It is strange to say it, but you would be surprised just how much the Amnesia franchise influenced the horror genre. Back in 2010, there weren’t many games like Amnesia in the market, ones that saw the player have no way of fighting back. Fast forward a few years and you started to see indie games such as Outlast start to appear, which it undoubtedly takes some pointers from. You then had some AAA developers putting out similar types of games too, with Alien Isolation and Resident Evil 7 being the two obvious ones.
Amnesia was also a trendsetter when it came to the Let’s Play scene as it helped usher in a new way of experience games, by watching somebody else play it. This kind of thing was around before then, but Amnesia: The Dark Descent really was a bit of a sensation in this space at the time and caused a huge spike in this area.
Amnesia Collection marks the first time that Nintendo gamers have had the chance to experience the game first hand. It was a PC only title up until 2016 when it released over on the PS4. This collection is based on that version, just with a slightly less amount of polish. It includes the first title, The Dark Descent, its expansion Justine and the sequel, A Machine for Pigs.
All three titles are played from the same first-person viewpoint and they all share the same three basic gameplay elements, exploring your surroundings, interacting with objects and solving puzzles. Each game has differences, but this is ultimately what you will be doing in each title. There are no weapons to be found throughout and darkness is your worst enemy. Each game also spends a lot of time building the atmosphere before any scares even come into question and the sound design of each game ties into this element to create an unsettling feeling throughout each game.
To start with, the most popular and best title of the three games in this collection happens to be the original, The Dark Descent. It is one of those games that is often thrown into the hat of best horror titles ever made. While I wouldn’t personally go that far, I would certainly say it’s one of the best in the last decade. I played this title not long after its initial release on the PC way back when and loved it. Back then, I remember it being one of the most terrifying and nerve-wracking games I had ever played. While it doesn’t quite have the same oomph playing now, you will still want to pause the game every now and then to compose yourself. It is up there with the very best.
You take control of Daniel, as he awakens in Brennenburg Castle. It is dark, cold and he has a strong case of Amnesia, the only thing he can remember is his name. Even though the story in Dark Descent isn’t as well rounded or as prominent as it is in A Machine for Pigs, one of the key elements of the game is uncovering the mystery of what Daniel was doing before all of this happened. It helps flesh out the story a little.
When monsters are around, Daniel will lose sanity (which is measured the same way as health) by simply looking at it. You can avoid this by hiding in a way where you are no longer in direct eye contact with the monster and hope that it doesn’t find you. Even before monsters show up, you will learn that Daniel can also be hurt by losing sanity in other ways.
Seeing unsettling occurrences or staying in the dark for too long are the two main ways and you must restore your sanity by solving puzzles or staying in well-lit areas. In order to stay safe in the dark, you must utilise a lamp, which requires oil and of course, this oil is hard to come by and that is what makes this feature work. The darkness is your enemy, so having an always-on light source simply would not work, nor would being able to fill it up whenever you felt like it. It is just another way that allows the horror element of The Dark Descent to shine through.
Naturally, with this being a nearly ten-year-old game, there are elements that are severely outdated by today’s standards. Enemy AI can be dodgy at times and the graphics are very sub-standard, this is the same for all three titles, but more so the first. The cat-and-mouse mechanic has been done in countless games since, some of them, such as Alien Isolation, came out much later and therefore, was given more time to look at games such as Amnesia and perfect that particular feature.
Next, we have Amnesia: Justine, which released as a free expansion to The Dark Descent around a year later. With it being an expansion, it is a much shorter experience and as such, it works out being a great title to separate the two bigger, main titles. The focal point here is test chamber-like challenge rooms, that aren’t unlike the type of things you would see in the Saw films. Justine also features a permadeath feature that can be annoying, but given that it only takes an hour or so to finish the game, it is less of an issue. I get why it is there as its main aim is to magnify tension because you know that one wrong move could prove fatal. Still, if I were to die right near the end, I am not sure I would want to pick it back up right away to go through the entirety of the game again.
A Machine for Pigs rounds off the package, but unfortunately, I found this title to be the weakest of the three. There is no sanity meter and health is now restored over time, which are two things I wished would have stayed as they were before. The puzzles don’t quite work as well here either, with them being all environmental-based as opposed to item based as it was in The Dark Descent. It is more linear, too, and this means it is a shorter experience, around half the length of The Dark Descent. One improvement is the story, which is maybe due to the linearity of the game, as I felt that it was a bit tighter here than in the previous two entries. It is still not going to blow you away, but it is certainly a step up.
The Amnesia games are some of the best horror titles to ever be released, but things have moved on and its dated graphics, lack of polish and some performance issues hinder the Nintendo Switch release. Ultimately, however, if you are a fan of horror games, the package is worth it alone just to play The Dark Descent, one of the most influential games of the past ten years. Just be aware that, as the darkness in these games, time has not been its friend.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Frictional Games