Amnesia: The Dark Descent Review
Amnesia: The Dark Descent box art
System: PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Frictional Games 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Frictional Games 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Sept. 8, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Pending 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
What’s Eating You?
by Cole Smith

How good is Amnesia: The Dark Descent? Or maybe you want to know how scary it is? Let me put it this way; I had to shut the game down a few times to satisfy myself I was absolutely alone in my house. My house is over a hundred years old, and it really doesn’t take a game this creepy to get my imagination going. Considering I play games professionally, this is about as good a testimonial I can give a game. It’s seriously messed up.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent screenshot

If you didn’t like the Blair Witch Project (not the sequel, no one could like that), then you probably love Doom. I use this psychological profiling to make the point that if you like Doom and didn’t like Blair Witch, you aren’t engaging your imagination sufficiently. Things are much scarier when left to your imagination. All too often we rely on visuals to do the work for us, and that’s when things get lame. Nothing can freak you out without permission from your mind, and Amnesia will put your imagination to work in overdrive. I implore you to play this game, but consider a few things first lest you come to the conclusion it sucks. This is not a shooter. You will not have a weapon at all. You are vulnerable. It’s the closest thing you’ll experience to a living nightmare. And don’t expect to see a lot monsters, this is not Doom. The creatures are there, but you don’t always see them, until it’s too late. You can hear and sense them while they stalk you, there’s just not a lot you can do about it except cower in the dark and slowly lose your mind. If this game doesn’t disturb you, your imagination is broken.

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It’s difficult when describing Amnesia not to spoil the surprises. I’ll do my best to tap dance around the sensitive areas. Amnesia is a great game, and despite its obviously numerous influences, manages to come across completely original. The story may be old, but the way it’s told isn’t. The movie Memento is definitely one of the game’s biggest influences as the lead character, Daniel, is suffering from memory loss, locates notes he had written to himself during moments of greater cognition. We see other elements from games such as Silent Hill, Resident Evil and Fatal Frame, not to mention heavy doses of author H.P. Lovecraft, the master of the cerebral macabre. These are all great influences, and fortunately they are handled with respect and great care to generate a horrific masterpiece of unquestionable pedigree. Let’s face it, mixing all these elements can be a recipe for disaster as we’ve seen many times.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent screenshot

As I mentioned, this isn’t a shooter. It’s an adventure game. But it’s more interactive than the standard point-and-click. You have to move the mouse in relation to the action you wish to perform. If you want to open a door you have to click on the knob and pull the mouse in the direction you want the door to open. Same thing with drawers. You will also be able to pick up objects such as keys and insert them into locks. Objects can also be thrown, combined and otherwise manipulated as required. Puzzle solving is a staple of action adventure games. Amnesia manages to include lots of puzzles relevant to the gameplay. At the expense of being easy, the puzzles feel realistic. Some trial and error is required for a few of them, but you won’t be stumped long, nor will you have to do any backtracking as everything you need is in your immediate vicinity. The simple puzzles and lack of backtracking contributes to the short gameplay, but that’s preferred over padding it with redundant content.

My only concern is some of the voiceovers are insanely amateurish. It just astounds me how the developers can be so meticulous on so many levels but don’t have the aptitude for producing believable recorded dialogue. Being aware of an actor reading his lines poorly tends to dissipate the illusion the game is attempting to create.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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