Amnesia: The Dark Descent Review


I think there are different way to get scared. You have the someone jumps out from the darkness and says "Boo!" variety and that's fun, but the thing that really gets me are the slow torturous paranoid environments. Think of the difference in a movie like Saw and the Exorcist. Saw might make you jump but the Exorcist will stick around in your head for a long time toying with you. Horror games are like that also where some go the quick scare route and others take a more leisurely trip to freak you out. Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a near perfect example of the latter.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is by a rather tiny developer called Frictional Games. While small they seem to be talented based on their previous well received Penumbra series, although I never have played any of them. In Amnesia they bring a more thoughtful approach to the survival-horror genre. Well maybe thoughtful isn't the correct word here, but it's certainly a different style game than just about any recent horror game.

You play as Daniel who wakes up in a castle with amnesia. You roam around trying to figure out who you are, why you don't remember anything, where you are, and what should you be doing. Some of these questions get answered fairly quickly through notes that you will stumble across. Most of the time discovering a note will shake the cobwebs from your head enough for you to remember just a little bit more and progress the story. Some of these memories are told in cut scene flashbacks while others are narrated. What you find out soon enough, and I don't think this is a spoiler, is that the castle is really creepy and possibly infected with pure and simple evil. A great deal of the fun in Amnesia is the discovery of what happened before you woke up to make the castle the way it is.

One surprise that many gamers will find is that Amnesia isn't a game that you try and win in the traditional sense. That is, it is best to experience the game instead of play the game if that makes sense. Frictional even goes as far and suggests as much when you first start off. But the biggest surprise to gamers of more traditional horror games is that you are not given any weapons. To be sure, there are plenty of times when you wish you did have something, anything, to help even the odds but you are as helpless as most of us would probably be in real life. There are monsters and your choices of what to do about them are more-or-less limited to running, hiding, or dying. If you get all brave and decide to face one of these things you will have your face ripped off and, no question about it, you will die. So really the only choices are to hide and whimper like a baby in the darkness until it passes by or turn tail and run the other direction as fast as you can. Either way is a drastic change from the hit it with a rock mentality of most horror games and I thought it fit the game perfectly.