Over the past eight years or so, we have seen an influx of first-person horror games that looked to bring back the feeling of dread and helplessness, whilst also taking us on a thought-provoking journey into the deepest, darkest corners of our imagination.
Many would credit Konami’s cancelled PT project for shaping the likes of Outlast, Layers of Fear, Among the Sleep, Slender, Agony and so on. But let’s not forget, that far previous to the release of the failed Silent Hills project was Amnesia, a psychological horror experience that would go on to influence many of the jumpscare-riddled titles that we enjoy today. Frictional Games released two follow-up experiences to Amnesia: Dark Descent, with the eerie Justine downloadable content and an indirect sequel entitled A Machine for Pigs. These three entities would make up the Amnesia Collection, which could only be experienced on PC and PS4…until now.
That’s right, Xbox One owners can now delve deep into the twisted minds of Frictional with the release of the collection on the Microsoft home console. Those blissfully unaware of the series will be able to experience the cold, dark and for the most part, wildly unsettling Victorian locations that become a playground filled with paranoia and an overwhelming fear of the unknown.
The Dark Descent sees players taking control of protagonist Daniel, who has (you guessed it) lost his memory completely, having no idea how he ended up in the castle that engulfs him. Players will be tasked with exploring said castle with little more than a lantern (which you’ll need to find oil for to keep alight) and tinderboxes that will also help light the way. Given that you’re only armed with a lantern and tinderboxes (which I would strongly recommend you ration for as long as possible), darkness will be ever-present, and certainly doesn’t appear to be your ally, either. By staring into said darkness for too long, Daniel’s sanity gradually begins to deteriorate, which will not only affect your vision, but will alter your surroundings to create a more claustrophobic feel than what was already there. DLC Justine meanwhile serves as an add-on to the base game, offering up a number of grisly puzzles as you play god with prisoners in a particularly dingy dungeon.
A Machine For Pigs finally is set in the same universe, whilst introducing new characters such as the player-controlled Oswald. This last installment interestingly enough was passed on to Chinese Room, creators of titles such as Everbody’s Gone to the Rapture, so you’ll understand why it has a far more walking sim feel to it than the previous two releases from Frictional. It doesn’t quite capture the magic that Dark Descent had, having done away with the inventory system and even offering health regeneration, not to mention that there are fewer enemies to deal with and getting rid of the descending sanity effect from the original game.
From a gameplay perspective, you may be familiar with how it plays if you’ve had the joy of experiencing Frictional’s later release of SOMA. For the most part, it’s basic enough to get to grips with from the get-go, and especially with the hide-and-seek premise of the game it is easy enough to pick up and play. It may be more than obvious on what exactly to do for somebody who associates themselves with games of a similar ilk, though Amnesia does have a far more puzzle-based focus than others.
And it could be argued that this is where Amnesia trips up and falls ever so slightly. There are certain situations that have very little instruction, which can grow tiresome at times when trying to solve a puzzle whilst looking over your shoulder and dealing with the sometimes stiff controls. Nevertheless, for the most part the more mental aspect of your time here only helps to immerse you further into the ever-growing lore and gloomy atmosphere that’s on display.
Speaking of atmosphere, this is what really makes Amnesia so special. As many fellow horror fans will know, often there are releases that live and die by their sound design. When everything is so visually disturbed and hard to see, the sense of sound can really serve to amplify the experience and ramp up the tension no end. This collection does that perfectly, and I would strongly recommend playing through a headset to make the most of the clanging sounds in the distance and the whispering voices that will keep you engrossed throughout your playthrough.
Visually, you could say that they’re passable for a game that originally released in 2010, but still, there is room for improvement. This isn’t such a bad thing, as the unsettling surroundings are aided by the previously mentioned fantastic sound design, so it feels ok for the visuals to play second best here. Having said that, you do wonder if the collection could’ve benefited more from having a remaster than a console port, but even so it’s great to see it on Xbox One finally.
Xbox One owners will be delighted with the fact that Amnesia has landed on their console after nearly a decade since it originally launched on PC. If solving riddles in the dark with your sanity slipping and a constant anxiousness of what is lurking around you in an 1800s setting sounds appealing, then be sure to pick up this collection and see the masters at work.