First Shot: Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Building up in anticipation to Amnesia, I’d been hearing some pretty interesting things: the mood is just right, the atmosphere oozes creepiness, and most importantly, that the game is pants-shittingly scary.
While I’m pretty sure that my boxers will be clean by night’s end, I’ve got to hand it to Amnesia; the game definitely is spooky. You control Daniel, a man suffering from amnesia while exploring a castle. However, this isn’t your average case of forgetfulness; as Daniel discovers his old journal notes it becomes apparent that his amnesia is self-inflicted. Daniel has charged... himself with the task of hunting down and killing an old man, and warns himself that there is a deadly evil following him.
So far, Amnesia’s atmosphere is spot on. The castle is dark an empty, but even though no one else is in sight, you get the feeling that Daniel isn’t alone. You would be right. A creature stalks Daniel throughout the castle, and unfortunately for him, he has no way to fight it, his only option is to hide in the darkness, and pray that the creature doesn’t discover him. While initially I laughed off the notion that hiding would be scary, the first time I ducked behind a shelf as the monster slowly ambled by terror gripped me; I held my breath and I was uncontrollably shaking in the middle of the afternoon. Once the abomination passed, I breathed a sigh of relief, ventured forth, and chastised myself for being such a pussy.
Contributing to the scares is the sanity system, where similar to Eternal Darkness, Daniel begins to hallucinate as his sanity meter diminishes. Unlike ED, Daniel loses sanity merely by standing in the dark. There are torches and candles littered around his surroundings, but they can only be lit by tinderboxes, which are few and far between. In other words, you will be losing sanity. Deal with it.
Compared to the stellar atmosphere, Amnesia’s gameplay is severely lacking and painfully formulaic. Daniel needs to get to room A. Room A is blocked and requires acid to pass. The lab is out of chemicals, go room B to get chemicals. Room B is locked and requires a key… and so on and so forth. I find it terribly disappointing that a game doing so much right on the atmospheric end can completely crap the bed when it comes to gameplay. It seems that structurally, Amnesia is held together with scotch tape and glue sticks. I hope it improves as I continue on.
More analysis in the full review.