- Format: PC
- Unleashed: 10th September
- Publisher: Frictional Games
- Developer: The Chinese Room/Frictional Games
- Players: 1
- Site: http://aamfp.com/
If you’re a connoisseur of the Horror genre of games then you’ll likely have come across Amnesia: The Dark Descent; to be fair you’ve probably heard about it even if it’s not your usual thing, thanks to the multiple rave reviews and the inclusion in some of the Humble Bundles. While Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is a sequel, it is neither a continuation of its predecessor or fully developed by the original developers, Frictional Games – instead, being co-developed with Dear Esther developers, The Chinese Room.
That nugget of information might immediately make you wary of this new game, but fear not, as you play the game you can still see Frictional Games’ influence heavily throughout. It being set in the same universe but not directly linked gives it a lot of Amnesia’s flavour and some design choices have followed through but The Chinese Room do have their own style which does – for better or worse – make it a very different experience to the original.
Set in Victorian London on the eve of the new century, you – Oswald Mandus – awake in your Mansion without any memory of the time between your recent expedition to Mexico and your return. Lost in the darkness of your own home, you search to find your children as their calls beckon you to follow them. As you begin to make your way about the place, you will be interrupted by telephone calls from a mysterious acquaintance trying to help you find your two sons.
The mansion itself is an eerie place, especially since it is devoid of all the staff that once worked there. While your journey begins in your home, you will take to the outside world on occasion, as well as various other less than hospitable establishments. The levels themselves are quite large, split only by loading between the different areas – it leaves you open to explore them quite comfortably, as even the most linear and claustrophobic areas have something to collect or interesting things or locations to observe.
It is definitely not a difficult game by any stretch of the imagination, the puzzles are relatively straightforward and aren’t ever overly complex – and should the need for help ever arise, the journal is full of observations about recent happenings; many of which will serve as hints on what to do next. The journal will also collect all the notes, letters and other written entries that you find as you progress through the game – each adding a lot of flavour to the world and its recent events.
One larger change from The Dark Descent, is that your oil lamp has been replaced with an electric lamp, which has the added bonus of not running out of oil or battery life. It does however get affected by the same things that make lights flicker at any other point in the game, so if the electrics are affected then you will be left stranded in that same darkness. It will boil down to personal preference regarding how you take to the new lamp; the reliability is generally better with electric but the atmosphere you got with the maintenance of the oil lamp isn’t there anymore.
Another omission is sanity, which is linked in with the large change of gameplay directions. As mentioned before The Chinese Room have their own style of gameplay and it just won’t be what everyone wants to hear. If The Dark Descent could be considered “full” of monster encounters then A Machine for Pigs may be considered a little sparse. Much of the game will involve hearing aberrations lurking about but which ones are actually of any threat to you is less than varied – unfortunately most seem like a scare tactic that you’ll soon find to be waning in effectiveness.
It’s a double-edged sword really, it works for a while but as soon as you know the signs of something that you might actually encounter, then you can rest easy and trot on through the level. It can lead to you getting cocky, getting caught off guard by something and leaving you momentarily terrified but those occasions were unfortunately far too few. Something that didn’t help was that there are various areas that look absolutely perfect for a creature encounter – but – nothing happens.
While the gameplay might be lacking for some; story and sound design may still win you over. The story is put across well from start to finish despite being a little predictable but the voice-acting does a really good job at bringing the characters alive. Though only two characters have much to say the monster’s screeches and squeals are quite blood-curdling. The sound in itself does most of the work for bringing about fear.
It’s not to say that the art direction is in any way bad, because it is particularly good, but there isn’t really much to be scared of that you can see. The lack of sight, a combination of sounds and your own imagination are unfortunately going to scare you much more than any of the beasts you come across. There has been an awful lot of work put into the environments and the various machines do an excellent job of hiding what could be hidden in the dark or around the next corner.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is a good game but its very specific design choices might not be what you are looking for if you just want more of Dark Descent. The story and the atmosphere is all there, but the lack of a direct threat often leaves you braver than you’ll want to be in a game like this; being unarmed is only scary if there is something that can overpower you.