Genre: Survival Horror
Release Date: September 2010 (Digital Download - Steam)
February 2011 (Digital/Retail, N. America)
Note: Originally published 16 April 2011
I eagerly start to play Amnesia, one of the most horrifying games in recent years according to most media. The loading screen really lives up to this expectation. The game suggests you turn off the lights and use headphones to play. This is definitely a great suggestion!
Based on my experiences playing ‘horror’ based games, there are 2 different types of games out there: those that put emphasis on action (such as Resident Evil and the Silent Hill series) and those that put emphasis on atmosphere (such as the Last Half of Darkness series, Dark Fall and Scratches). The first group usually has few puzzles – most of which involve pulling levers and finding keys – and forces you into a killing spree in order to survive, which is why they're called horror survival games. The other group has lots of difficult puzzles and most likely, you do not have to kill anything in order to finish the game. Now in which group does Amnesia belong?
You play as Daniel, who wakes up with amnesia on the floor of the big empty Castle Brennenburg. The first note he finds suggests that he kill Alexander, the master of the house. Who is Alexander, why did Daniel wake up alone and how can Daniel escape the castle? These are questions you'll need to answer throughout the game.
Amnesia uses a first-person perspective and a combination of mouse and keyboard to control the action of the main character. For example, to open the door you need to click the mouse on the door handle, hold it and move it backward with your mouse. Sound tedious? At first, I felt the same. But I guess it adds realism to the control. The same applies when you want to stack boxes or throw things.
Since it is a horror game, most of the environments are dark. You need a light source such as a lantern or candle to be able to see much of the time. The lantern is the only light source that you can take with you while you're exploring the house. So if you miss it at the beginning of the game, you’re screwed. To make it more difficult you need oil to light your lantern. Oil is fairly scarce, so don’t waste it. The other light sources are candles and torches in several places that you can light using tinderboxes. Use these sparingly as well; you will run out.
There is an extra feature that you will need to worry about: your sanity level. The sanity level will degrade when Daniel stays in the dark too long. When it's low, Daniel's vision becomes blurry and shaky; this makes it difficult to see clearly. If it reaches zero then Daniel will go insane, or game over. You can stay in the light to keep your mental focus, but again, light sources are limited. So this is an interesting part of the game and it’s totally dynamic. Either you keep your wits by staying in the light all the time and using those limited light resources to the max, or hide from your enemies in the dark and risk your sanity.
As in other horror games, there are monsters throughout the game. The worst part is you can't kill them. You cannot find any weapons or anything else that can be used to kill these monsters. The only thing you can do is hide or run away whenever you hear those strange scary noises. This makes the game extremely difficult at times. You can use any open closet, cabinet or anything that has an opening to hide.
You'll find notes in the game that will reveal the story little by little. Most of the time they will bring flashback videos that will explain various incidents. As far as I know, there are only 3-5 puzzles in the entire game that are close to being adventure game-style puzzles. Most of the others are simply pulling levers, breaking walls, finding keys and stacking boxes to reach a way out. I don’t think we consider those things puzzles, do we? Luckily, the answers to all of the ‘puzzles’ lie in close proximity to the problems, so you don’t need to backtrack all the way to the beginning just to try to find a key to open a door near the end. Just look around closely and most of the time you will find the solution nearby.
The sound is where the game shines! The eerie sound, echoing footsteps, the wind gusts and several other sound FX really gave me the creeps while playing the game. Believe me, I’m not the kind of person who gets scared easily by watching or playing games. But this game is totally different. You don’t need tons of blood to scare you; just the perfect sound, environment and atmosphere will give you the chills.
So finally, how do I rate this game? Hmmmm…this is a tough one to grade. From the perspective of an adventure game purist, I would give it no more than a "C." Not because it's a bad game but simply because there are not enough elements to categorize it as a real adventure game. It plays more like an action game without a gun or other killing tools, and even with the absence of such tools, the game is way too short.
Amnesia heavily depends on your ability to use your keyboard and mouse to manipulate objects, either to pull, throw or stack them, and on your agility in jumping, ducking and running. These are the main skills for an action game, whereas in adventure games you depend mostly on your ability to solve puzzles with your brain without worrying about being killed by monsters or how skillfully you'll be able to jump between boxes. Really, one of the main reasons I stick with playing adventure games is that my mouse/keyboard skills are not among my strongest assets.
But objectively, I think this is a really good game that deserves at least a B+. Not many games can play with your emotions as skillfully as this one. The sense of something watching every move you make along with not knowing what will happen to you adds value to the gameplay.
It’s too bad the good old point-and-click system cannot handle everything within this game.
OS: Windows XP/Vista/7
2 GB RAM
Disc Space: 3GB
Video Card: Radeon X1000/GeForce 6
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