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    dkirschner's Amnesia: The Dark Descent (PC)

    [April 22, 2011 12:57:24 PM]
    Amnesia is an adventure/horror game. It has no UI besides a tiny little dot cursor that turns into a hand when you can interact with something. It is frightening. I have been thinking about it almost nonstop since I started it yesterday. I cannot play it for more than a couple hours without stopping. Yesterday, I played with headphones and dim lighting. The sound design is excellent. Today, my headphones battery died and I didn't have a replacement, so I cranked the speakers and turned the lights out. Much scarier. Tomorrow I will use headphones + darkness to play.

    At the beginning of the game there is a message to the player. It says something like "Don't worry about which button is to shoot. Don't worry about when and where you can save your game. Just immerse yourself in the story and the environment. This game is best played with headphones and the lights out." You might think, ha-ha, such overconfidence! But no. They back it up with atmosphere, writing and gameplay. You shouldn't worry about which button is for shooting because there is no shooting. There are no weapons. You are being followed, perhaps hunted, by some monster/spirit thing that is after a mysterious Orb you took from a tomb. There are probably multiple Orbs. There is also a possibly immortal Baron in whose castle you wake up in, with no memory and no clues to your past other than a note telling your future self to make your way to the Inner Sanctum and kill Alexander, the Baron. His castle is claustrophobic, gothic, creaky, has more dead bodies than most castles, and also sports such amusing locales as Morgue, Storage, Cell Block IV, Guest Room (hey, that's me!), and Cistern.

    As you make your way from one area to the next, you are stalked by this...I'll call it a spirit. You are stalked by this spirit. This spirit shambles toward you if it sees you. Once you see (or more likely hear) it, you need to turn off your lantern/get out of the light, and cower in a dark corner until it goes away. Don't look at it either because that raises your Sanity level. Yes, if you spend too much time in the dark, watching where the spirit is, or witnessing disturbing things (standing among corpses, witnessing torture/murder/surgery on live dogs/etc.) you slowly go insane. The screen bends and shimmers, roaches skitter on the ground and up the screen in a very cool effect, and you hear a shrill noise, among other things. To restore sanity, you need to get out of the darkness or make progress in a puzzle. I only went really insane one time so far, and it reduces you to a puddle on the floor, basically. You can crawl, but the room spins and it's very disorienting. You also have health. Health and sanity are represented by a heart and brain in various stages of damage on the inventory screen. You refill health with laudanum.

    So back to this spirit. He is terrifying. Since you can't look at him for long, you hide in the corner a la Blair Witch Project and stop breathing in real life as you concentrate on hearing the thing walking and wheezing down the hall, into the room you're hiding in, and back out into the hall. Then you stand up, creep to the door and peer out, cautiously turn on your lantern, and hope he's gone. During these parts, I am glued to the screen. Two parts have been the most nerve-wracking. Number two was in the prison section of the castle. The spirit basically stalks you the entire area as you go from cell to cell trying to figure out the puzzle to exit the area. Every time you leave a room, you've got to make sure the spirit isn't coming around the next corner. I felt like I was in the lair of the minotaur. And by far the scariest experience, surpassing anything in my recent playthrough of Dead Space, was what I'll call the 'can't-touch-the-water' level. In this level, the spirit is in the water. If you touch the water, the spirit sprints to attack you. There are crates and barrels scattered in each room, and you basically need to pick up the smaller crates and move them to give yourself ground to move above the water as you progress toward each door. I think there were only three or four rooms to this. At the end of the first room was an iron door, the crank to which was at the beginning of the room. So turn the crank and high-tail it to beat the door slamming shut. The second room was the same thing except much less grounding and a crank right next to the door. The spirit follows you through all the rooms except, mercifully, the last, but I guarantee you that you will be freaking out when he follows you through that first door. I thought I was going to be safe, but no. See, you have to walk in the water. Can't avoid it. You can distract him by tossing boxes or body parts far away and then running, but those objects aren't usually closeby. So, you've got to say, like when it's raining and you're running from the car to shelter, "I'm going to get wet, but as least wet as I can manage. 3-2-1, run!" And as soon as you hit the water, "splash! splash! splash!" closing in fast behind you as you bolt to the next box. Oh yeah, and you're dead in just five or so hits, so it's serious.

    I have been in the office alone playing this after hours and I've been yelling at the computer, obscenities when I get scared and just screaming a little. I yelled a couple times for Dead Space, but I'm going to say that Amnesia induces a greater sense of dread since you can't fight. Dead Space was more...I don't know. Disturbing terror? Bloody surprises? Fiendish nightmares? But its environment was crushing too. There was certainly dread and despair on that derelict vessel. This castle though, feels more claustrophobic. There's more a feeling of mystery and being hunted. I think because there's only one (as far as I know) enemy, plus the haunting presence of Alexander through diaries and the castle itself (which might as well be a character, or the embodiment of Alexander, or representative of his mind, or something). Dead Space had lots of enemies all the time, but they were for the most part more trivial than this one spirit. The game actually reminds me of Silent Hill 3 on PS2, which I specifically remember as terrifying, because that's the only game I've ever played before this where I really couldn't sit and play for long because I'd get so jittery. Just writing about Amnesia is making me feel nervous. Therefore...I shall stop.
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    dkirschner's Amnesia: The Dark Descent (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Friday 22 April, 2011

    GameLog closed on: Thursday 26 May, 2011

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Frightening. I've been yelling out loud for two nights now all alone in the office. It gets surprisingly gory and disturbing. Torture is a prominent theme and...participatory activity.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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    1 : Amnesia: The Dark Descent (PC) by locomania233 (rating: 5)


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