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Video Game Review: AMNESIA – A MACHINE FOR PIGS

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As time passes, I find myself becoming fonder of AMNESIA: THE DARK DESCENT. Perhaps because it was a completely dreadful. And I mean dreadful in the best sense possible.

In a time when every trope has been used for the horror genre to the point that we know when, where, and how the monster will appear, a time when horror seems more like a grotesque comedy, THE DARK DESCENT had a brutal suspense that used your imagination to put you into something terrifying.

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AMNESIA: A MACHINE FOR PIGS is a return to familiar territory. As in its predecessor, you wake up in a room with no idea what’s happened other than that you played a major role in the monstrosities that have run amok. It’s a dark descent into horror as you solve puzzles and steer clear of any monsters that come your way.

However, despite the similarities, there are quite a few radical changes in AMNESIA: A MACHINE FOR PIGS. Rather than taking place in one enormous manor in gothic times, the game primarily takes place in a Victorian factory at the dawn of the 20th Century. And although I liked the manor, the factory gives this game much-needed flavor, feeling like a monster of its own towards the end of the game.

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Also, this game is a bit more ambitious in setting its heights, story-wise. While the theme gets hammered a bit too hard towards the end, it’s nice to see a game go all out for a theme (hint: it has to do with pigs and the Victorian labor era). And although it loses some of the Poe-esque storytelling of the original, there’s no doubt they’ve tried to grasp for a more dynamic protagonist and antagonist—especially towards the end, once the cards are put down.

The same goes for the graphics. AMNESIA: A MACHINE FOR PIGS makes a giant leap in visuals with the HPL2Engine. Textures are more detailed, lighting gets smoother, and although it really shows its limitations in the exterior scenes, it certainly has come a long way since the first HPLEngine, which was somewhat dated even for its time.

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Aesthetics and story aren’t the only major changes to AMNESIA. Gameplay has also changed significantly, eschewing the inventory system and simplifying the puzzles.  Not to mention, you can’t really die, and the fear system has been entirely removed. I’m not sure if it’s these changes that play a key role in making AMNESIA: A MACHINE FOR PIGS, well… not so scary at all.

That’s not to say there isn’t tension. There’s plenty of it as you make your way through dark factory corridors, especially during the beginning when you still believe that the game is going to be as frightening as AMNESIA: THE DARK DESCENT. And there was a sense of sheer adrenaline rushing through my veins as pig monsters from DUKE NUKEM 3D chased me through the levels.

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With that being said, there isn’t the same fear from the first.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why the game lacks the same scares, as fear is subjective, unlike something like game mechanics. But I think it comes down to the fact that this game doesn’t let my imagination do most of the work. In the first game, the jaw monsters were rarely shown. I remember hearing their footsteps and the haunting music, racing to hide in the cupboard, and not coming out until minutes later. Here, you see the pig monsters well ahead of time. They’re more like fat, loud tourists interrupting my otherwise morbid but enjoyable tour of the factory. Speaking of the factory, I wish they’d put in more atmospheric noises and told the story through more sounds from distant memories. I’d rather hear the cries of orphans working the factories than have some creepy voice telling me how I’m responsible for all of this.

AMNESIA: A MACHINE FOR PIGS is a beautifully crafted game with high ambitions, but it lacks the vicious bite of its predecessor.

RELEASE DATE: September 10th, 2013
PUBLISHER: Frictional Games
DEVELOPER:  The Chinese Room
RATING: M (Mature)

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