Amnesia: The Dark Descent (PC) Review

By Renan Fontes 10.12.2015

Review for Amnesia: The Dark Descent on PC

Amnesia: The Dark Descent does quite a lot to frighten. Distorted voices, the thrill of being chased, and the integration of a rather inspired sanity meter are just some of the techniques that Frictional Games has implemented in order to create a truly terrifying experience. On paper, all this sounds nice and perfect for a survival horror game, but when it comes to execution, does it peter out by the end, or does it stay strong until its final moments?

Amnesia: The Dark Descent tells the story of Daniel, an appropriately amnesiac Englishman, as he traverses through Brennenburg Castle with only notes he left himself before his memory was erased to move him forward.

One of the best aspects about the beginning of Amnesia: The Dark Descent is how unobtrusive the tutorial is. The core gameplay mechanics are all taught, but how they should be used and where to use them is covered very lightly, which adds to the immersion factor and scales the fear factor up considerably.

Checking every corner and desperately searching for light sources become an essential routine, lest Daniel's sanity meter reach unthinkable highs. Along with a traditional health bar, a sanity meter is also sported, and is arguably the game's biggest lure.

The more time Daniel spends in darkness, the more hallucinations and distorted sounds he'll hear. At first, these are minor detriments; progress can be easily made, and these distortions add to the already tense and spooky atmosphere. The more his sanity slips, however, the journey through Brennenburg Castle gets significantly more difficult. Daniel's hands will tremble violently and his vision will blur, making avoiding enemies a truly frightening experience.

The only way to circumvent the slippage of sanity is to keep Daniel in the light. He is equipped with an oil lamp, and oil canisters are scattered throughout the castle, giving him a fighting chance for survival. Since oil is a limited resource, much thought has to be put into advancing. Lighting every candle only serves as a hindrance and will ultimately keep Daniel oilless for huge chunks of his adventure. Rationing is the key to survival.

Screenshot for Amnesia: The Dark Descent on PC

On the subject of survival, Amnesia: The Dark Descent's core method of handling enemies is heavily stealth oriented. If spotted, Daniel will need to find somewhere to hide immediately. Direct contact with enemies almost always mean death. That is, if they don't glitch out. While the concept itself is strong, the execution is a bit lacklustre. The enemy AI too often bugs out and poses no challenge whatsoever. Monsters get stuck or simply seem to lose interest sometimes.

Because of the poor AI, the scare factor drops down heavily shortly after the beginning. The creatures of Brennenburg Castle become annoying. Once there's some familiarity with what's lurking in the night, there's no longer anything to be afraid of. The tense atmosphere never really goes away, but nothing really strikes as scary after two or so hours.

It's truly detrimental that the horror aspects begin to die down, because The Dark Descent never stops being survival horror - it just puts too much faith in its ability to scare. Brennenburg Castle becomes too familiar too quickly. Every area is effectively the same; there is a roadblock, Daniel must solve a puzzle to proceed, Daniel will be chased, Daniel must hide, Daniel must find an item or get to a new room to advance the plot. The element of surprise dies as soon as this is realised, and in a survival horror game, that's a huge problem.

Thankfully, the story picks up as the fear starts to simmer down, keeping Amnesia: The Dark Descent compelling, albeit for different reasons in the second half. With new pieces constantly given to the "why" and "what" of Brennenburg Castle, there is, at the least, story intrigue to keep Daniel's journey an immersive one.

Screenshot for Amnesia: The Dark Descent on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

For all its flaws, and there are a few of them, Amnesia: The Dark Descent manages to stay enjoyable by utilising a unique setting for its play style and a narrative that takes its time to open up and expose itself fully. While true that the scare factor wears thin early on and, at times, can be more frustrating than anything, the atmosphere holds itself together enough to circumvent a lot of these duller, annoying moments. Brennenburg Castle may not be the best place to take up camp, but it's definitely worth a visit.

Developer

Frictional Games

Publisher

Frictional Games

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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