Fight the Fear
Amnesia Collection has come to Xbox One, and includes both the original Dark Descent and A Machine For Pigs, as well as the stand-alone expansion, Justine. Originally released in 2010, Amnesia: Dark Descent is a horror-survival game that has you play as Daniel, a man waking up in a large mansion with no memory from before. You quickly find a note, signed by yourself, explaining why you have amnesia, and what you need to do, but it’s very cryptic. As you continue you learn that to keep from going completely insane you need to stay in lit areas as much as possible. This is extremely difficult as very few torches or other sources of light are actually lit, and you have to find tinderboxes to be able to light them. You also find a lantern to help, but it uses oil that is in scarce supply.
Although there are similarities between Amnesia and other games of the genre, it takes a different approach to enemies compared to games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill. In Amnesia you don’t fight any enemies, you can only hide or run. This helps make the game truly terrifying, especially when you turn around with lantern in hand to see a shadowy figure at the end of the hallway. This is not the type of game I generally play, but it certainly does the job of making you fear for your life.
First and foremost, Amesia makes you focus on surviving. You are not going to go around looking for a fight, because you will lose every time. Most of the gameplay is about searching the many dark rooms and hallways looking for any clues to your past, and trying to find the way forward. To access certain areas you will need to solve puzzles. Some involve using hidden switches, others require moving random objects into the right spot. Every puzzle will require some decent observation skills, and can make you think outside the box. None of these puzzles were impossible, but you add in the always present fear of some monster sneaking up behind you and it creates a real sense of urgency.
The controls are fairly simple in Amnesia. Mostly you will aim a reticle at an item and use the right trigger to activate it. This works when picking something up or opening doors. Certain items, like torches, will tell you what button to hit to use it. Sometimes it is hard to get focus on the right object, but nothing game-breaking. Other than that there is a button to sneak, one to bring out or put away the lantern, and another to bring up your inventory. Fairly standard and easy to learn.
The atmosphere created by the soundtrack in Amnesia is perfect for a horror game. Not only does the music fit perfectly in every situation, the random noises you hear could give you a heart attack. The first time I heard some random scuffling close by I was spinning around like my life depended on it. This just turned out to be some rather large roaches thankfully. At times you’ll hear something walking around in the floor above you, or a random piano start to play, and even a woman screaming for help in some far off room. These sounds will have you doubting every step you take.
Since Amnesia is an 8 year old game I expected the visuals to be completely outdated, and detract from the experience. However, it surprisingly holds up. It’s obvious that it wasn’t made for high-def TVs, but it is still very clean, and the changes from dark to well-lit areas works great. That first time you’re searching in some little storeroom and your lantern runs out of oil, leaving you in almost complete darkness, you’ll understand why the graphics are perfectly fine the way they are. If you’re in darkness long enough you might start to see roaches crawling across your vision, and unfortunately it is more comical than scary. But, this was the only time I felt it was out of place.
Although Amnesia is not the type of game I generally play, it is a great addition to the game library of anyone who loves to be scared. There are times it will give you a quick fright, but most of the game relies on a general sense of impending doom. Overall everything works well together to bring even the most experienced survival horror game veteran a terrifyingly good time. The collection will run you $29.99 in the Microsoft Store, which I feel is a little steep for a game this old, but you can expect to get 20+ hours if you play through it all.