Apologies for the awkward post title caused by the colons.
It’s about time we talked about this game.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a huge name in the modern horror market. Many people don’t even seem to realize Frictional Games made other horror games before it (which we’ll get around to eventually).
We’ve discussed its free DLC, Justine, several times, but never the main game itself.
Amnesia was one of the first survival horror games I played. I bought it before I knew about Steam, which feels crazy now. And when it came out, the “helpless protagonist” style of horror wasn’t as widespread as it is today.
Today, first-person horror games with protagonists who must hide and flee are common. Five years ago, they weren’t, and I believe Amnesia represents an important milestone in the history of survival horror because of that.
(Whether that’s good or not is a topic for another time, though I’m pleased some games have returned to the fight-or-flight style instead.)
We’re here to discuss Amnesia on its own merits, but it’s important to bring that up to explain how it earned its moments of heart-pounding terror. As I fled through dark halls with this song to remind me of my pursuit, cowered behind barrels, and OH GOSH IT CAN BREAK DOWN DOORS, I’d never experienced such a game before.
Told through journal entries and memories alongside the more overt plot events as you explore Brennenbug Castle, Amnesia slowly reveals a Lovecraftian story made all the more horrifying by what it says about Daniel. The monsters and chases create moments of panic, but the lasting dread comes from Alexander and Daniel themselves.
That’s something I feel many Amnesia clones lack. Being vulnerable wasn’t the true source of Amnesia’s impact. Neither was its sanity effects or horrific imagery.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent used psychological horror to amplify everything else and give it a strong–and disturbing–human element.
Gameplay itself is fairly basic. While you have to run from enemies, you also must balance whether you should stay in darkness (to hide) or use your limited resources to cast light (Daniel suffers from nyctophobia and loses sanity in darkness). There are minor puzzles to solve, slightly more practical than those in most survival horror games, but not as thought-provoking as the clever riddles found in some.
Some areas seemed far too easy to get lost in, but that might just be me. Overall, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a frightening and enjoyable survival horror experience, especially if you want a Lovecraftian game.
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