Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a survival horror game first released in 2010 for PC by Frictional Games. Amnesia: Justine is a short expansion for the original game and Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs is an indirect sequel set in the same world as the original. The Amnesia Collection brings all three together for the first time on Playstation 4.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
In The Dark Descent you wake up in a large, dark and very creepy castle with no memory. As you explore the castle, you slowly piece together how you came to be in this situation. Through a series of flashbacks and letters you will find lying around, you discover that your name is Daniel and that you are being stalked by an unseen evil entity. You must navigate the dark halls, solving puzzles and fixing machinery in order to rid yourself of this evil.
This is made harder by the monsters who roam the corridors of the castle and are not fond of visitors. With no way of defending yourself you are forced to run away and hide in a dark corner. This is where the sanity meter comes into play. An interesting game mechanic that I have not seen since Eternal Darkness. If you spend too long in darkness, your grip on reality will start to be affected. This can cause hallucinations, such as moving walls and can seriously impede your progress. Solving puzzles and staying in the light will restore your sanity but will expose you to attack. You can use a lantern to light your way, or light candles in the castle using tinderboxes that you find on your journey but these are all limited so must be managed carefully.
The use of light and dark, the effect of the sanity meter and the genuinely disturbing look of the creatures add up to a very atmospheric experience.
Much like The Dark Descent in atmosphere and tone, Justine uses the same core gameplay but adds a twist to the experience. This time you play as a female prisoner in a dark and murky dungeon. Audio messages on a series of phonographs left by the title character fill in the story as you attempt to escape. As you progress through the prison you will encounter several other captives who will appeal to you to try and save them. But with the abominations of the original possibly lurking around the corner, it is up to you to decide whether it is worth the risk to your own safety. With no game save or checkpoints, it really adds to the tension in this short and sweet entry to the series.
Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs
Released in 2013, A Machine For Pigs was developed by The Chinese Room, now better known for walking simulators Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture. What at first appears to be an unrelated sequel, once again through flashbacks and letters, you discover links to the original game. The story begins with a man named Oswald waking up in a large abandoned Victorian mansion, with an unsurprising case of memory loss. Oswald’s motivation in this entry is the search for his missing children, guided by a voice who calls him on the telephone at various points and informs him that they are trapped somewhere in the mansion. What follows is a journey into an underground machine, built below the mansion by persons unknown.
Anyone who has played the more recent games by The Chinese Room will know what to expect from this game. Gone is the inventory management and the sanity meter. You still get a lantern to light dark areas, which will alert nearby enemies but it also never runs out. You can now hide in the dark as long as you like with no danger of losing your mind. This leads to a much more linear experience and less interactivity with the world. In The Dark Descent you could open nearly all drawers and cupboards but in A Machine For Pigs most doors appear to be just for show.
This change in style makes it a different beast from the original but adds to the collection with a more psychological experience and a more focused story.
The Dark Descent starts strong with a very creepy and foreboding atmosphere and the first time you encounter a monster can be quite frightening. The inability to defend yourself forces you to be stealthy which could put off someone looking for a bit more action.
Justine is an interesting companion to The Dark Descent with the added tension of insta-death but can be completed in about ten minutes if you know what you are doing.
A Machine For Pigs completes the collection with more emphasis on story but with less tension and simplified gameplay.
The age of the games means the graphics are a little dated but the clever use of darkness and atmosphere help to cover any short comings. With several different styles across the three experiences, there is something here for most survival horror fans. The influence of games like Eternal Darkness are very apparent with the inclusion of the sanity meter in The Dark Descent. But you can also see how these games influenced more recent fare such as SOMA and Everyone’s Gone To The Rapture. Anyone who enjoyed those games should find plenty here to appreciate.