I don't really get scared watching movies. For me watching a horror movie is just to see what they've done from a gore stand point. Jump scares and all that are to easy to see coming whenever I watch something so I usually don't bother. Now games on the other hand, they can scare the living crap out of me. From some NES games to Resident Evil and more recently Cryostasis when a game has good jump scares they floor me. I don't know if it's something about the interactivity of it that makes me scare so easy but it does happen and will probably always happen.
When I first heard about Amnesia I was interested in playing it. It was being called the, "Scariest game of all time" and it would make grown people break down and cry. I knew it would be something that would be hard for me to play as I scare so easy when it comes to games so it did take me awhile to actually get around to playing it.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent was released in late 2010. Brought to us by Frictional Games who had made the Penumbra series before this. It was first released as a digital download and later saw a retail release.
This takes place in 1839, you play as a man named Daniel. You awake in this castle unable to remember why he's in said castle and really not a whole lot about who he is. You set off to explore and you eventually find out that you're after something and that something is hunting you down, I'm keeping this vague as to not spoil any of the story.
Amnesia plays out in a first person perspective but it is not a FPS, in fact there isn't any combat in this game at all. You walk around solving puzzles and trying to reach your overall goal. It really made me think of it as a first person adventure game, as if something like Kings Quest or Phantasmagoria were in the first person. You find items and usually need to use them in some puzzle later on.
The controls for this are extremely tight. I absolutely love the feel the mouse has when you're looking around, it just feels so right. When some of the sanity stuff comes into play you get this neat sway effect that again just feels right with whats going on on the screen. If I could have anything to complain about the overall movement Daniel feels like he jumps way to high for the type of game it is.
Light plays a big role in your journey. Then you're in the darkness you start to lose sanity the lower your sanity goes the more crazy stuff you start to see. It reminds me of Eternal Darkness but I never saw it get super extreme like that game did, it never fakes a format of your hard drive and any of that breaking the fourth wall type of stuff. To fight back the insanity you need to be in the light and this can be handled a few ways. Sometimes candles and lanterns and such are already lit when you find them. You can find tinderboxes to light additional candles and the like. You also come into possession of a lantern you can carry around with you. The catch there is you need oil to keep it going which you'll find in all sorts of nooks and hidey holes around the castle.
Darkness can be your friend at times, it helps you hide from the monsters. Since you have zero combat options whenever a monster comes along you need to duck behind something and hope to hell it doesn't see you. Even with that there is a catch, you can't look at the monster. If you look at it your sanity drops quickly and eventually the thing you're looking at will see you and well, kill you dead. You have to balance hiding and you sanity to make sure you stay hidden but don't got all bat shit crazy from the darkness.
Now I do want to say, Amnesia is a good game. It has a great atmosphere and the story and setting are all really well done. But I do need to say this the game isn't that scary. It's creepy and there are some really messed up stuff going on in the world of Amnesia but I didn't really get scared much. It has one really good jump scare near the beginning of the game and after that, not so much. The tension can build up when you're being chased which I will say is thrilling but not really scary.
One of the things that doesn't really make this game scary to me is the lack on monsters. You really only encounter two types of monsters through out and for about ninety percent of the game it's only one type you see. For me horror is about the unknown and after you're seen the first monster there isn't really anything left unknown. They all look the same when you hear that sound that tells you a monster is coming you know what to expect and it just takes away from the horror. Now don't get me wrong the two monsters you see most in this are really cool looking (But still very similar looking) I would of loved to see some other messed up things, a little more variety would of been great.
The other thing I really didn't care for were some of the puzzles. Some of them were not easy to figure out, I'm not one to shrug off a challenge, while some of the puzzles required a little thinking to figure out some were not intuitive to figure out at all. The solution would be so abstract it took away from the overall experience. I had to look up the solution to one puzzle and the still didn't get it after I knew the solution I just sat there and wondered how anyone would figure it out on their own.
In closing I want to say it again. Amnesia is a really good game and yeah you should probably play it but don't believe all the hype, it's not that scary. Everything about the game comes together to make a great experience but it's just not an overall scary one. After playing this I really want to check out the Penumbra games as I've never played them but I am expecting more of the same in the "horror" department but I do think they'll be fun to play.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent 7 out of 10 (It's not scary)