Amnesia: The Dark Descent


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Amnesia: The Dark Descent

DoraWhat if you could forget your past? The things you said that you regret, the time someone broke your heart or you broke theirs... wouldn't it be easier if it would all just go away? Amnesia: The Dark Descent is the latest horror adventure title from Frictional Games that not only deals with things that go bump in the dark, but regret, guilt, and hate as well. You wake up on the floor in a silent castle, unable to remember anything except, your name; Daniel. But a name isn't an identity, and just because you can't remember your past doesn't mean it isn't still out there waiting for you.

Amnesia: The Dark DescentMovement is the [WASD] keys by default, and most items in your environment can be interacted with using the mouse and physics. If your cusor changes to a hand, you can manipulate whatever you're looking at. Click and hold on a door, for example, then push or pull the mouse to fling it open. (Or slowly to take a peek, if you prefer.) Press [TAB] to open your inventory and pause the game. Much of the game is dependant on light sources, which either come in the form of the lantern you pick up early on, which Best of Casual Gameplay 2010needs to be supplied with fuel, or by using tinderboxes to ignite things light torches, fireplaces, candles, and so forth.

For whatever arbitrary reason, you cannot carry even small torches or candlesticks when they're lit, so give some thought to the position of a light source before you use up your limited tinder on it. The game is surprisingly good at giving you supplies just when you need them the most, but you'll still want to conserve whenever possible. You also can't snuff out a stationary light source. Why is that important? Well, although Daniel's sanity suffers when he's in the dark, you're also harder to find.

Daniel is unable to fight off any attackers you might encounter, so whenever danger rears its head your options are typically hide, run, or run faster. Cupboards, overturned furniture, dark corners, and more all provide decent cover if something's on your tail. This is important, since there are no cutscenes and if something's coming after you, you'll need to act quickly. You should try to make a habit out of scouting out potential hiding places whenever you enter a new area, especially since you're frequently left with only a few seconds to react whenever you hear that you have company. Find somewhere dark, crouch down, don't move or turn on the lights, and whatever you do, don't look; staring at an enemy too long will make Daniel panic, so resist the temptation to turn around, no matter how close to your back that snuffling sounds...

The game autosaves for you at certain points, usually signified by a soft blue glow momentarily flushing across the screen, but the only way for you to really conveniently save your game is to choose "Save and Exit" from the menu.

Amnesia: The Dark DescentAnalysis: You might not agree with me on this, but I've always thought horror is best without much explanation and a lot of ambiguity. If we don't know why we're being hurt or hunted, and the creature after us can't be reasoned with or explained, then the confusion can make the fear sharper. "Ancient mystical doo-dad" is the gaming equivalent of "the butler did it", but at least it keeps Amnesia from throwing back the mystery from their monsters and their unsettling setting. The story here is related primarily through journal entries or flashbacks, as well as the dreamlike bits of text that pop up during loading screen. The teasing delivery manages to intrigue you enough to keep playing, revealing more and more, and is deliciously creepy to boot.

Amnesia takes you to some beautifully designed locations that go from lavish living quarters to bloody makeshift "laboratories" and places that can only be described as surreal. (The monsters, on the other hand, can be described as "OH GAWD WHAT IS THAT A-BUH-HUH-HUH-HUH!!") It's a welcome departure from Penumbra's endless buffet of near-identical caverns, tunnels, and steel rooms, and each area presents its own challenge. The game also sounds great, especially the sound effects that add tremendously to the atmosphere. The soft hush of the wind through a broken widow. Rocks or wooden beams settling overhead. The nearby howl of an interdimensional hellbeast that sends you scurrying into the sheltering embrace of the nearest wardrobe where you cower defenselessly as you try to blubber quietly.

Amnesia takes cues from both Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth at least as far as gameplay goes, relying on cunning and stealth rather than letting you take the Chuck Norris approach. The addition of sanity to the game allows you to see some really neat effects that add to the unsettling atmosphere, but it also means you've basically got another "health bar" to worry about. Since your sanity also suffers when you're in the dark (what a weenus), you either have to constantly light candles or burn through your oil if you don't want Daniel to cry himself into a puddle while the camera goes all wobbly and cockroaches crawl over your face.

Amnesia: The Dark DescentBecause you're unable to engage in fisticuffs with whatever beasties end up tracking you down, the game forces you to get creative. You can distract enemies by throwing objects away from you (yes, that old trick), or utilize your frequently destructible environment to create temporary barriers or obstacles to buy yourself some time. Hiding is still the best tool in your chest, however, and when you hear something looking for you, your best bet is usually to flee to somewhere dark, crouch down, and stay quiet. The appearance of monsters is fairly unpredictable, which means you're on edge roughly 95% of the time. You'll quickly learn not to trust the game when it tries to make you feel safe; just because there's soothing music playing and candles glowing all around doesn't mean something that thinks you look tasty isn't about to make an appearance.

Unfortunately, the game is not what you might call particularly difficult. Any puzzle aspects the game tries to offer up fail to really engage. When your progress is impeded by an obstacle, you'll usually find some sort of note or letter nearby that conveniently details what you need and where to find it, and usually what to do with it when you get it. Once you've tracked them down, it's typically just a matter of bringing the item back to where you were stuck and using it on the obstacle. Whether this is a big deal for you largely depends on how much you like that big, beautiful brain of yours to feel smug and stimulated. Admittedly, there's something to be said about the accessibility of a title where the puzzles largely revolve around throwing things at other things, and it does keep the pacing moving along rather nicely.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent has some of the most tense and unnerving gameplay you'll find with a satisfyingly creepy story as its tasty nougat center. A single playthrough will probably last you around eight hours or so, and there are a few different endings that depend on your actions towards the end of the game. A fantastic achievement for its developers, and the most intense experience I've had in a game in a long time. It's an improvement in virtually every way over its spiritual predecessor, and, while not quite perfect, is well worth a spot on your shelf if you've been waiting for a game that not only sets out to scare the living daylights out of you, it brings out the big guns to do it repeatedly.

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39 Comments

After playing the demo for this and watching some trailers, I'm left with a bit of a dilemma. The game looks good, and part of me wants to play it, but another part of me knows that it's going to be terrifying and I don't know if I can do it. I've played games like F.E.A.R., Doom 3, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Metro 2033, Fatal Frame, etc. Those were scary, but this one seems different. The fact that you can't fight anything you come across does ramp up the fear, and makes you really feel like you're the prey in the relationship. The sound effects are great and very creepy too. The worst part for me is that between the trailers, you seem to run into numerous instances of "horrible thing is chasing you down the hallway and you have to run away from it." This has always been something in games that I haven't been a fan of exactly because of how scary it is. It drives your nerves to the brink to not be able to look back and face something that you know is right behind you. You can't check how far it is behind you because you know if you do, it'll catch you. You just have to run and hope you can make it to something to slow it down or someplace to hide.

I really want to play this game, but it's actually made me scared to do so.

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I was playing this last night, in the dark and with headphones - as those evil devs recommend - and at one point I jumped in my seat so violently that I knocked my cup of soda all over my legs.

So yeah, I guess you could say this game made me wet myself.

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I tried the demo, and loved it, but, it did freak me out. The worst was the flooded section. For whatever reason, I missed

the first room

and wound up stuck there until I used up all my lamp oil.

The light/dark system would take some getting used to. It seems like even when you use your tinder to light some candles or a torch, it gives off very little light, and it's sorta tough to tell exactly how dark it needs to be before it starts affecting your sanity. That, combined with how fast your oil burns away and needing to figure out puzzles makes it feel like you'll lose your sanity a lot more often than your health. I'll probably still consider getting it, but I'd hate to buy it and then figure that I just can't bring myself to finish it.

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Wish I could play it but I can't. I suspect my computer is sort of too puny to handle it. Every time I manage to get the window game up.. it instantly gives me a error window and crashes!

Ah well.

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Funny how my brain works. I know there is a some sort of scary thingy out there (somewhere in a cellar in the beginning of the demo with all the huge wine barrels).... but all I can focus on is how I cant seem to get to a flint on a too high shelve. Am I missing something fundamental about the rudimentary mannerism of movement in this platform?

I spent 5 minutes trying to put a barrel next to a bookshelf and then attempted, feebly, to climb it. no luck.

then I spent another few minutes smashing every bottle I could find, trying to win me a flinty treat.

no bones.

nada.

I am a silly monkey.

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KingfisherEyes Author Profile Page September 13, 2010 10:22 AM

I think i'll stick to Haunting Ground... it covered the whole you can't fight back so hide thing rather well LOL

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I've already beaten the game and I have to say that it is truly horrifying. The demo is interesting but it really doesn't do the rest of the game justice. Yeah the puzzles arent that great but considering that 90% of your brain is gonna be focused on being scared witless that's probably for the better.

And out of curiousity anyone else who has played it what's the area that scared you most for me its easily Storage that was probably the pinnacle of the fear for me.

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Cowering in the dark from unseen horrors, it sounds like there are beetles crawling around inside my head.

...I find this very disquieting.

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This game is just brilliant. I played F.E.A.R. and F.E.A.R. 2, but they managed to scare me only once (combined that is). However, this game just scares the crap out of me. And I have to say, I kind of like it :P

Really, the game is brilliant. I have watched countless horror movies, read countless horror books and also played some horror games, but nothing, nothing scared me as much as this game.

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I can't believe how scary this game is.

This is one game you must play before you die.

It is incredible.

This is taking horror games in a new direction.

I feel compelled to complete it but I can only play short bursts because it leaves terrible images in my head.

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I highly recommend playing this one with headphones on and the lights off.
I love the dichotomy of the light and dark. Creatures chase you, and the only safe place to hide is in the insanity-inducing darkness. Turn on the light and you regain your senses, only to reveal your location to the enemy. The way the gameplay changes based on your health and sanity is something to behold. You hear your heart pounding and breath shaking, you start seeing and hearing bugs in your head, and move as if swimming in a vat of Jello. The full version really must be played to be fully appreciated.

Just be careful where you step because

you may find yourself extremely hydrophobic. I will never at water the same way again!

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GirlThrills Author Profile Page October 5, 2010 11:53 AM

Not finished this game yet, as I find it easier on my own sanity to play it in spurts. (yeh, super duper scary!!) I literally screamed when I was first eaten & slashed apart in the Storage. I spouted many profanities with my face glued to the screen as I jumped crate to crate running from the underwater monster as well, & just had to do a happy dance when I finally got to safety. Lighting seems to be the key for sure...spare it when you can & save some dark hiding spots, but I find it best to light up near entrances/exits, so you can always find your way out. Keep hiding, I have tried many times to be brave & just run passed the monster, but its suicide, it will catch you, theres no choice but to play it stealth for the most part. Wicked game, definitely scares me more than any game I have ever played. Doubt I will play to see different endings tho. Once is enough for this thrill seeker! :)

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Ryunosuke October 5, 2010 2:32 PM

I tried out the demo myself, and it looks pretty fun and scary. But, the effect that turns the screen upside down was driving me crazy. So far I've played at least 75% of the demo upside down and it makes it very hard to get anything done. I found myself feeling more frustrated than scared pretty quickly. Is the whole game going to be like that? If so, I think I'm going to have to pass.

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The upside down thing is a bug.

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I'm not entirely sure why this game was recommended so highly. I've tried playing it four times so far and have given up in frustration and annoyance each time --- and I love dark, adventure games. The first person controls made me feel nauseous, although I think the wonky, swinging camera angles were built into the game to simulate going insane from the dark. And I hate having to use the wsda keys to move around, especially when combined with the rotating view screen from mouse. Maybe this would be more fun with a joystick.

Personally, I prefer games that are easier to maneuver around in and harder on the puzzles. And from the previous reviews, it seems all you can do is run away when people start chasing you. With those type of game controls, there's no way I'd want to proceed any further.

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I haven't actually played this one, but I did watch the whole thing on Youtube, and let me tell you... This was the scariest video game ever. Even the uncreepy parts were unsettling because "Mr. Flappy Jaw" as Helloween would call it would randomly pop up when you least expect it.

And the water bit with the invisible monster... oh man

5/5

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I got the game. Can swear to all of you that no game has scared me before like this one does. Actually a few nights i had to stop playing because it was too much. I play on a big screen always at night with the headphones on my ears loud loud loud... And man... it's scary... Every single second you're wondering " when, omg when is that thing gonna appear "... I love it... And guys it's worth the money.

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Hated it! Dark and Scarey? Well just dark and frustrating. Puzzles were weak and after getting through the demo, felt relief. "Whew that annoying thing is done.

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wow I'm a wimp. I won't even come near this game. in the penumbra series, I couldn't get past the zom-dog part. but my determination to finish the game led me to go into the texture files and changing the dog's appearance from disgusting zombie to bright yellow. after that it was much easier. would you consider that, "cheating"?

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Anonymous October 29, 2010 5:07 AM

.... I'm not really a horror fan, but this game came highly recommended for its immersion and story so I thought, 14 bucks, I'll give it a whirl.
In game you have a sanity meter, but honestly I feel my own sanity starting to flay playing this game. You really are kept on edge wondering when "that THING" will pop out. Try running around in the pitch dark, opening a room and !? ITS THERE! You close the door and run, hearing it bang loudly on the door as you whimper in a nearby wardrobe. You eventually crawl out, peer around the corner- coast is clear. You creep back to THAT door, still closed... when you get a little too close BANG BANG RAWR!! and off you are scampering back to that wardrobe... a little while later you creep back out and take the long way around the door hiding behind a shelf, twitching at every noise as your sanity (in game/real life!) whittles away. That was in

the storage

while it was late and I had to quit before I got fully out of there, the worst so far is

the water area. I literally found myself whimpering and "near dead" with almost no oil on a crate at one point. Then when I got out and found that fountain I jumped in. When you do this your normal footsteps will make the same splashing sound as that thing in the water. I was constantly jumping and swirling about telling myself "there is no water there is no water thereisnowater" until the splashing stopped. A VERY nice touch!

There are also times when IT won't see you, but YOU will see IT. You step around a corner and its shambling into another room, or you see it cross an open door way, oblivious to your presence (for now....) This definitely helps diversify the tension (apart from the RAWR I WILL EAT YOU! gag), while keeping it up nonetheless.
You really do have to manage your light, not only your oil/tinderboxes but what you light up. Light up too much and you have no dark corners to cower in if IT comes. While the puzzles are simple (and have handy notes detailing what to do conveniently nearby...) the real meat of the game is the chilling sound, the light/dark tension, the gripping story... and never knowing when IT will come!
Everyone SERIOUSLY needs to play this game!!!

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holy diver October 30, 2010 11:36 PM

okay, scariest point in the game deff storage.
havent beaten it yet but its hard since i have to stop every 45min or depending on how scary it is 1h30m if im lucky. it is amazing an unlike anything ive ever played.

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forget that last comment, I just downloaded the demo and Wow. this is a scary game. the only thing is, my dinosaur lags ALOT, so a little less scary than a quad-core I expect.

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I'm terrible at computer games to be honest, but I ran this one because I was looking for a good scare. And while it very much is, I'm too easily frustrated to play through the full game, I can tell you this, now. I got stuck in the

wine cellar. I'd crank the level, make it to the gate, only to find it closed. Trying to get back to the crank, I'd die. Do that ten times, and I'm done with the game

.
I'm watching the playthrough though, and it still terrifies me - as someone who loves being scared, this is wonderful, and the creator is a master of storytelling. The pace is perfect. I haven't seen the end yet (and then I'll be on a scavenge to watch all the various endings), but I'm sure it won't let me down.
Highly recommend to any horror-lover who doesn't mind some of the challenges.

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Katie Dreesman November 18, 2010 12:01 AM

I can't seem to get the Mac version download to work.. I went to the few listed websites and tried them all to no avail.. any help?

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This is, without a doubt, the best horror game I've ever played o_O

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I hate jump scares, but at least they are over quickly.
The review (as I have not played it yet) reminds me of the Darkness game, part 2. When you are in the hospital and that ghost is wandering around...

Lights flickering so far from hiding clickclickquickclick RUN! duck behind the curtain safe now - no it found me!

>.
I think I will watch the playthrough. Save the actualy gameplay for a time when I have my best friend with me IN THE DAY.

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Anyone hated Agrippa as much as i do ?
I think the reason he's locked up was because he talked too much.
I mean, i understand after being locked up so long he would want to chat, but didn't the monster pay him a visit ,since they're both residents in the castle?

Agrippa is such an irritating person, at first i enjoyed him being there with me, but after being interrupted so many times, i wonder if i can make him the monster by ripping his jaw off.

yeah, i'm a cold blooded person, and i'm really pissed off by him.

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Uhhgggggggg.... So my cousin bought me this game for my birthday. I feel obliged to finish it, but I don't think I can. It's just so incredibly scary.

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I couldn't get the Mac download version to work either. I guess I'll have to try it on my PC.

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I LOVE THIS GAME!! This is the scariest game I have ever seen in my life. I can't play for very long or I myself feel my sanity leaving me... I'm in the cellar with a monster outside or whatever and It's creeping me out! If you don't have this game, GET IT! Don't judge it by the demo; It's really great fun! If you don't want to be scared play with the lights on, without headphones and get a couple of friends to play with you, cause it makes it alot less scary. 10/10 game. Oh and Hiruki, do you have to lock your computers in seperate rooms? Cause wouldnt they try to assassinate each other :P

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If you hate the creepy monster, you are going to HATE the

Prison. (full version)

because there isn't much tinderbox or lamp oil down there. I think a second one appears there too.

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This is an excellent review. Thanks for sharing. I liked the part where you dissected what makes a game scary (and it is often ambiguity and confusion).

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Aquaria May 30, 2011 6:23 PM

I came across this game on this site by accident (although I've heard of Penumbra and Amnesia before) and I must say, I'm sure glad I looked further into it! I vaguely debated about trying out the demo and possibly purchasing it off Steam but after watching some play-throughs on YouTube, I voted against it - not because I thought it sucked but because even though I was not the player, I was scared!

Now, I've played countless survival-horror games in my life from the ever popular Resident Evils, Silent Hills, Fatal Frames, F.E.A.Rs and so forth, to the less known PC ones such as Phantasmagoria but none of them has scared me as crapless as Amnesia did!

I would SO love to support the creators for their worthy job with the game but alas, I am too afraid to play it myself and thus, unable to fork over the few bucks. Perhaps I can do so by gifting it! Yes, yes, I'll do that.

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wizard34 July 12, 2011 3:45 PM

AMAZING game! Scared my pants off! Full version is definitely worth the try!

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My Dad got the game for me, and I love it. I just cant play ay night or else I'll go to bed with the lights on...

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So how exactly do you "run" or "run faster" on this game? I just got it and I am not sure what controls to use for anything.

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RainbowAngelGirl1414 Author Profile Page April 1, 2013 9:11 AM

Where can I try the demo version???
I really really really like'd to try it.
I guess.....

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