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Amnesia: The Dark Descent
July 29, 2010 | Franklin Pride

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With Resident Evil moving towards first-person-shooters and Silent Hill quietly fading into the mist, the survival horror genre is getting emptier and emptier. Thankfully, indie developers have realized that gap and have begun to release their own takes on the genre. Amnesia: The Dark Descent, from Frictional Games, is the first to be released. Will it be the beginning of a new age of horror, or will it be a rehash of what has come before?

At this point, it looks like it'll be a bit of both. Amnesia currently focuses most of its efforts on stealth and staying as close to light sources as you can. These two things tend to work against each other, which is what makes the majority of the gameplay. Of course, you might ask why you don't just keep all lights off at all times, as you can just turn up the gamma and see things just fine. Sadly, you can't do that. Your character goes insane in darkness.

The entire plot circles around your mental state, actually. After you drank the magical amnesia serum that so many people have handy in games like Planescape: Torment and this one, you woke up in a dark mansion and find journal entries that reveal that there's an evil you have to face down below. This leads to you hunting around trying to keep in lit areas while you find clues to aid your descent into the bowels of the mansion. This is almost literal, as a strange fleshlike material is spread all over the place, and monsters roam the halls.

Your main tools in this journey are your trusty oil lamp and the hundreds of tinderboxes you find in every nook and cranny. Using them, you have to do your best to illuminate the areas around you enough to keep sane, while staying in the darkness enough to avoid the monsters. Incidentally, looking at the monsters drives you further insane, so it isn't recommended. You can dispose of them on occasion, but that's something you'll have to discover on your own.

It all works together pretty well, but there do appear to be some rough spots in the development build. For one, the crouch button failed to work after a certain point in the demo. This wouldn't have been too bad, but you can't get through a certain hole in the wall that's needed to progress the plot at one point, so it's definitely a game breaker. This will almost definitely be fixed in the final release, however, so there's no reason to pass early judgment.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent certainly looks good enough. Its current build had plenty of interactive objects, flickering lamps, cave-ins, wispy mist, and wind effects to keep the immersion going. For example, you might turn a corner and see a zombie lurching in the distance. This starts increasing your insanity, so the screen begins to warp, random winds start blowing things around, bugs skitter around your feet, and your character starts to get shaky.


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