Review by Kellexx
"Great survival horror with a half-hearted story"
Amnesia: The Dark Descent hasn't been marketed very widely and has a somewhat narrow target audience. Nonetheless, it is definitely worth your interest if you like horror games. It is a first-person survival horror game in which you have no weapons and rely on your wits to escape any enemies you come across.
The game takes place around 1839 in Castle Brennenburg; a castle in the middle of a forest. Why you're there and what has happened is unclear. You find a note written by yourself, Daniel, having taken some kind of potion to give yourself amnesia. The note gives you one instruction: to kill Alexander, the baron of Castle Brennenburg.
From there, the game continues as you look for Alexander and find out what has happened. As you progress, however, you begin to have your sanity tested. You see strange, unnatural, occurrences as you try to find out what's happening and even the paintings appear to be changing.
What has happened here and why must you kill Alexander?
Gameplay - 10/10
The gameplay consists of exploring the castle, solving the puzzles, and hiding/running from the occasional monster. It's fairly simple in concept, but executed perfectly. It doesn't take very long before the game starts to get to you, making you paranoid about opening doors or turning corners; you never know for sure what's going to be up ahead.
Light plays a large part of the game, because if you sit in the darkness, you start to go insane. It starts warping your vision and you'll start hallucinating. The effects played in with this are awesome and couldn't have been accomplished anywhere near as effectively from a 3rd-person perspective.
The physics engine also plays a part in some of the puzzles, which is cool.
Story - 5/10
The story is somewhat cliche and not overly compelling; it gets the job done to set the horror setting, but comes up lacking. There aren't any cutscenes and throughout the whole game you only meet two (sentient) people. The story's plot is revealed through flashbacks (hearing past conversations) and notes/diaries left behind. Almost nothing is present-tense; it's mostly events that happened before the game's beginning.
This poor story delivery may be the fault of being developed by such a small studio (5 guys total) but that doesn't excuse it and perhaps will be improved in any future games.
The ending is also lacking. It leaves you with some loose-ends which is fine, but could definitely use with some improvement. There are three endings to the game, but each one is very short and not much different from each other. The ending is also determined by your actions in the final 2 minutes of the game, so the replay value for completionists is undermined.
Graphics/Sound - 9/10
The graphics are great and make good use of light and the first-person perspective with the insanity effects. The sound effects are good, but are sometimes random and pointless. There are a few times throughout the game where a random event occurs that is supposed to surprise or scare you, but doesn't - like walking down a hall and a puff of smoke appears with a creepy sound. It left me thinking "Smoke? Seriously? Ain't nobody givin' a **** about smoke!"
The random lame events don't happen excessively, so I don't hold them too hard against the game.
There are also a lot of ambient sounds to set the atmosphere, which it accomplishes well. There are times when you feel like there's a lot of noise happening for there to be nothing going on. Then there are times when you're not sure if you're listening to something coming for you, or if it's just ambience. Good atmospheric control.
What is it that makes people stop playing the game? Why does it scare them into turning it off? Because the game makes an effort to make you never feel safe. It puts you on edge when it wants you to feel tense and there aren't any other games that have had me running quite like this game did.
The story and plot delivery are what hold it back. Could definitely use some visuals and something more than past-tense to unravel the story. The plot itself felt cheap; it mostly just adds to the atmosphere than having an actual story going on.
Overall, worth the $20 for the thrills it offers and shows hope for future games.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/15/10
Game Release: Amnesia: The Dark Descent (US, 09/08/10)
Got Your Own Opinion?
You can submit your own review for this game using our Review Submission Form.