Tuesday, December 28, 2010

[Review] Amnesia: The Dark Desent

Amnesia is a first person survival horror puzzle solver mystery game. It was developed by Frictional Games for the PC and Mac. It's plays a bit like an adventure/explorer game but it's main focus is it's horror theme and survival. You play as a man named Daniel who wakes up with complete memory loss inside of a creepy old castle. The main goal of the game is to figure out where you are and figure out the reason for your memory loss, as well as survive.

This game is amazingly scary. The graphics and environment do a great job of making you feel on edge and never giving you that "safe" feeling other games do to let you calm down. The main character is slowly losing his mind, and it does a very good job at showing it.

EVEN IF YOU TOTALLY SKIP READING THIS, WATCH THIS VIDEO. It will describe the game in 40 seconds. Very minor scare spoilers in the video, it's not major but you might want to avoid watching it if you happen to be mid playthrough.


Even though it's an over the top reaction, yes, the game really is that scary.

The main theme of the storyline has a lot to do with what Daniel doesn't remember so it would be extremely easy to spoil the whole thing. This summary is going to be very vague because that's the way it's presented to you as you play.

As the game starts, the main character Daniel is stumbling through a hallway muttering seemingly nonsensical things to himself before collapsing. When he comes to, his memory is completely gone. He has no idea where he is or what he's doing. The only clue is a trail of strange liquid that Daniel decides to follow. It leads him to a desk where he finds a note that was written by his "former self" before he lost his memory. It tells Daniel that the memory loss was his own choice and instructs him to kill a man named Alexander. It also warns Daniel that he is being followed by a shadow, and he needs to escape it as long as possible or it will kill him.

And that's the simplest way to describe the premise of the game. Remember what happened, kill Alexander, and survive. It's a lot more gripping than I can make it out to be, the storyline is what pushed me to finish the game.

This game has your basic first person adventure game play style. If you've played any first person game on PC then you already know how to play it, there's not much core difference. What makes the game unique are the features that go along with it.

Right from the start of the game, you're warned about staying in darkness. Any time you're in an area that isn't lighted, Daniel will slowly go insane. In order to keep places lit, you use tinderboxes that are scattered about the castle to rekindle lights. You also carry around a lantern for areas where there's nothing to light. Staying out of the darkness isn't a huge problem, except that lighting up areas means you don't have anywhere to hide. In most cases, light will attract any monsters that happen to be near.

As well as staying in the dark, witnessing unsettling events will also make Daniel lose is sanity.You can't really describe what exactly counts as an unsettling event, but you'll know it when you see one. Also, looking at monsters will make you go insane very quick. When this game makes you hide, it literally makes you respond like a person in panic would. You have to run away into a dark place and duck down and cover your eyes and just hope the monster didn't manage to follow you into your corner. Also it should be noted that there is absolutely no way to fight the monsters, you HAVE to run and hide.

Losing your sanity will do bad things to Daniel. As he goes insane, strange things will start to happen in the game that normally wouldn't. Cockroaches will start to crawl on your screen, pictures on the walls will look distorted and hellish, and the walls will start "creeping". The heavier effect of going insane is imaging monsters that aren't really there. They will react and behave like normal monsters, but vanish just before catching you. After your sanity is completely gone, Daniel will fall over and be stunned for a good while, which is obviously fatal if it happens in the wrong place. Also, the lower your sanity the easier it is for monsters to find you.

The game also has a very unique physics engine. The game responds to how fast you moves things. You're able to slowly open doors to peek through, or slam it open quickly depending on how you move the mouse. Round objects roll and respond to gravity, you can throw a rock at a barrel and it will fall over and roll down stairs. I know it sounds lame on paper but it's actually very intriguing.

The system requirements are low but the graphics are actually good. It's hard to analyze modern games because they all have "good" graphics. What really makes the graphics stand out though is the way the game uses them to create light and darkness. The areas are designed well and have a lot of depth, you can tell the walls were designed by area instead of using a paintbrush effect to use one pattern over and over.

Normally this would be about the music in the game, except Amnesia doesn't have a lot of music that stood out. The only songs I remember ever hearing were in this main area with a fountain and at the end of the game.

Instead, this will be on the sound effects. This game really shines here as the way the creators used their sounds is the main reason why this game can put you on edge. A lot of horror games like to keep the sounds quiet and the randomly scream at you to get cheap jump reactions at the player. Amnesia has sound effects going constantly that are just creepy in nature.

All in all, this is by far the most scary game I've played in my life. I've tackled games like Silent Hill and Siren, and Amnesia was the only game that would get to me to the point where I didn't even want to play it. I don't mean just take a break for the day after an intense part, I mean there were times where I didn't even want to load the game up. I can honestly say that if the game didn't have such an intriguing storyline that I wouldn't have even bothered to finish the game.

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