Amnesia: The Dark Descent (Survival Horror)

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is one of those infamous games that goes down as one of the “best horror games of all time.” I disagree with this claim and I’ll explain why.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent was made in 2010 by Frictional Games. Since then it has blew up in popularity due to the rise of Youtube. It is overwhelmingly positive on Steam and is praised for having an amazing story with good lore and an immersive horrifying experience that’ll send chills to your bones.

Story: 4/10
Now I know what some people are thinking, didn’t you just say that the story was received to be amazing? Yes I did say that, and I think that those claims are coming from diehard fans of Amnesia. Your first time playing the game I’m willing to bet that the story doesn’t make too much sense to you. Personally from my experience I noticed that there was a simple plot that was revealed through notes as you went through the game and the memories you remembered also gave insight into that plot. However, if you miss any notes or if any of your memories are interrupted by monsters, you will surely miss some of that plot as I had. I had to look up the plot after playing the game just so I could fully understand what had happened. The basic story is this: Your name is Daniel and you are exploring an evil castle that you and a person named Alexander did unspeakable things in. To keep your innocence you made yourself forget all the horrors that had become onto the castle and the people who had lived inside of there. There are monsters, a fleshy substance and a creature known as the shadow who follow you around the castle trying to kill you. There is no way to fight back against any of your foes, instead it is a game of cat and mouse. I won’t go too deep into spoilers in case you plan on playing, but that’s the basic gist of the game. If you manage to piece together the story of the game you’ll be left confused and wondering, “Is that it?” until you play their DLC or all of the endings within the game or do as I did, and look it up.

Atmosphere: 5/10

This game has decent atmosphere and that’s the best compliment I can give it. I’m not talking about sound design either, that’s a whole different topic that I would like to separate from the rest. The lighting in this game is dreadful, the only way to play properly is to really jack up the brightness or play around blindly in the dark. The lantern and candles add very well to the atmosphere. But, the problem is that you run out so quickly and that really ruins it in my opinion.
The props in the game are bad. I say that because they make the game comical rather than scary. Picking up a giant chair and throwing it a monster or just throwing it in general with the strength of a god. It’s so unbelievably funny to just throw the props around because the physics within the game makes you seem like a strong man scared of a goofy looking monster.
The pacing within the game is random at times as well. Usually horror games take a slower pace that builds up the tension to then lead to a scary response or they’ll go at a faster pace and make you feel like something is always near you with constant action. There are also games that mix a little of both which is usually the perfect blend for a horror game. This game can’t decide whether it wants to be slow paced or fast paced. You’ll have moments where you’ll be wandering halls for what seems like an eternity and then you turn the corner and there’s a monster who chases you around for what feels like an eternity. There are puzzles that range from easy to stupidly difficult. There are chases that lead you through corridors flooded with water, chased through closing gates, fleshy substance quickly surrounding you and things breaking all around you. It builds up tension and then throws it away. Or it makes you so bored that when tension starts building you can’t take it seriously.

Sound Design/Soundtrack: 8/10

As much as I dislike the atmosphere, the sound design in this game is phenomenal. The music when a monster appears is scary. When the monsters give chase to your character, it always feels like they’re right on your heels ready to kill you. The soundtrack basically knows how to make the person build tension for themselves by escalating the music as the monster gets closer until he’s right on you and it screams in your ears. The other parts in the game such as running through corridors, running through water, jumping, parts of the building breaking, being attacked and more all are very well done and definitely carries the game.

Gameplay: 5/10

Gameplay is obviously super important when it comes to any video game, especially horror games. I think that 5/10 is the fairest score that I can give Amnesia: The Dark Descent. There is a lot of gameplay but only around half of it is intuitive and fun. The other half is boring, confusing, and annoying. The parts of the game that really shine through are when you’re in a linear area and you’re just progressing along either by walking around and collecting notes and solving challenging yet instinctive puzzles or being chased by a monster through tunnels to get to that final door. The parts that fall are when they throw you into a puzzle room where you have to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish because sometimes there isn’t even a goal, you’re just doing things. And, the times where you’re being chased around in circles trying to find some key or clue to where you’re supposed to go. That’s another thing that is really annoying though, the sanity system. I think that the sanity system is a really cool concept and that implemented well, it can be lots of fun. This game uses the sanity system to extend gameplay and that’s it. You need to find light so monsters don’t come out so you find light that takes forever to regain your sanity. That sanity drains super quickly in the dark when you don’t have a lantern or candles. To have the lantern and candles you need to find fuel for you lantern as well as matchsticks. This fuel and matchsticks can only be found in very dark places (most of the time). It’s all a way to just extend the gameplay. The monster coming out when you can’t find enough fuel to sustain your life is just a punishment. Most people, and I’m willing to bet this, had to use some sort of walkthrough to progress forwards in the game. If you have to literally use a walkthrough to progress through a horror game where the gameplay is supposed to be intuitive enough to not frustrate you, then it’s not a good game.

Custom Stories: 7/10

I think that custom stories are where the game absolutely shines the most. User created maps have more competent stories and better level design with unique puzzles than the main game could ever offer. If you go through Amnesia and you think that the game excels in it’s sound design and graphics but lacks everywhere else, then definitely play custom stories.

Overall I would have to give the game a 5/10. I can’t really include the score that I gave to custom stories, because that would be unfair to group people who made something fun to this game. If the game had a better way to tell the story rather than notes and nauseating flashbacks, if the game had better set up puzzles, if the game had better pacing, if the game didn’t force you to jack up your brightness to see, if the game didn’t have a wacky physics engine and if the game didn’t have a misused sanity system. This game would finally deserve the title it’s been given. I still think it’s worth playing though, even though I had a bad experience with the game, that doesn’t mean you will as well. There is a community in Amnesia that still welcomes people to play the game and explore.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent on Steam:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/57300/Amnesia_The_Dark_Descent/
Frictional Games official website:
https://frictionalgames.com/

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