Developed and Published By: Frictional Games
Category: Survival Horror
Release Date: 09.12.2019
Amnesia: The Dark Descent was an indie PC title released in 2010 and became the basis for what a lot of horror games would try to achieve after it’s amazing success. Removing the jump scares from the equation (mostly) and working towards building environmental storytelling and a supreme eeriness that few games have even come close to since then is what made this title so special. At the time, horror games were in a bit of a lull. This was a time when Resident Evil switched to a more action-based model, Dead Space was taking the world by storm, and zombie video games were just beginning to flood the market. Guns and horror became synonymous, and something the major game makers thought was a necessary move as the slower more plodding horror titles were failing in the sales department. Then comes Amnesia, and many may not have heard of it, but it is the reason we had a renaissance of horror games that remove all the action, even going to the point where the protagonist CAN’T fight back. After Amnesia games like Slender, Outlast, and dozens of others were born, and although the zombies and action-packed adventures are still present, it was Amnesia that firmly planted a flag in the genre stating that horror games can be, well, horrifying.
Besides the classic original, this collection also comes combined with the stand-alone DLC Justine, as well as the sequel A Machine For Pigs. This is the first time the games have had an appearance on the Switch, as they have slowly been making their way over to the console side of things. It is incredible to see these games make it over to the more mainstream end of gaming as they are classics in their own right and many people, even horror fans, have probably never experienced them due to the niche nature they had at release. I would guess that after a playthrough of these there will several out there who understand where other horror titles got their inspiration. For those that haven’t ever touched the series, you are in for quite a ride.
Amnesia gets its name because in each of the titles your characters starts out without having their memory. Unsure of where you are and why, you must search around and try to piece the puzzle back together. You do know your name is Daniel, and things start to get weird when you find a letter written by yourself stating that you need to kill the baron of the castle you have find yourself in. Not knowing why you must do this you continue on in your search for answers while running into some mysterious monsters. You have the jaw-dropping main antagonists that will charge at you if you look at them for too long, and man do they give me the creeps. Beyond that there is a shadowy enemy that follows you through the castle that will also have to be kept track of. Paired with the ambiance of a dark, creepy castle, and the fact that you can only run or hide from your foes you have the making of one of the most terrifying experiences ever made.
The main mechanic for this game is measuring your insanity, which gets lowered by viewing horrible things in the environment, learning various things, or by witnessing the monsters walking about. You have to take breathers in order to gain control back, as when you start to have a lapse in your sanity things blur and it becomes hard to move. Beyond that you have a physics-based interaction system, a la Half-Life, in which you can pick up and move items in the environment, which is utilized in the puzzles throughout the game, as well as the environmental storytelling that forces you to read through letters and notes and make discoveries around you to fully understand what is happening. Nothing here is laid out for you, which makes the game as much as you want to make it. Finicky physics at times are a pain, and the puzzles will not hold your hand in the slightest making for a lot of wandering, but overall these aren’t things that majorly take away from the game.
The atmosphere and vulnerability are what makes these games master classes. Dreariness and fear oozes from the walls of Brennenburg Castle and not having any clue what is happening along with the main character makes you fear for what might happen just as much as it does him. You will be stumbling around looking for clues and the next pieces of puzzles, all while running for your life from enemies that you cannot fight back against. Terrifying. The major negative to this one is it’s dated graphics (which even at the time were low budget). Luckily, that doesn’t take from the fear at all.
Justine follows much of the criteria of its predecessor with very minute changes to sanity and traversal, but all in all packs a lot of the same punch besides being a much shorter experience. A Machine For Pigs was developed by The Chinese Room, who are most well-known for Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and thus a lot changed from the original to this game. Plenty of scares still present, and the world is still the same with the enemy threat being present still, but the oft maligned term “walking simulator” could be used to describe this title as well, as most of the gameplay functions were removed to create a purely story-based experience. I don’t find that to be a negative at all, as I don’t think I can name a “walking simulator” that I have disliked, and you can find some really amazing stories there, but it definitely has an altogether different feel than the original.
Overall this collection is a great group of horror titles that any fan of the genre should consider a must-play in order to fill out their catalogue of scares. The original is especially special and is one I can recommend all give a shot to. If you don’t get to the other two parts of the collection it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I love these stories, and can definitely give a thumbs up to them for anyone curious about playing them. Seriously dated graphics and a finicky physics system are products of the era they were made, and as much as it would be nice to have had those things fixed I can say that they aren’t detrimental enough to the series to have you pass on it. Perfect for a Halloween weekend!
Buy Now – $29.99
*The Switch Effect was provided a review code for this game*