean actual survival horror. You see, in Amnesia, you can't kill your enemies, you can't even fight them...pretty much all you can do is hide or just run the hell away. I wouldn't even call them enemies, but rather...entities. The game is set in the early 19th century London. As far as I am aware of, the entire game takes place in Brennenburg Castle.
I got a strong Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth vibe while playing the demo. Just like in Call of Cthulhu, you don't only need to take care of your physical health, but also your mental health. If you look at disturbing things for too long, your character's heart starts pounding louder and louder, he starts breathing heavily, his vision gets impaired (courtesy of some very nice visual effects - at one point, it seemed as if the walls started closing in on me). You even have a sanity meter in the inventory screen.
You also have to avoid the dark as much as possible. If you have the right equipment, you can fire candles and torches on the way and you also get an oil lamp to carry around. But it can run out of oil at any time so you have to use it sparringly. The demo mainly consisted of some linear exploring and rather simplistic environmental puzzle solving, but at the end, the area you're in gets flooded and some kind of invisible apparition attacks you if you step into the water. You can hear it and you can see the ripples in the water, but you can't see the damned thing. You can pick up severed limbs and hurl them into the water to distract the creature as it will attack (eat?) it. So there's this gate and you have to lift it up by rotating the little wheel next to it (by the way, actions like opening a door, pulling an object or rotating a wheel are done by moving the mouse in the appropriate direction - funny how you don't need motion controls for that kind of stuff, eh?). So I lunge a severed arm as far as possible and make a run to the gate. As I'm frantically whirling my mouse all over the desk, I can HEAR the damn thing splashing behind me and I'm about to totally lose my wits. I make my way through the gate and to another door and I try to push it open, BUT NO, this one opens towards the inside. At this point, I'm beside myself with fear as I can hear the beast splashing behind me, catching up with me. I finally open the door, go a few steps through it and just as I feel the thing hitting me (a red color blurrs the screen) - the game fades to black and the demo is over.
I'm not a horror fan, but I really liked what I played. The game is genuinely frightening and intense and the sense of vulnerability is off the charts.
The game is very dark and atmospheric, the graphics aren't spectacular or anything, but the developers did a great job with the kind of budget they had. The sound effects and the soundtrack are great, really get your blood pumping and your nerves freaking out.
You should check this out even if you only have a passing interest in horror or adventure games.
Despite its title, Amnesia remembers what the blockbusters of survival horror seem to have forgotten: how to horrify. -- PC Gamer (88/100)
It's a brave experiment in the genre, a more solid package than the Penumbra games and stops at nothing to make you truly, deeply uncomfortable. -- Eurogamer (8/10)
This is one of the scariest games in recent memory. -- IGN (8.5/10)