Horror Games Special Feature – Amnesia: The Dark Descent

With Halloween just around the corner, we felt it was time to delve into some of the horror classics of gaming!
In the nights leading up to All Hallows Eve, we’re going to do a short feature of some of the more notable horror games that have been released. This isn’t a list of the best or even our favourites.
Just some Horror games which have stood out to us, for one reason or another.

What exploration of horror would be complete without a glance at the dark, dark, dark world of Amnesia?
The game that Bone-idle journalist Stephen Hill once described as “holy-crap-on-a-seesaw-terrifying!”

A lot of the games we’ve looked at so far have been interesting for something they did a little differently. Amnesia is no exception (and we’ll get to that in a bit), but if there is one thing this game deserves a mention for, it’s just for being so damn good at scaring the utter bejeezus out of you.
It’s like that feeling you get when you step onto a stair that doesn’t exist. But for hours.

Going down the rarely traversed route of a totally helpless protagonist, Amnesia feels very raw. It feels very much how you might react in a real life nightmare situation, with overwhelming anxiety constantly clouding logical thinking, and feeling the urge to panic overwhelm you.
Since the games release, we have seen a real renaissance in horror games, with First-person copy-cats such as Outlast, Slender and the lamentably cancelled PT demo.
All these games focused on fleeing as opposed to attacking.

The most ingenious aspect of this horror game, the key to keeping you on edge at all times, is the sanity meter. The lower your sanity drops, the more difficult the game becomes. You see and hear things that aren’t there. Plus, monsters are attracted to insane people.
That’s just medical fact.

In order to keep your sanity up, you have to make sure you don’t stay in the dark for too long, or, worse still, look directly at the monsters.
The clever thing about that? Never looking at monsters means never knowing exactly how close they are behind you.
Which makes every encounter a truly terrifying one, as you listen to their wheezing getting closer and closer, and louder and louder…

Amnesia: TDD is an incredibly rare breed of game in that its difficulty stems from your anxiety. Anyone who has played Resident Evil or Silent Hill will find that there is a neat balance between puzzles, combat and anxiety. This is useful because games tend to be less frightening the second time around.
With Amnesia, the puzzles are basic and the combat non-existent. But because very little is scripted, and the scares so effective it is more a test of nerves than anything else.
What we have here is an extreme, gothic version of the buzz wire game.

The Best Moment:
There are so many jump scares and panicky moments in Amnesia that you could really just say any of it. It is all so seamlessly brilliant in that sense.
However, there is one subtle piece of the game that we just adore, and that is the very first time you see a monster. Not because it’s a huge shock, or an effective jump-scare. But because it is exactly the opposite.
(Monster encounter occurs about 8:30)

Where is the franchise now:
With the games’ massive success with critics and audiences, it was unsurprising to see a sequel announced. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs was developed by The Chinese Room and received similarly high acclaim, and had a lot of scary as all f*ck pigs in it. There has been no news of a third instalment.
More recently, the developers have released SOMA, a first-person sci-fi horror game set deep underwater.

Written by Stephen Hill

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