Title: Amnesia: The Bunker
Developer: Frictional Games
Release Date: June 6, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Frictional Games
Genre: Horror Adventure
The Amnesia series has been going strong now for 13 years. While each title ticks a few first-person horror boxes, they try something different. Coming off the release of Amnesia: Rebirth, I’d expect the developer to focus on delivering a more story-focused experience for a broader audience appeal. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case with their newest release, Amnesia: The Bunker. While story aspects are present, this game is shaped by each player’s actions and how far they are willing to walk through darkness in hopes of escape.
Amnesia: The Bunker is hands down one of the scariest games I have played this year. It has a knack for deceptively getting you pre-emptily scared as you navigate tight corridors and maze-like areas. The game takes place during WWI, where players assume the role of Henri Clément. The opening acts as a tutorial to the game’s systems, but this only scratches the surface of what you can do in the game. I feel like this is one experience best left untarnished, so if you do plan on playing, I’d say skip to the score and find your way.
This opening teaches the bare minimum of how to utilize the game’s systems, and the developers expect players to expand on this without guidance to get through the upcoming trials. Nevertheless, I kept my mind open as Henri woke up alone in a bunker with a scary monster roaming in the dark. With only a manual flashlight and a gun with no bullets in hand, I set out to find an exit.
When I say this game doesn’t guide you, I mean it. You encounter a room with a map, save point, and generator, which I treated as a base. Here, you can manage your items with a storage box and find your bearings because everything outside this room is anxiety-inducing. I began clearing rooms and experimenting with items to determine how to progress. There are in-game goals that reveal themselves on the map, but I found myself creating my own list of objectives.
I would say that I wish the map in the base had the option to make your own markings, such as drawing on it to show which rooms you’ve cleared. After a few hours, this isn’t a problem because you begin to memorize areas, but upon starting a new game, items and even passcodes are randomized, so you’ll need to clear rooms all over again. A minor gripe, but the immersive aspect of the map feature still works in the big scheme of things.
Amnesia: The Bunker does everything possible to keep you on your toes. Every action requires some hesitation considering the monster is always a threat. From winding up your flashlight to triggering a trap, you need to progress, but how you do so means putting yourself in danger. In addition, various passwords need to be found, hidden behind dog tags. Thankfully, these are documented, but the tags and codes are randomly scattered to make repeat playthroughs different.
These codes aren’t always easy to get to, with deadly rats surrounding a fallen soldier. It’s possible to waste ammo and shoot them, but then you discover other means to get rid of them. It’s an experience where you are encouraged to try new things just to see if it works. For example, I was being hunted by the monster and found out that I could cover entrance routes to the room with items to hold him off. Moments like this happen all the time. A locked door doesn’t require a key when you can blow it up or break it down with an object. Still, the noise you make is just as much of an enemy as the monster is.
The result of the entire experience is one full of tension. Using headphones will likely benefit a playthrough as it allows you to hear the monster and other audio cues for wants ahead. There’s a generator that provides light to the bunker, but this requires fuel. Managing when to use this is crucial, but I’ll say my first time through, I definitely overused it.
The manual aspects come into play here as you can set a stopwatch to time how much fuel is left in the generator. You’ll also have to manually load each bullet into your gun and wind your flashlight during some exceptionally scary situations. My heart was pounding as I fumbled with the controls to load my gun as I could hear the monster a few meters away.
You will likely die, a lot. The game’s challenge requires you to be experimental but still manage your resources. Saving the game in the base is done at the lantern, and you’ll be promptly brought back to it after suffering a game over. Remembering to save is the biggest hurdle here, but I made good use of the feature as you unlock new areas and get a handle on the systems. There are also multiple difficulty options that provide more items and benefits depending on which mode you choose. I played on the default setting for this review and found the challenge high but manageable the more I played.
Unlike other scary games, the monster never became easier to manage. Sure, sometimes the thing was annoying, but its use cases evolved in other parts bunker. This balanced the scares even as I became more comfortable with the gameplay. I think the curve of understanding all the nuances of gameplay will be too much for some fans of first-person horror, but I believe it opens an entirely new door for what this genre is capable of.
The overall graphics are decent. The game reuses a few assets, but being a horror title that doesn’t overstay its welcome and takes place in one large facility, I wasn’t expecting a graphically intensive game. However, each area varies, and the notes discovered shed light on the plot. I would encourage all players to read these notes as they outline some gameplay mechanics and possible solutions to the puzzles.
Amnesia: The Bunker is an immersive and terrifying experience where players are encouraged to experiment with all the in-game resources to escape a frightening situation. The lack of handholding causes some confusion in the opening moments, but the more you invest, the better this nightmare becomes. This is unlike any entry in the series to date, and I’ll hesitantly recommend it to anyone looking for a challenging scare.
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