A scary game, but also somewhat of a missed oppertunity.

User Rating: 8 | Amnesia: The Dark Descent PC
I haven't been scared by a game or a movie in a long time. This is due to two reasons: I spent a lot of my younger days playing Resident Evil & Silent Hill, so they've, in a sense, hardened me for all the horror that followed. That being said though, there hasn't been a scary survival horror game, in a long while. "Survival Horror games" like Dead Space & Resident Evil tends to favor action and violence instead of a scary atmosphere and honest thrills, and the movie industries relies on heavy violence and loud noises to keep their audience scared. It's sad, because you only have to go back 7 years, or more, to find the really scary games. Amnesia, an indie survival horror game from 2010, has become quite popular ever since its release. You can hardly go online and search for a dozen "Let's play" videos, that doesn't cover Amnesia. One thing is what the "Let's Play" video tells you though. After al it's just a bunch of videos where people comment on what's going on and making lightly fun with it, more than bringing an honest opinion (I may be wrong on that). With that said, let's see at how the game actually is.

Story
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You wake up in the castle of Brennenburg, with amnesia (hence the title… get it?). You quickly discover a note, which tell you, your real name: Daniel. All you're told is that you have to go to the castle's inner Sanctum and kill a guy called Alexander. The story unfolds over various notes that are found by searching the various environments, similar to the audio logs in Bioshock. What they unveil is a grotesque story that is as surprisingly brutal, as it is intriguing. And it's well worth seeing through, to its end.

8.5

Gameplay
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Amnesia: The Dark Descent plays similarly to the Penumbra games, which was created by the same developers as who made this game. Basically, Amnesia is a survival horror game that places its focus more on puzzles and exploration, than having you fight monsters. It's not an original approach, but it suits the genre well. Instead of concentrating on when the next batch of monsters are going to appear, this approach instead let's you absorb the environment and the creepy atmosphere. While the game is played from a first person view, the controls are actually quite different. You use the mouse to interact with the various things in the environments. Often you have to carry things from one end to another, or you have to move the mouse in a circular motion to turn valves. It works well, and helps you immerse in the game's universe. That being said though, they do take some time to get used to at first.

The puzzles themselves are great, but nothing too special. You usually just have to either, drag things from one end to another, activate a switch or find a key. It makes good use of the game's psychics system, but it also leaves you wishing that they would have gone just a little bit further and done something truly special. They aren't too difficult to figure out either, so a trip to Gamesfaq hopefully shouldn't be needed.

When you aren't solving puzzles, you're exploring dark and creepy rooms. The game doesn't have any combat whatsoever, and all you are armed with is a lantern that can, temporarily, light up the environments. You can find Tinderboxes, which can be used to turn on candles and torches. Light is important in the game, because not only does it allow you to see the environments, but it also keeps you sane. The more you stay in the dark, the lower Daniels sainty gets. The lower it gets, the more disoriented Daniel becomes, and the more blurry his vision starts to get. It's a fine system, but like with the puzzle, you wish the developers would have taken this just a bit further. Not necessarily something similar to games like Eternal Darkness, where the game messed around with the players, as the characters became more and more insane.

While there isn't any combat in the game, there are still monsters and things that can hurt you. Whenever monsters appear, you basically have to hide, because you're unable to fight them. One smart idea is, that the monsters can find you, if you look at them. Your sanity is also greatly reduced if you look at them for too long. This is actually pretty scary and works very well, in according to the game's spooky atmosphere. The only complaint about this however, is what happens after you're caught. If they find you, you can try and escape, and if they end up killing you, the game doesn't throw you too far back. For some reason though, the monster that killed you, disappear and is never heard from again. There are similar instances where monsters will walk past a door opening or the end of a hallway, just to scare you, but after that they disappear. While it's nice to have a focus on hiding from the monsters, it does take away some of the challenge and horror when they just disappear if you make a mistake. If they continued to roam the area, you'd have a bigger focus on hiding and the horror would have intensified.

That being said though, the game is scary. The monsters do look scary, and the invisible monsters, that walks around in the water are terrifying. The atmosphere is also great at making you feel uncomfortable. Often you'll hear all sorts of background noises, footsteps and, at times, human voices. The game never tells you where most of the voices are coming from, which is a nice touch. Often the thing that's the most scary, is the thing that you can't see, or the thing you don't know anything about. Having to avoid looking at the monsters might, in a few cases, give you a disadvantage, but it makes the encounters even more scary than they already are. Which is great, considering how they can disappear as fast as they appear. The game did catch me off guard at times, a huge achievement and the first game in over a decade to do so.

Sadly, the game doesn't have a lot of replay value. The game should last around 8-10 hours, which is a decent length to be honest. There are three endings, but you can see them all if you reload to the point before the final room. Beyond that, there isn't anything to do. At least there's an expansion, called Justine, and there are supports for custom made stories, which does help things somewhat.

8.0

Graphics & Sound
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While Amnesia doesn't have the cutting edge look, the game does manage to look quite good. Most of the environments look great, and the small ambient effects (which the game could use more off though) are great. The game also runs at a smooth 60 fps. While the monsters looks scary, their design aren't interesting at all, and the small character models could look a lot better.

The voice acting is great though, and the music perfectly fits the game's spooky atmosphere. The various environmental and monster sounds are more than enough to make scare you. It's game, that's best played in the dark, with the headphones on.

8.5

Overall
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Amnesia: The Dark Descent is actually a scary survival horror game. It's been so long since a game (or a movie) scared me, and honestly, that's what Amnesia special. In a time where survival horror games lives in the shadows of their former selves, Amnesia shows how such a game should be made. That being said though, as good as it is, it does make you wish, that the developers went a few steps further with its psychics system, and with the lack of combat. As it stands, Amnesia is a game that should be celebrated and loved because of how scary it is, but it does leave you wanting a bit more. As a whole, it's a scary game that has a few missed opportunities.