Around three years after the release of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the long awaited sequel has finally come. The first game was perhaps the best example of a horror game that didn’t rely on jump scares, making good use of ambience, darkness, and the fear of the unknown instead. Much anticipation and palpitation awaits this new Amnesia title, which seems to have been themed after swine.
Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs was not made by original developers Frictional Games, but by The Chinese Room, who were the makers of the experimental first person game Dear Esther. While they don’t have the horror pedigree at the start, they do know what to do with a first person game when it comes to pulling the player into exploring a world of strangeness. It wouldn’t be easy at all to follow up on Dark Descent (as seen in Justine), but it seems like The Chinese Room has done a pretty good job with this sequel.
Just like in the first game, this one is good at drawing out varying degrees of terror. This is the sort of game that certain people would scoff at; that friend who tends to be full of hot air. Everyone has that friend for some reason; he likes to brag about everything he does, and puffs his chest out whenever something like this game is mentioned, boldly declaring that it wouldn’t terrify him at all. But with a bit of peer pressure, you then get him to actually play it and snicker as he suppresses his whimpers and screams with every scary moment if you are lucky enough to witness the spectacle.
The story and the script are well written, with lots of twists and leads to a satisfying conclusion. The theme of pigs and the 19th century makes for a macabre atmosphere where you are being chased around by Manpigs and the returning Kaernk. The last few parts of it though has quite a bit of padding and repetition, which soon becomes obvious and may take away from the immersion. The puzzles in Dark Descent were mostly fetch quests that had you going back and forth between areas, and this is mostly the same. At least the level design is brilliant here that makes exploration more integral to the experience instead of feeling like a chore.
The Amnesia series exhibits a great understanding of the human psyche and how we responds to stimuli and surroundings that never let up. Players are never given a moment of complete rest as the game is always unsettling and horror is always right around the corner. Once you get the gist of things, every inch forward becomes increasingly excruciating as you hope that there are no surprises around the corner this time around. You could stop playing to end the agony, but you won’t be able to as it sucks you in and beckons you to go further until the very end.
Much of the game takes from the aural experience. For instance, the tense and eerie atmosphere of the game takes so much from the excellent sound design, which is the reason why you should play it with headphones on. A lot of the story is told through narration and dialogue, and the voice acting is what makes it all come to life. Perhaps the only thing other sound to complete everything is the player’s screams whenever something scary comes up.
When Amnesia: The Dark Descent was released, it opened up the flood gates for first person horror games like Slender, SCP Containment Breach, and so on. There had been good horror games before that like the Penumbra series, but those games were also made by Frictional Games. With Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, it has Outlast to compete with it. Both are excellent in what they do, but there’s still nothing that can beat the refinement of Amnesia.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8.5/10