2010 Reviews

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

  • Review Date: 2014-05
  • Release Date: 2010-09
  • Developer: Frictional Games
  • Rating: 7.0

Amnesia is created by a small (4-5 people) indie team named Frictional Games. They originally developed the three episode-style Penumbra games, which I found a bit overrated. To the point that I didn't even bother reviewing them on my website. They were just episodes, poorly designed, poor combat with nothing but an interesting story and dark, creepy setting. The design got progressively worse in each episode.

Fortunately their first full game, Amnesia, is a rapid improvement. They have clearly put a lot more effort into the design and detail of the levels, and the graphics engine is actually adequate. It still not at a triple A type quality, having just played Splinter Cell: Conviction, that offers far superior visuals and lighting. But it's decent enough for 2010. The atmosphere is all about maze-like castle interiors, dungeons, sewers, prison cells, all very small, dark and scary. There are only some areas that are just a little too confusing to navigate.

The sound and music is very well done, subtle but effective.

The actual gameplay is pretty much the same as Penumbra, except this time you can't kill any enemies. A very good choice. It makes the game far more scary when you do stumble upon a monster, which will kill you almost instantly if it spots you in the light. There's little chance of getting away. I struggle to think of a game that was scarier than this. Not so much because of any cinematic scares, but just the dark environment and vulnerability if you do get spotted.

Part of the gameplay is keeping your sanity level up, which is done by staying in the light. You have to keep collecting tinderboxes to light candles, as well as equip a lantern. I got up to about 80 tinderboxes until I just stopped bothering - I probably used about 5 throughout the entire game. You could probably get away with playing the entire game without a single one, if you really wanted. So they really weren't needed. You can also get injured and I collected a number of health packs, none of which were needed. The puzzles are all fairly standard - finding items and turning cranks. Nothing really advanced.

Sadly, the story in Amnesia was inferior to Penumbra. In the end I just got tired of reading notes and journals, many of which were quite confusing. You kind of need to read every single note and journal to make sense of it all. Without reading them, though, you may not really have much understanding of the story.

Overall I enjoyed Amnesia. It's a budget, indie game, and you can tell that throughout. But for it's budget it's very good. Just make sure to play in the dark and enjoy this very frightening game.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent