Amnesia: The Dark Descent Author: T_H_Schafer -- Posted: 2010-09-14
In a sea of survival horror action titles comes a game from Frictional which actually encapsulates true survival horror mechanics. Amnesia: The Dark Descent sounds like a generic title, but after an intensely atmospheric and ruthlessly unique ten hour campaign, I really wish it didn't. It truly condenses the nature of the game in four words. As for the game itself, there really isn't anything else like it.
You play as Daniel as he awakens in a castle and must piece together the story through letters he has left strewn about the rooms. I won't spoil any of that here but it isn't really where Amnesia shines anyway. The real meat of the game is in the time spent alone with dwindling sanity and lamp oil.
Where main-stream horror games have been concerned with piling on the enemies and the weapons while keeping the ammo in check to give the player a sense of danger, Amnesia goes in a different direction. No ammo, no weapons, no way to defend yourself. Self preservation means avoidance. The enemies always have the upper hand and you truly are in constant danger.
Light plays a huge role. It is your friend. It keeps you sane enough to see straight. Without it hideous noises filter in, the screen warps and illusions take hold. Light is also your enemy. You need the darkness to hide as much as you need to beware of enemies hiding there. It's the instinctive fear of the dark which propels Amnesia into straight-up-shit-your-pants territory.
This is the most immersive game I've played in years. The physics in the game go a long way in securing it. You control everything with the mouse. You don't click to open doors, pull levers or twist valves. You have to push, pull or rotate the mouse depending on what you want to do. This allows you to solve puzzles realistically as well as give you a few cool abilities. You'll be able to open doors slightly to peek out or close them slowly to avoid giving yourself away. You'll also be able to stack crates and things against doors to slow down powerful enemies. The sound in the game also pulls you in and cranks up the intensity. Never before have I had the strongest feeling like I should stop and not go any further than I've had with Amnesia. Often times I had to stop to take a break, gather my thoughts, get a snack, get some rest, and go read a book before I could start it up again.
There's no doubt the team at Frictional know now to make someone leap out of their seat. What's more impressive is how small of a development team they are. For under ten people to craft such a quality title from scratch is amazing. Aside from a couple technical issues, which could easily be patched, the game worked fine. The atmosphere is top notch, the scares are constant and the story doesn't pull any punches. The only question would be, can you handle it?