Another week of glorious indie gaming here on VagaryTV. Last week we took a stroll through the wonderful game of Terraria, enjoying sprite based crafting and adventure to its fullest. This week, I mix things up and scare all of last week’s joy straight into my pants. The game, Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
Amnesia is a survival, horror game made by Frictional Games, the creators of the old Prenumbra series. The objective of the game is to discover who you are and why you are in a castle seemingly alone. With only notes and diary entries to guide you, you must discover why you have Amnesia and the meaning behind your “experiences.” What is interesting about this game is that combat isn’t an option. If you are attacked, you had better learn to hide, run, and throw obstacles out of your way, fast.
What makes Amnesia so fantastic is the atmosphere. Everything in this game is utilized to help freak you out, from sounds to visuals. Often times you are stuck in the dark with only a lantern to guide you through the worn stone halls of doom. Suddenly a gust of wind will blow up a plume of dust or the sound of something scurrying comes at you from behind. Many terrifying moments are in the smallest of details, but they can also come from the most intense barrage of information on your senses. The game has moments where your character is so terrified that you will fall to the ground with fear and begin to crawl at a snail’s pace. One of the scariest moments in the game for me was being chased by an invisible monster in the water of a basement. I had to throw objects out of my way while splashes and guttural growls approached from behind. You can’t move obstacles and look behind you at the same time, forcing you to panic as the noises get closer. Mommy.
The game’s interface is simple to use and understand. You have a basic grid box for inventory management, a meter for how much oil is in your lamp, and two visual representation: Health and Sanity. None of these are visible as a HUD display, but instead force you to pull out of the game using a tabbed menu. Here you can create new items from clues and objects you have found whilst managing oil levels and tinder boxes (matches that let you light your path without using oil). Health is straight forward and seems to slowly regen with enough time. Played correctly, you should never take damage, but occasionally you will nearly die or fall requiring some form of healing. Sanity is the fun element to the game. The more time you spend in darkness the more your sanity falters. As your sanity drops you will start to hear things, see things, have visual distortions and troubles moving. This is where your lantern and tinder boxes come in handy. You will need to find safe havens of light to keep from going insane by utilizing torches and candles along the journey. This comes with a risk though, light the path too much and you could be forced into utter darkness later or even worse, be easily seen by forces that you don’t want to see you. Trust me, you don’t want them to see you.
Amnesia also utilizes simple problem solving puzzles that will need to be solved in order to progress through the castle. None of these are overly challenging brain teasers. More often than not it requires you to explore and find items and then combine them to serve a purpose. These problems cater well to the game, forcing you to explore areas that are dark and at first glance, you want to leave behind. I did find some of the final puzzles a bit more difficult, but this was probably because I stopped reading my diary entries where the clues you need are often hidden.
Overall, the game is an amazing buy IF you love being scared and non combat based adventures. While the game isn’t long (I played roughly 20 hours) it is well worth the $20 price tag. If you want to try the game out first, have at the free demo on Steam. I can promise you this game is a great way to freak yourself out. As the intro to the game suggests, turn off your lights and put on some headphones… I only add this, bring an extra pair of pants.