Among the greatest qualities of gaming is the ability to immerse yourself into the experience, to have such a captivating blend of story and gameplay that the world seems real to you at that moment. One of the worst things someone can do to you in that moment is make you experience the feelings from that game even after you’ve stopped playing. In most instances such as with World of Warcraft or Call of Duty this wouldn’t be the best or even safest direction for the game, but Amnesia hits it just right.
Amnesia is a thriller/horror game that shows just how immersive a game can be when compared to a film in the same genre. The game is rather good. It’s hard at times, and just plain frightening at others. There wasn’t a moment’s time that felt wasted. When you turn on the game, the keen developers explain that “…to get the best experience out of Amnesia, it is best to play the game with the lights off, headphones on and alone…” This of course meant that difficultly of the game was decided on how many of their ‘rules’ you followed: Hardcore (following all directions), Normal (following two directions) or Easy (following one or none of directions).
The plot is set up during gameplay rather than through an introduction. I can’t really explain much without spoiling anything, but I will say this; the same thing you are told be the first note you find, “While you are looking for Alexander, be cautious, you are being followed by a shadow…” Alexander is the primary antagonist, but what is this shadow?
The plot slowly develops through puzzles. You will find diary entries your character left behind, which gradually develop the back story as you go. Each new entry gives you some insight into why Daniel (the main protagonist) drank a potion that gave him amnesia, and why he is trapped inside what appears to be a medieval castle.
The sound was fantastic. It supports up to 5.1 surround sound because the creators know that nothing is worse in a game than hearing frantic crying or the sounds of brutal screaming from all sides, leaving you either immobilized from fear or running in suspicion of where the noise came from. Later on the surround sound can become a hindrance when you are literally unable to move because every direction seems to be making the same haunting noise.
The environment, now this is what set the tone for the entire fear that is Amnesia. This game is made from the nightmares of every child. The world is naturally dark, set in a stone castle with wooden doors and glass windows., the floors and doors are usually wood with the windows being glass. This makes way for plenty of creepy sounds ranging from the creaky door, to the crumbling walls and broken glass. Most doors open towards you as if to show that no matter how cautious you are you still have to look at fear in the face, and not from a distance. Rooms are always kept nice and dark, with at least one or two unlit candles that can be re-lit using a tinderbox (I recommend instead saving these for times when you run out of fuel for your lantern). The atmosphere of each environment is usually what makes it difficult. You could take so long to run into the shadow that you begin to wonder if it even exists, but then all at once you’re made painfully aware that it’s very real.
You can generally get a sense of how to predict a monster encounter based on the screen. If you notice a quick wave ripple through your vision, you are in for some trouble. The hardest part is figuring out where the monster is, since generally it happens right before opening a door. I have had the pleasure of befalling a trap created by my own fear. I saw a wave streak my vision while nearing a door, so I quickly opened and shut the door hoping to encourage the shadow while I ran to hide, only to realize the shadow was actually in the hallway with me the whole time. Instant heart attack.
The engine is pretty simple. Point and click from a first person viewpoint. Most of the objects are interactive, allowing you to move them around or toss them. Don’t bother trying to defend yourself with them; the shadow just breaks through anything as if it wasn’t even a solid. The puzzles were not too hard, however the game gives you no direction on what to do the further you get. As a result it changes from a game of ‘go here, grab that’ to ‘go here, pray nothing is creeping around while you look for a lever or a key or a box or a door or something that can get me out of this god-damn nightmare!’. Pressing ‘Tab’ will bring up your inventory, which shows your health (a heart) your sanity (a brain) and what you are holding. This window will be a lifeline. It has a button for your memo book which contains the only tid-bit of direction on what you are supposed to do, and it allows you to use items you pick up for later puzzles.
Amnesia is a straight-forward game that manages to use simple mechanics and mild puzzles to keep you entertained while using a mastery of terrifying atmosphere to keep you on the edge of your seat. You are in control for the entire game. No cut-scenes, no time-skips, just straight horror all the way through.
The game took me about 10 hours in whole to finish, mostly because I had trouble at some points trying to figure out where things were or because I was being chased by my new found nightmares. I enjoyed the game, but I will never play it again. Amnesia was a horrifying game to play, alone or with a friend. Unlike in the game, my sanity can’t be regenerated by standing in the light.
The game is available for purchase on Steam for $20