Amnesia: The Dark Madness - Game Review
Recently, the horror genre has been replaced by action games full of spectacular but predictable scenes. The fifth Resident Evil tried to scare us primarily with quick-time events and in Dead Space we simply traveled through dark locations where we were treated to disgusting and distasteful views. Meanwhile, the Swedish studio Frictional Games offers a real rarity for horror fans, because Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a conservative and classic representative of the genre, which contains some interesting ideas. If you are not convinced yet, then know that on the box with this game you could easily put the inscription: "The Minister of Health warns - prolonged contact threatens madness."
The first encounter with Amnesia: The Dark Descent inspires simple reflection - Frictional Games continues to draw alive from the work of Lovecraft and its style. One can even get the impression that the authors prepared a list of characteristic elements present in the writer's oeuvre and then placed them in the game. A hero with an identity disorder? She is, her name is Daniel. Ancient evil and references to ancient legends? Of course. A dark castle standing in the forest shrouded in fog? This also could not be missing. Of course, this is by no means a disadvantage, because walking through the dark corridors and wondering what is actually going on, we almost feel like the narrator of The Newcomer or another great story.
There is no point in translating the intricacies of the plot, or even giving an outline of the story of a mystery-based game. Instead, we can tell you how the vibe of Lovecraft's disturbing tales was translated into this particular gameplay. Production begins without further ado by explaining the basic principles. We are immediately thrown into the dark corridors, which cause creeps not only in the player, but also in the character they lead. The main character of the adventure was determined by two indicators - life and mental state. If we neglect any of them, we will face serious consequences. Losing health means death, and losing mental hygiene means slowly sliding into madness.
The basic tools of the player in Amnesia are an oil lamp and ... matches. Yes, it sounds a bit fun, but while playing, we would often give up a lot for a drip of oil or a piece of flint. Thanks to them, we can illuminate the darkness, and this calms the hero and restores his balance (at the same time, making our exploration easier). The character is afraid of the same thing as the player - inexplicable events, disturbing murmurs or screams from a distance or just dark corners. Let's say at once that there is no shortage of such elements, on the contrary, they are on the agenda. Despite this, the production tries to frighten in an intelligent way, using sparingly means that really stand on the head.
Lighting torches and candles is a method of keeping your character in good condition. Some situations, however, are too overwhelming, because squeaky doors and rumbling wind are not the only ways of causing a thrill in the player, which the castle gives us. There are real opponents in the game - twisted, humanoid beasts, suddenly appearing and trying to smell our presence. The hero does not have any weapons, indeed, he gets crazy even from simply looking at ugly monsters, so there is no question of any fight. Instead, we have to run away and hide in the dark. Darkness, as I said, doesn't work very well on Daniel's mind either. This is what makes us often work under a lot of stress, struggling with a man who gives in to madness.
This is not the end of the great ideas of Frictional Games studio, which decided to combine all the elements of the game. What will improve the well-being of a hero struggling with terrifying monsters and wandering around a dark castle? Of course, the discovery of another fragment of the secret and progress in the search. In the game, we have to search locations (sometimes also under time pressure) and solve simple puzzles. Very often we deal with broken machines that need to be repaired and started up. Most of the problems are solved by using the physics system in the game - moving objects, activating levers and putting machines together. After performing an important action, the hero's (and the player's) mental health returns to normal.
The story taking place in the dark castle is told in several ways - with suggestive visions, flashes of the hero's memory and texts scattered here and there. Many issues are spoken - the quality of the dubbing and the content itself varies, but it is generally good and even the sentences on the loading screens create the atmosphere. In fact, thanks to them, the reading of subsequent locations was in a sense included in the repertoire of narrative means. It is a pity, after all, that we have to wait so often. Games like Limbo show how impressive is the smooth exploration, undisturbed by any artificial downtime. It's hard to blame a small studio for technological limitations, but there are a few other things to fault.
The game is a very strong candidate for the title of the horror of the year (or the scariest game of the last few years), but its creators did not avoid some oversights or inconsistencies. The production becomes too linear at certain points, which upsets the overall atmosphere a bit. The lock can be broken only with one specific tool (highlighted in blue), even despite the fact that there are dozens of hammers and hacksaws in the area. At another point, we are looking for a rope - the game allows you to pick up only one type of it (hidden in a certain room), although we see a lot of different lines during the search. Limitations of this type are understandable in principle, but with the whole "open" physical system they are offensive.