Amnesia: The Dark Descent Review Independent developer Frictional Games understands horror. Little do they rely on a cast of creatures recruited from natural selection’s pile of shame, nor are they overly dependent on predictable “peek-a-boo” style moments. Indeed, Amnesia’s power lies in its presentation - specifically, the ostensible traces of humanity found in its antagonists. After obtaining an artifact from Egypt, Daniel finds himself haunted by an intangible presence. His colleagues, friends and loved ones fall prey to inexplicably gruesome murders. Invited to Brennenberg Castle by Alexander - a man entangled in the vines of a similar presence - the archaeologist is compelled to extreme measures to elude his stalker, measures that he inevitably regrets. Unable to cope with the horrendous nature of his acts, Daniel induces amnesia. He awakens in Brennenberg Castle, now littered with letters written by himself, for himself. As you make the the dark descent into the bowls of the colossal building, you soon discover the true nature of Daniel’s character, or, at least, the man he was before, through letters, diary notes and the corpses of those he left behind. Equipped with nothing more than a flashlight powered by a scarce
amount of oil, and tinder boxes to bring light to the surrounding environment, Amnesia, at least in its more basic form, is about resource management. Every second of lantern oil spent on lighting an empty hallway could be later spent on navigating the complexities of a puzzle, or finding the best route of escape from an impending foe. And if you fail to find that route, death will inevitably follow. As an unarmed archaeologist, Daniel is literally unable to fend off danger. Instead, you’re forced to think on your feet. You may decide to flee to the nearest door, hide in a dark corner, or, perhaps most effectively, cuddle within the confines a one of the castle’s many wardrobes - evil has no use for clothes, it seems. Amnesia’s melding of the mundane and the monstrous - and the ability to intersect the latter with the former - lends its narrative a pace often unexplored by its contemporaries. Brennenburg Castle’s dark, desolate hallways and once-occupied rooms paint a near-perfect picture of abandonment. It’s this pervasive atmosphere only serves to emphasise the horror evoked by your otherworldly, yet very human, foes. Frictional hasn’t been afraid to abandon the guardian angel ubiquitous to the genre - it’s you, your lantern and your
survival instincts. Its puritanical, hands-off approach isn’t without its downfalls. Ironically, Amnesia’s semi-open world will often leave you at a loss as to how you might complete your next objective. It won’t be immediately obvious as to how to find the parts need to construct a particular item, or in what way exactly said item is intended to be used. It’s this very aspect, though, that instills you with a true sense of isolation. A feeling, in fact, that might make it an unpalatable experience after extended periods of play. To describe Amnesia: The Dark Descent as a ‘computer game’ deals Frictional’s efforts a gross injustice. Moreover, it’ll likely deter those reluctant to engage with the medium further from a title that simply doesn’t deserve such a label. It’s not about ‘winning’, it’s not about collecting all the coins, or killing all the bad guys - it’s about immersing yourself within its death-ridden world.
Published on Feb 9, 2012
Published on Feb 9, 2012
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