Amnesia: The Bunker Review – Walking Forward Into the Abyss

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Amnesia: The Bunker Review – Walking Forward Into the Abyss

Horror video games are changing. The way this genre continues to evolve is almost impressive, if you ask me. When you think about it, the way horror has changed in both the indie and AAA space has happened at its own pace compared to how the industry in general has. Things that used to scare us no longer do because we are used to seeing them. So, what does Amnesia: The Bunker do? Develop.

FrictionalGames probably saw the lukewarm reception that Amnesia: Rebirth received and decided to do something on par with The Dark Descent when making this new installment. Right from the first trailer, I was excited about this game because it seemed to show a lot of promise. One of the most prominent aspects was the fact that you would be allowed to carry a weapon to defend yourself, and yet it seemed like you would manage to remain scary even with this in mind.

Fast forward to today and I can confidently say that Amnesia: The Bunker is one of the best horror games I've played this year. Not only that, but I'd also like to add that I think this game will be the first to shape what's to come for horror games in the future, much like The Dark Descent did all those years ago. How is this achieved? Let's find out.

Amnesia: The Bunker offers excellent graphics for what should be a very dated engine. The game appears to use another iteration of the HPL Engine, which was part of the claim to fame seen by The Dark Descent and Rebirth. In other words, the game will be optimized well on PC for a better experience. Loading screens are fast, the game has a stable framerate, and there are hardly any problems with pop-ins or texture loading.

However, the dated nature of the engine may be more appreciated than before. The game has some minimal physics issues that may be noticeable (such as random things breaking at points); it's locked to 60FPS, so this won't do much for higher frame rate junkies; and the game will in no way benefit from any of the more modern features established in terms of graphics such as Ray Tracing and DLSS.

But as someone who doesn't really care about these things and would rather have a more stable experience throughout, I'm happy to say that this engine iteration has continued to surprise me with how detailed its graphics are and how gruesome some scenes can look. . The titular monster that haunts the bunker halls is a beautiful abomination that has given me goosebumps and filled me with panic the few times I've caught a glimpse of it.

The game's presentation is only helped by the memorable atmosphere that permeates the entire game. Throughout, Amnesia: The Bunker has done a fantastic job of making the atmosphere dire and desolate. More often than not, I was always on edge, cautiously turning corners and feeling paranoid. The best thing about the game is that it doesn't have jump scares. The game builds tension in the right way and the payoff can be seen when you get scared by the explosions that go off at random points during the game (this is a war zone after all) or when you find the monster roaming the halls that can be heard growling or scuttling around in the background, building anticipation behind your inevitable encounter with the ever so beautiful.

The development team has done a great job of staying consistent with the atmosphere that has defined Amnesia: The Dark Descent and made it a staple in the industry. I'm happy to report that this game will make you feel afraid to leave the only safe haven you've ever had, and it does a great job of keeping you scared and paranoid as you adventure inside in the bunker. It also adds some significant but subtle swings throughout the experience, making you more paranoid the moment you notice them.

One of my favorite examples of this happens during the late game, where the safe room music that used to bring that uneasy calm begins to fade away. Of course, you won't notice it the first few times until you start asking why this is happening. As you look around the room, you realize the reason behind its absence (which I won't reveal due to spoilers) and you realize that the safe haven you once had is no longer safe.

Amnesia: The bunker uses what I call the Equivalent Exchange system. It essentially gives you advantages that come with their disadvantages. For example, you get early access to a flashlight that does not need batteries. However, it's a dynamo flashlight that needs to be wound up to work, which means you'll be making a lot of noise to maintain a light, drawing the attention of whatever is out there hunting you. You have access to a revolver, which allows you to defend yourself against outside threats. But it's not just a lack of ammo, you'll also make tons of noise if you ever fire it, and you'll be deafened for a few seconds, meaning if you inadvertently attracted something, you won't know it until it is too late.

The biggest example of the Equivalent Exchange system comes in the form of the generator that you come across from the beginning. This generator will easily light the entire bunker, meaning you can easily traverse the halls without worrying about being cornered by the monster as it hates light. However, this generator runs on fuel, and not only that, but your only point of reference is a stopwatch that can only give you an approximate time of how long you have before the lights go out. So even if you're safe under the light, it's only a matter of time before you're forced to crawl into the dark with what you've got.

The Equivalent Exchange system in Amnesia: The Bunker allows for a scarier experience since you don't quite know what the right decision to make is. It makes you consider your options for solving your problems and encourages you to think outside the box. Items can be combined to create pseudo-weapons like Molotov cocktails, but they also come at the cost of sacrificing precious resources that could be used to craft bandages or fuel the generator. This can be seen in how the game is structured, as it allows you to go wherever you want to get the items you need to escape the bunker at any time.

The game has a semi-open approach, which makes it stand out from other horror games of the current age. Since you are free to go where you want, it means that multiple solutions to the same problem are available to you at any given time. You can use a brick to break open a door, or you can just throw a grenade at it and get the job done before the monster comes over to check what the huge explosion noise was.

Amnesia: The bunker encourages a lot of creativity in the design. While it doesn't have much in the way of actual puzzles, it more than makes up for it with a level and environment design that requires you to think ahead and be prepared to make a plan at all times. The game primarily gives you this advice: If something looks like it might work, it probably will. Whenever I managed to create a solution to one of my problems, I always felt like I did something amazing because I did it with what I had, not with what the game wanted me to do.

This is much better than giving you progress markers that can be seen in games like Resident Evil 4 Remake, but it also doesn't come at the cost of being force-lost like in System Shock. The game's small cabinet lets you remember how simple everything is. Additionally, the game provides clues about the way forward through the game's notes, meaning you'll need to check them if you want to know where the items you're interested in are currently.

Of course, this game will also not give you an easy experience. The map can only be found in the storage room, and you simply have to remember where to go. In addition, you won't be able to run recklessly through the bunker halls because the whole place is trapped with tripwires that trigger a grenade, flare or gas grenade that can also threaten your life.

You can also use these to your advantage, especially against the monster. As I said earlier, there are multiple solutions to the same problem, which extends to how the monster encounters work. This means you can run through the tripwires you first found during a hunt and deliberately introduce the monster to a gas trap or an explosion to shake it off you.

This encouragement of creativity is a breath of fresh air that makes me wonder how it adds to the atmosphere and makes any limitation you get (be it from the Equivalent Exchange system or from the way the game is designed in general) feel organic and part of the problem which must be resolved. In addition, the game is also randomized with each playthrough. While key items aren't going to be randomised, the add-on items like fuel and bullets are, meaning each playthrough will be different and a fresh experience, allowing you to experience horror all over again.

Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of the game's length, which only clocks in at a paltry 4 hours of content overall. The game offers a ton of additional material with logs read by excellent voice actors, but it doesn't offer much in the way of actual cutscenes. Plus, you'll have to learn the ins and outs of the game sooner or later, reducing the scare factor over multiple playthroughs, even considering the game's randomized nature.

Don't get me wrong. It is better to play this game several times to soak up the whole experience. But there won't be much to do in subsequent playthroughs outside of achievement hunting, which could be a problem for some players. However, I still found this experience quite endearing to play, even more so than other games in the genre.

Amnesia: The Bunker is a game that has tried and succeeded in becoming as legendary as the original iteration. While the game doesn't have the most amazing way of crafting its story, it more than makes up for it with gameplay that encourages creative solutions and gives you items that have their own set of drawbacks to make you consider crafting or look for. them.

The game's atmosphere is one of its biggest highlights, making the titular bunker feel like a desolate place and forever imprinting this idea inside your head that you're alone and no one is coming to save you. Once you realize some of the game's deeper aspects and have read enough notes to know what's going on, the game takes a turn for the tragic as you learn more about the horrific events that befell the soldiers who once roamed the bunker halls before you woke up.

Like I said before, horror evolves, changes. Whether this approach will be a better way to solve some of the problems it has faced over the years depends entirely on audience reception. But in my opinion, Amnesia: The Bunker has become one of the best horror games and a step in the right direction for horror experiences in the future. With how amazing Resident Evil 4 Remake was and how great experimental games in the indie space like Endoparasitic are, I can say that this year will be a great one for horror games, even in times of change.

Reviewed on PC (code provided by the publisher).

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Amnesia: The Bunker has become one of the best horror games in an ever-changing landscape on par with titles like Resident Evil 7 and The Dark Descent. This game is not only a return to form for Frictional Games, but it also paves the way forward thanks to the systems that encourage creative solutions to problems and an ever-changing nature that will keep players on the edge of their seats as they face off against the supernatural threat who roam the halls of bomb rooms.

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