Thoughts on Amnesia: The Dark Descent

I finished the game just moments ago and wanted to get some immediate impressions up. I’ve been a fan of Frictional Games’ output since the original Penumbra Tech Demo, and really only been disappointed once with Penumbra Requiem. Amnesia is another quality indie horror by the guys from Sweden, but I don’t think it tops Penumbra Overture or the Black Plague in my book.

Sure, it’s a way more polished game than Penumbra in every way, but it feels slightly flat on its two key gameplay concepts: puzzles and the atmosphere of tension. Most of the puzzles in Amnesia felt like retreads from Penumbra series and thus were quite simple and straightforward to solve. I’d also have liked more physics and environmental puzzles rather than the usual gather this/combine that mechnanics.

About the atmosphere of tension: Don’t get me wrong, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a very atmospheric game with a few dabs of really intense stuff sprinkled here and there. It’s nowhere near as tense as Penumbra 1-2, however. This can probably be partially attributed to me just getting too familiar with the HPL engine, but I think the main reason is that the game just felt too easy.

Enemies seemed to just plain vanish after hiding for a while, and there was never a need to survey patrol routes or generally do anything else than hide in a cupboard for a few moments. In Amnesia, enemies are just a minor annoyance, as opposed to the nerve-wracking, terror-inducing dogs in Penumbra Overture or the torchlight-wielding mutants in Black Plague. An enemy popping through the door just to shamble away and completely disappear soon after just didn’t feel that scary.

Anyhow, despite my criticisms the game is well worth the asking price and hopefully will introduce a slew of new people to Frictional Games. It just isn’t “the scariest game ever” or the masterpiece some people hoped it would be.

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