Amnesia: The Dark Descent was a great example of an engaging horror game that left the player completely powerless against the creatures that roamed the dark halls, choosing instead to focus on stealth, item management, and puzzles The Chinese Room would handle the loosely-connected sequel, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, before Frictional Games’ finally returned for the narratively-unconnected but mechanically-similar SOMA, which had several jump scares but focussed more on exploration and the narrative.
Design-wise, Amnesia: Rebirth falls between them. Sure, it reintroduces resource management and numerous creature encounters, but exploration, narrative, and atmosphere take centre stage. Set almost 100 years after The Dark Descent, the player is put in the scuffed boots of Tasi Trianon, a French archaeologist. Tasi, her hubby, and their crew are flying over French-controlled Algeria (it’s 1937) when a massive storm, which seems to tear open a path between reality and an alternate dimension, brings down the plane. She wakes up in the wreckage of the plane and sets out to find the missing team, only to slowly realise (and I figure this had already been spoiled by marketing) she’s already travelled through several locations and was 1-month pregnant when they set out.
As you explore the baking desert, dark caves, and ruins, Tasi stumbles upon what’s left of the crew and experience flashbacks that reveal her interactions over the last few days. Loading screens slowly reveal Tasi’s tragic past, something worth noting as it explains some of her motivations. For fans of the prior games, Amnesia: Rebirth directly references events, expanding on the lore behind the mysterious orbs and the consequences of using them to achieve power. Playing Amnesia: The Dark Descent first is recommended, but not essential.
As with the prior games, unravelling events is a main draw of the narrative. Unfortunately, the similar story structure is carried by similar gameplay that feels near-identical to 2010’s The Dark Descent. It’s not always a bad thing, as the heavy movement and awkward interaction mechanics ramp up the tension when you’re running from foes or trying to manually pull down a latch to seal a doorway. Sifting through containers and detritus in the environments for supplies also feels more natural. You’re going to want to find all the matches and lamp oil you can, as running through the dark, looking for torches to illuminate your surroundings, is a common theme.
Just like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the darkness is a double-edged sword. Tasi’s “sanity” lowers in the dark, causing visual hallucinations and gasping that can attract monsters. Thankfully, your foes are basically blind in the dark, so you’ve got to spend some time in the pitch black to avoid detection. Tying in with the pregnancy element, you can get Tali to soothe her unborn child when contractions kick in, calming her and often triggering dialogue that can provide puzzle hints. When it comes to the puzzles, sometimes you’ll carrying or manipulating objects but most keys items go into your inventory to be used in the right spot later. Despite most of the game playing out at your own pace, there are set pieces that’ll force you to stay out of enemy patrol routes or simply run. With no real way to die, being caught by monsters or succumbing to fear by standing in the darkness for too long simply sets you back a short distance but can affect some of the endings.
Amnesia: Rebirth can look a bit rough in places given the age of the engine, with simple geometry and low-resolution textures, but it does offer some pretty backdrops. On the upside, it runs well on older rigs. It’s the audio mix (think ambient sounds, moody soundtrack, and quality voice acting) that carry the presentation. I found Tasi a great protagonist, with her own reasons to push through and believable responses are believable. She gasps in fright, curses when frustrated, scream when caught, and sometimes sings to her baby. This is a game I feel geared towards parents as it makes it easier to empathise with her situation and choices.
As far as negatives go, Amnesia: Rebirth is probably a little too long, with several contrived plot points that exist purely to create horrifying diversions. Some basic puzzles and encounters are also repeated in later, playing out in much the same way despite the new environments.
Wrapping up – as I’ve said too much about the experience already and don’t want to spoil anything more – Amnesia: Rebirth is a solid sequel but it’s time for the gameplay loop to receive an overhaul. It’s more of a narrative-driven experience than Amnesia: The Dark Descent, with a heroine and fleshed out lore. There’s greater variety in the environments, monster design, and puzzles, with presentation will leave on the edge of your seat. It’s been a quiet year for horror games, so if you’re craving the experience, Amnesia: Rebirth is a solid pick.
Amnesia: Rebirth was reviewed on PC, however, the game is also available on PlayStation 4
Amnesia: Rebirth is developed and published by Frictional Games
You can purchase our review version of the game here for £23.79
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