Amnesia: The Dark Descent Review

excellent
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Amnesia: The Dark Descent is not your average game. It’s not made for children and it’s not made for elderly people. It’s a game made to do one thing: scare the players down to their core. You might think we are ready for it, after all these years of gaming, but nothing will prepare us for this experience.

Frictional Games have made a name for themselves with the Penumbra series – Penumbra: Overture, Penumbra: Black Plague, and Penumbra: Requiem. They have perfected over time a type of horror game that has no real competitor.

Sure enough, we have played a lot of horror games by now, and the sensitivity of the gamers around the globe has been diminished to a point where it's actually hard to scare people, unless you are using really graphical images and disgusting, violent scenes. Even then, it is no longer a scare, it’s more disgust than anything else.

The Penumbra series tried to change the way we think about horror games and it managed to pique an interest when they were published. Frictional Games wanted you to be scared, but not because of the game, and because of your imagination.

One fact is certain, developers have long lost the ability to scare us, but we can still scare ourselves. Some of us gamers are in our thirties and we are not supposed to be afraid of the dark, but alone in a forest, in a moonless night, or in a creaking basement, our imagination goes awry. We can think of the worst and most unimaginable stuff, and this is the making of a real terror.

Installation

Frictional Games provide a single .sh file for Amnesia: The Dark Descent. We have installed the game in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS without any problems. Just open a terminal and enter the following commands, one by one (the name of the file might vary if it's updated):

sudo chmod a+x amnesia_tdd-1.2.1-3.sh
./amnesia_tdd-1.2.1-3.sh


Follow the instructions of the installer and there shouldn't be any problems.

Gameplay

The player awakes in a castle (the Brennenburg Castle to be later revealed) and has little recollection of who he is, with the exception of his name, and what he's doing there. I would be revealing too much about the game if I explain more than this.

I can only tell you that you must go deeper into the castle and defeat a great enemy that dwells there. He has his malformed servants patrolling the halls, and they will kill you.

The one great thing about Amnesia: The Dark Descent is the fact that there are no weapons for the player. You can only hide or put temporary obstacles in front of the enemies, but you won’t be able to do much else. You must always remember the rooms behind you and know the places that can be used for hiding.

The mechanics of the game are really helpful for this type of gameplay. Players can control the elements from the world with the mouse, such as doors, tables, and so on. When you open a door you don’t just press a key to do it, you have to pull or push with the mouse. This is very helpful when you want to check out a room or if you want to peek from inside a wardrobe.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent also features an interesting gameplay twist that I’ve only seen once before in Cthulhu: Dark Corner of the Earth. Just like in that game, the player mustn't expose the character he’s controlling to too many atrocities, as he will lose his mind.

In Cthulhu: Dark Corner of the Earth, the developers went even a step further making the main character to eventually commit suicide in various ways, usually depending on what he was holding at the time (knife, gun, etc).

The only way to keep the character sane is by exposing him to light. Unfortunately, the light also makes him a lot more visible, and the sources of light are quite scarce, so you will have to balance the exposure to light really carefully.

The Bad

The game is about tension, so I can understand that some of the interludes between action scenes need to vary, but sometimes you can go a long way without anything happening, especially at the beginning.

The story also has a really slow development and has to be put together by the player. I’m not saying that a narrative voice was needed, as it would have totally disturbed the atmosphere, but I would have loved some more books in the game, or other clues to what is actually happening.

The Good

I don’t know if it’s the scariest game I’ve ever played. I’m more mature now and I’m harder to influence, but you should watch some of the YouTube videos about people playing. They are hilarious and they actually represent what most people feel about it.

The fact that people record themselves while being scared is the best ad a game could possibly want, and it's a testament of its quality.

The developers also recommend playing the game Amnesia: The Dark Descent with the lights off and using a headset. This is the first time I heard a developer saying this, although this is how gamers recommend horror games for friends.

Conclusion 

I find it hard to imagine what they can do after Amnesia: The Dark Descent. They’ve used every trick in the book: doors squeaking, heavy breathing, unforgettable monsters, and light manipulation. I’m officially impressed and I have to say no one should miss this game if they want to know how a game should scare you, in order to make you like it, if that makes any sense.
user interface 5
features 5
ease of use 4
pricing / value 5


final rating 5
Editor's review
excellent
 
NEXT REVIEW: Bastion for Linux

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