The lights are on
I have never known fear as I have experienced in the 8 hour journey that is Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It's unlike any video game you have ever probably played (unless you have played Frictional Games' Penumbra series) in that it doesn't play like most other video games. There's no combat. The story, while rich and deep, isn't just laid out for you. You have to piece the events together yourself. It's truly unlike any game I have ever played, and I can gladly say it's been one of my favorites.
I'm not known as one to get scared from most things. Scary movies, books, TV shows, other video games just don't really phase me. The fear all seems too fake. The opposite is with Amnesia. Instead of watching someone try to survive in the midst of horror and death, you are the one trying to survive. The level of immersion that Amnesia offers is unprecedented. To truly experience the fear, one must play this game in the dark with headphones on at high volume. Otherwise, the ambiance that the game provides will be at waste. The excellent yet subtle score pieced with the chilling environments only add to the experience.
You're thrust into a mid-19th century Prussian castle as Daniel. Not much is known about him except that he had forced amnesia upon himself in order to forget something. He's left only with a note from his former self ordering him to kill the baron of the castle, Alexander. The journey of the game is simply to find Alexander.
Exploring the castle is akin to exploring Rapture in BioShock. While certain places look familiar, the areas never look inviting and things can make a twist for the worse at any given time. From lush and luxurious castle rooms to dark and mysterious cellars, Amnesia offers many varied and interesting environments.
However, what Amnesia: The Dark Descent is known for most is the horror aspect, and believe me when I say that the developers spared no expense in making you want to shut your eyes, pull out your headphones, and turn on the lights in fear. As you explore the castle, you are constantly being followed by a creature. This creature, known as the "Shadow" is a terrifying sight. One moment you solve a particularly difficult puzzle and the next you see the creature coming out a dark corridor with means to kill you. With no way to fight, you're forced to run and hide. If you hide well enough, eventually the monster will leave. If you don't, however, you face a loud and violent death. You will never grow numb to the fear of death. The monster experiences are just far enough apart from each other to stay fresh and scary consistently.
In addition to offering no way to defend yourself, the limited resources provided only add to the fear. Throughout the game, you will find a lantern, many tinderboxes to light light sources, and an assortment of random items you will use to solve puzzles. Given only a limited amount of tinderboxes, you will be forced to use them sparingly. In addition, your lantern has only a certain amount of oil. When in use, it will burn through the oil, eventually running out. When in light, Daniel will remain sane. When in the darkness, however, he will start to lose it. Hallucinations, chills, and monsters all lurk in the dark. It's smart to stay in the light as often as possible.
Other than the survival aspect of the game, Amnesia also features a decent puzzle system. Most of the puzzle involve you exploring the many rooms, finding pieces and then using them to get to the next area. Sometimes it's very simple, but in later areas things can get quite difficult and you aren't given very much to go off of other than the occasional memento or journal entry. But it's always very satisfying when you solve a puzzle and get to the next area.
All in all, Amnesia is both extremely terrifying and terrifyingly well done. From the eerie score, the solid visuals and puzzle solving, and the water-inducing atmosphere and creatures, Amnesia is a game that should be experienced by all. You won't know true fear until you play Amnesia. In the dark with headphones on, of course.
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