Developer: Frictional Games
Publisher: Frictional Games
Platform: PC,OSX,Linux PS4
Tested on: PS4
Amnesia Collection – Review
Remember the days when you were afraid of the dark, when you thought there was something behind every door , in every dark corner of your room and most definitely under your bed. Monsters were waiting until that last ray of light faded away after you turned off the light. If you don’t remember that you might be suffering from amnesia. Then it’s time to turn off those lights and turn up the sound and hit play on Amnesia collection of Frictional Games. This box contains Amnesia: The Dark Descent, its expansion Justine and the sequel: A Machine for Pigs.
In Amnesia : The Dark Descent the story revolves around Daniel, an English man who lived in London Mayfair who finds himself in a strange Prussian castle named Brennenburg. He doesn’t remember a thing when he wakes up and all he can do is wander around investigate and trying to make sense of why he is there. From time to time you will find pieces of paper that will help you through your journey. These are clues of what happened in this place or a warning for you and what to watch out for.
Moving on to the expansion Amnesia : Justine the story takes a different turn, you wake up in a small room, you’re disoriented and the only guidance you’ll receive is from prerecorded voice messages on a phonograph. The story leaves you very much in the dark about the character you’re playing and the place you are in. The only thing that is very clear is that you need to get out and away from whoever recorded their voice.
Last but not least we have the expansion Amnesia : A Machine for Pigs Set which takes place in London on New Year’s, 1899 starring Oswald Mandus a rich industrialist and butcher who wakes up from a fever after several inexplicable months. It is somewhat implied that Oswald is related to Daniel from the first game and not just because they both seem to suffer from amnesia after returning from an expedition in Mexico.
Overall the flow of the story of the three games comes at a decent speed. We regularly get bits and pieces of information to progress the story. What all three stories share is that the player has a lot to uncover and you’re often literally kept in the dark.
An important side note to make before discussing the graphics is that the original games were released in 2010, 2011 and 2013 respectively and created by a rather small team. The graphics are not of the highest quality but considering you mostly walk around in the dark this is not a deal breaker. They are decent enough to support the overall mood. If you start looking at the details you’ll notice plenty of repetition in the textures and objects. If you opened one desk drawer or moved one barrel you’ve seen them all. For gameplay reason it’s not advisable to look at enemies longer than a few seconds because if you would, you would notice the rather low poly approach. The final game of the series does have a newer version of the engine and there for has better graphic.
The background music in the games is intrusive and instead of being scary it can become repetitive and annoying. Scary sound effects of the monsters on the other hand are decent and will send chills down your spine sometimes. The voice acting is great and well-articulated so you can understand it very clearly even if you are not a native speaker of English.
Amnesia Collection is a set of three puzzle survival horror games. These games are textbook examples of what survival horror games should be. Your only goal in these games is to stay alive, figure out what is going on and get the hell out the creepy place you’re in. To add more survival in survival horror there are no weapons in the games, no way to defend yourself from whatever/whoever is out there lurking around the corner.
One of the most defining gameplay elements is the use of light and darkness. The games take place in dark deserted places with little to no sun light besides the occasional hole in the ceiling or a window that is not boarded up completely. This leaves the player literally in the dark of what is going on. Fear not however, we have two main sources of light at our disposal. First we have a portable oil lamp, but be careful not to use it all the time because the lamp will eventually run out of oil. On the other hand you can collect tinderboxes scattered around the area which can be used to light up the candles and torches around the place, however it’s limited by use. So use it wisely.
Staying in the light has more than one advantage, it not only helps you to see the actual puzzles but it also keeps your sanity up, staying in the dark or witnessing strange events of monstrous appearances will cause you to lose your sanity and eventually you’ll collapse on the floor where you will be completely vulnerable to anything or anyone who stumbles upon you. So let’s light this place up, shall we? Sadly there is one downside to the light side, everyone can see you, and sometimes you must linger in the dark to avoid being seen by the monsters lurking around. Balancing your sanity, and your oil/tinderboxes while dodging monster will become the main task of the game. Solving puzzles and in general progressing through the game also has a positive effect on your sanity.
If you want to check up on your health, sanity, oil and tinderboxes you must open the inventory screen as nothing is displayed on screen, this adds to the immersion. The inventory screen also doesn’t pause the game which adds tension to solving puzzles because spending too much time in the inventory leaves you vulnerable.
As for the flow and pacing of the game it is well thought of, its tension and build up is fantastically done which reminds me of the movie Alien. You don’t get to see very much and a lot of darkness surrounds you, not knowing what lurks in the corner. It will keep you on your toes before progressing into the next area.
Another interesting mechanic is the use of objects. Any object you can use will turn your cursor into a hand icon. Some items can be used merely to be thrown away and distract enemies while others can actually daze an enemy and buy you precious seconds to get to safety. Doors and boxes can be opened but you decide the speed of the opening. For a box this is irrelevant but for doors this makes a difference. You can bash in a door while making a lot of sound and possibly attract all nearby enemies or you can gently slide open a door and take a quick peek around the corner before you enter the room. The same goes for when you are running away from something, the faster the better. Doors also only open in one direction so sometimes when you’re in a hurry you might be trying to push instead of pull. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there and we all lose a little bit of our sanity over it.
There is a significant change in gameplay between the first two games and the third game. In the final game of the series the inventory is removed, no more collecting oil and tinderboxes. Thus there are no more laudanum potions to restore health. This makes the sanity mechanic completely obsolete so that’s also removed. The focus of the game is moved to the environmental puzzles.
Amnesia Collection is not for everyone, it’s very much oriented towards the puzzle fans and the horror survival fans who enjoy the occasional jump scare. If you like a lot of action packed sequences with a fast moving rhythm this is not a good match for you. The game compels you to feel vulnerable and challenges you at the same time to overcome your fear of dark. If you have a couple of nights free and your neighbors don’t mind the occasional screams coming from your house then go ahead and dive into the collection.