Amnesia: The Dark Descent Review

By on December 9, 2010

A finely crafted, deliciously frightening horror-survival experience.


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First Impressions
My reaction is

Right, so we have a great adventure game on our hands by the looks of it so far, but where’s the “horror” bits, you say? Well, for starters, you’re definitely not the only one wandering about this old castle. How could such a massive residence do without servants? It doesn’t. And how can a horror game be complete without mutated creatures? It can’t. That’s right, there’s dozens of servants roaming the castle, except that they’re not very human anymore. They don’t engage in polite conversation…they can’t really, seeing that their jaws hang open loosely from their disfigured faces. And they definitely can’t think straight anymore. So they do the next best thing they can, and that is to chase you at a startlingly fast pace and then clobber the stuffing out of you. And since you have no weapons or defenses at all, you can only attempt to run for a dark corner and hide to save your life.

The shadows are your only real salvation, or are they? You see, Daniel’s sanity is adversely affected by various things in the environment, one of them being coming face-to-face with inhuman butlers, and the other, is prolonged exposure to darkness. So, you run away from an enemy and hide in the shadows, only to start losing your sanity, which impairs you visually and physically too. Do you light up your lantern to stay sane and risk being seen again, which can only lead to another mad dash to save your life? These kinds of decisions will face you time and again, and you’ll need to adapt to the situation and your environment wisely if you wish to survive.

The atmosphere inside the castle itself feels ominous and reeks of mystery, with its dark, shadowy corners, dimly lit hallways, and creaky wooden doors. Every nook and corner begs to be explored, but at the same time, holds the possibility of throwing something nasty your way. The environment is so capable of sucking you into it, that you will actually feel the tension before opening that next seemingly innocent looking door. But as that little shiver makes its way down your spine, you’ll also smile to yourself, knowing that this is exactly what you were looking to experience. And that experience is only enhanced by the great visuals and superb use of sound effects throughout the game. Great attention has been paid to every little detail that you would expect in an ancient castle setting, and the little shuffling, scratching, rustling, and groaning noises you’ll hear from time to time hold real potential to freak you out, especially if you’re playing at night in the dark. The special effects used to convey the draining of your sanity, hallucinations, and injury are excellent too, and I wouldn’t really blame you if you put poor old Daniel through some misery just to see them again and again!

Honestly speaking, words and pictures aren’t enough to do this game justice. Frictional Games have done an absolutely remarkable job with the game’s story, and have delivered it in a delightfully frightening fashion, something which no game in recent times has managed to do. Amnesia does way more than just throwing some startling imagery in your face on occasion – it truly manages to capture the essence of real horror without relying on any violence or bloodbaths. The combined sense of desperation, fear, and urgency that can be experienced in this game is phenomenal, and will leave any horror fan thoroughly satisfied.

This is a horror-survival adventure like no other – a true masterpiece that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Go for it!

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The Scorecard
GAMEPLAY
8
Engaging but fairly straightforward puzzles, a great deal to explore, and a fantastic story to uncover in doing so.
GRAPHICS
8.7
Very satisfactory on all levels; good texture work, lighting, and particle effects. Special effects related to sanity are excellent.
SOUND
9
Whether it’s the sinister guttural groans or Daniel’s own rushed heartbeat, every bit of audio is fantastically used and well placed.
VALUE
6
A great singleplayer experience with a chunky amount of exploring to do, but nothing to really come back to once you’re done with it.
FUN FACTOR
9
Fun every bit of the way if you truly enjoy horror. Fun for the most part if you’re not a horror fan (the parts where you’re not busy screaming).
OVERALL
8.8
A solid experience for both the horror and adventure genres – but worth taking for a spin no matter what type of gamer you are.

About

Loves video games lots, but loves video game development even more. Has a Bachelor's degree in the field, yet the technical complexity behind those billions of interactive pixels boggles his mind. His brain will either conjure up the next best game or turn into gravy in 5 years time.

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