By: Brian Gunn
Frictional Games recently debuted its unique style on consoles with SOMA. However, they made their name years earlier with the Amnesia series, which had previously only been on PC, but that all changes with the release of Amnesia Collection. It’s been six years since the first game’s release, so it’s time to see how they hold up.
The Amnesia series controls fairly simply. They are first-person titles where you basically walk, hide and interact with the occasional object. Due to this simple nature, they’ve been translated faithfully and comfortably from their PC origins, and no actions require the precision often associated with PC-focused games.
Visually, this series has never been a particular standout, even at the time of their release. Not surprisingly then, some of the enemy designs, in particular one of the final encounters in The Dark Descent, have not aged all that gracefully.
However, the game knows how to play to its strengths, shrouding the environments in darkness to hide those rough edges. Atmosphere reigns supreme, particularly in the first game. This collection is more of a port than a remaster, with few visual changes, but it does run at 60 FPS on PS4.
Sound design holds up, however. There’s one moment that stands out as a masterclass in how to simply make sounds scary, involving an invisible stalker where your only clues to its presence are its footfalls in water.
Unearthly howls and groaning deep bass do well to keep players uncomfortable. Music is sparse but effective when it’s there, particularly in A Machine for Pigs.
Amnesia Collection contains two full games in The Dark Descent and A Machine for Pigs, as well as a bonus game released for the Portal 2 ARG, Amnesia: Justine.
Frictional Games developed The Dark Descent and Justine, while The Chinese Room, known for titles like Dear Esther, worked on A Machine for Pigs. Despite all being under the Amnesia umbrella, they often feel surprisingly different.
The Dark Descent is the flagship title and the most traditional horror-oriented game. In it, players find themselves in the role of Daniel, an amnesiac seemingly trapped in a decrepit mansion where many things go bump in the night.
The story is basic but well told, typically through voiceovers and scrounging for documents. You’re given a decent amount of freedom to explore the house, though certain objectives will end up forcing a mostly linear progression.
Enemy encounters are of the hide-and-seek variety, with players generally given no tools to deal with them. These are tense and creepy events, though I found their mystique broke somewhat after a few deaths and seeing the monsters up close.
Very simple stealth mechanics are in place, and there’s also an insanity meter that increases the more you look directly at the monsters. After these moments, adventure game style puzzles are most of the gameplay, though there’s also a lot of physics-based interactions as well.
A Machine for Pigs is quite different. It falls in line more with the “walking simulator” genre, something a lot of fans end up disliking. While I can appreciate that, I still found myself quite intrigued.
It’s more story focused, with a lead character and voice actor that are fantastic. There are far less puzzles and fewer enemies to contend with, and everything is more linear. It’s not as scary as The Dark Descent, but it still has an interesting feel to it.
Justine is more of a curiosity than a reason to buy the game. It’s short and light on story. It’s worth a look, but only after completing the other two.
Amnesia Collection has mostly held up. It’s a tense and scary world, well worth it for fans that might have only played games inspired by the series, like Alien Isolation or Outlast, to see what kickstarted the recent first-person horror trend.