If you have not yet heard of Amnesia, either you are not a fan of video games or you have been living under a rock. Amnesia videos are all over Youtube; people filming their reactions or doing walkthroughs. I have fought with myself whether to talk about this game, as I have not yet completed it, but seeing as it could take months for me to pluck up the courage to continue, I thought I better share it so you could experience it (if you haven’t already.) Amnesia was released in August last year so I’m a little late, but I think it is important to remind people that Amnesia exists.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is the story of Daniel. You wake up in a strange and crumbling castle with no memory. Throughout the game, you come across notes and diary entries and slowly, you begin to piece together the information you have forgotten. You realise what has happened to you and what you must do. Alexander of Brenneburg is obviously your enemy and a mystical orb you found in Africa is the key.
One of the letters you find at the start states quite simply: “A shadow is following you” then swiftly adds, “Don’t be afraid.” So, that’s meant to help is it?
Amnesia is a survival horror. The difference to most horror games, however, is the fact you cannot fight the monsters you come in contact with- you must run. This makes it much worse. Games like Dead Space at least give you guns, which makes you feel better because you have something to defend yourself with. Amnesia gives you nothing except a lamp that you use to penetrate the darkness. If you come across a monster, you must either hide and pray it doesn’t find you, or run and hope it doesn’t chase you. The further you get into the game, the harder it is to do both of those things, so you have to be extremely careful. I mentioned you get given a lantern, and you do need it. The game is very, very dark (if you play by the proper gamer settings that they recommend.) You are given oil to fuel the lamp and tinderboxes to light candles along the way. You quickly learn to use the lantern sparingly and collect as many tinderboxes as you can. If your lantern runs out you must progress blind with the moans of begging women and crying babies around you. In other words, you’re doomed. Another aspect that makes this game so frightening (other than the atmosphere, music etc.) is the lack of human contact. Daniel seems to be the only living human being in the castle with only the terrifying ‘Gatherers’ for company. The monsters aren’t nice looking either- hunched over things with jaws that look like they’re dislocated.
The darkness is also your enemy; if you stand in it too long, you slowly become more freaked out and lose more of your sanity. If you lose too much of your sanity you can’t run, the monsters find it easier to spot you and you can randomly fall over- which are all disastrous if a monster is near. It’s best to stay in the light as much as possible but be wary; you’ll be like a glowing beacon. Also, if you stare at monsters too long while hiding, you’ll drain your sanity and all of the above can happen. So really, it is a balancing act between staying sane and staying safe. It may sound simple, but when there are screaming men and growling Gatherers echoing through the corridor, it’s very hard to focus on multiple things.
I would stress that everyone plays Amnesia: The Dark Descent the way the game developers intended- lights off at night with headphones on. But then again, I first played it in the bright sunshine and it still managed to scare the bejesus out of me! I can only manage to play a maximum of thirty minutes at a time otherwise I’m worried I will have a heart attack.
There is not much more I can say about Amnesia without spoiling the storyline or talking about the multiple times you jump out of your skin! But, if you’ve found any of this article interesting, or intriguing, I politely ask you to download the demo from Steam or the Frictional Games website. Give it a go. Despite being scared out of your wits, you will enjoy it, if only as a means of escapism. Also, it is important to support the indie game developers, and I think Frictional Games deserve it with this offering. The graphics are high quality, and the storyline is intriguing. Support them.
A DLC is available called ‘Justine’ that lasts at least half an hour. You play as a woman this time, waking up in a small cell with a gramophone issuing instructions. Short and sweet.