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Baron's Blitz: Review Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs

PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:56 pm
by Baron von Gosu
What strikes me most in the opening minutes of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is the soundtrack. It recalls for me a time when I first watched the original Friday the 13th where the screen opens black with a serenade of crickets in the brush. Soon enters the teens making out, laughing, moving ever closer to the sexual conquest when we, the viewer, suddenly realize we are watching this whole thing unwind from the killer's perspective. Slowly, the scene moves along, invoking each of our senses until the brutal conclusion overwhelms us with the fulfillment of well drawn out dread and suspense.

Flash now to the opening of Amnesia. The door to the cell slowly opens, followed by footsteps fading into the distance and the closing of a door. We pass out in a haze and wake up on the bedroom floor disoriented. The room is well lit yet dark, and seconds later a bit that can only be best described as being ripped right out of a Varyar (show host and RCM owner) nightmare, the sound of children calling to us to come follow them. "Daddy...." the chilling voice of a young girl calls to you. "Come find us daddy..."

We see shadows moving down the halls ahead of us. The mansion as we explore horribly shakes from unknown tremors making each crevice of the grand hall bleed its many years of forgotten dust. Doors are locked off, drawers stand empty, and each room vast in size. Somewhere down the hall a piano starts to play but no one is there. Doors convulse as you near them, as if some sort of creature were on the other side trying to smash its way through. A grandfather clock chimes quietly over your muffled breathing letting you know the hour is late. You enter an office...and the phone starts ringing.

A hurried voice speaks to you but hangs up. Explore further and you find another phone. A man begs you to return to the machine and turn it on. You demand to know where are your children. They are being held, the voice responds, and if you help me, I will help you rescue them.

Thus begins Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.

The plot starts very simply and reveals bits early on. You, the protagonist, have only sections of memory (as if the title didn't let that be known). You learn through journal entries, observations, and clippings found in various places about the machine you spent the family fortune building, your beloved's painful yet mysterious (at least early on) death, and a strained relationship with your children. As stated already your early mission is to find and rescue your children only you don't know where they are being kept or why. The plot expands beyond this as you progress of course, but talk about an excellent set up to reel you in! It also becomes clear as the story goes on that your character, Oswald Mandus, is not exactly who you might think he is...

The environments are gorgeously rendered, so much so I had to knock down the settings on my PC in order to run the game even remotely smooth. The locations vary from a mansion, to the streets of London, to a slaughterhouse scene that will haunt my dreams for a while (not complaining).

Again the soundtrack is excellent with the smallest touches accented to the growing discern around you. Much like it predecessor, the game's focus is on tentative exploration, using the suspense of what might be around the next corner or hidden in a room to make you really think twice before throwing open a random door. I found overall this aesthetic was better used in the original, for in my experience I didn't find a lot of creatures in the rooms causing me to quickly slam the door closed and find a spot to hide. There are plenty of scares though, and plenty of horrible creatures in the dark waiting to find you.

Other changes include a slightly less reactive environment, less items to find and collect (like tinder boxes in the original), and a complete removal of an inventory screen. Your lantern also no longer relies on finding oil drums but instead maintains constant light for as long as you dare to leave it on. I didn't care much for this change. I personally enjoyed having items to find as part encouragement to explore, however you still need to find levers and letters that help progress the game and the plot. Still, the idea of needing and rationing supplies is a trade mark of survival horror, and I found it sorely missed. The movement system is basically the same as the original and of course there is no combat. I honestly don't mind this at all (and never have) because I believe it adds to the suspense of exploring. I enjoy tentatively peeking around a corner to see if the coast is clear rather than charging out with barrels blazing. It also adds to the length of time to complete the game.

As for the monsters they are there but to be honest, I don't care much to elaborate on them. The Amnesia games are designed to punish you for getting more than a passing glance out of the corner of your eye of the monsters, so if you're good and play the game right, that should be all you need to take off like a bat outta hell. Horror so often forgets the rule that less is more, and suspense is often built on giving you less and letting your mind fill in the gaps. To consider what those creatures maylook like should always terrify you more than the real thing. Threat perceived is suspense achieved.

Overall I plan on having a lot more to say about this game on Dead Air on sunday, but to be sure Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is a game well worth the wait to play. A few new changes to the game play and mechanics sort of took a little of the fun out of it, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives as an overall effort. Is it as good as the original? It's hard to capture the moment a truly original game creates, so in essence I would say no, but that doesn't mean Pigs isn't a welcome and complimentary follow up.

Until next time, dear reader....