Amnesia returns ten years later with a game that is anchored to the past
Genre: Adventure, Horror
Developer: Frictional Games
Publisher: Frictional Games
Release Date: 20 Oct, 2020
After the incredible hit that was Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the series returns with Amnesia: Rebirth, a decade later, to narrate the story of Tasi Trianon, a survivor of a plane crash in the Algerian desert. After 10 whole years – Yeah, we don’t like to speak about THAT other game – big expectations were built around this title: Amnesia’s big return. In this review, we’ll see why this isn’t the game most of us were expecting, despite still being a decent horror game.
The Curse of the Game
Amnesia: Rebirth’s biggest fault is being the sequel of a title that ten years ago shaped the whole horror genre in its own twisted way. Starting from The Dark Descent’s arrival, a whole lot of horror game started having unkillable enemies that you had to hide from, or mechanics tied to your mental health. Amnesia: Rebirth takes this whole formula… without adding its own contribution to it. This makes the game drown in the sea of similar games that were inspired by its predecessor, with its name being the only thing keeping the game from being forgotten. But let’s proceed by steps.
Amnesia: Rebirth tells a whole other story compared to the one of The Dark Descent, but is set in the same world and clarifies a lot of aspects of the first title. The story, just like in The Dark Descent, is narrated partly by using notes scattered along the way, some concealed and some not, but these are not necessary to have an understanding of what’s going on: the story in this regard doesn’t need to be explained, as it is pretty simple and can be narrated through the events and the characters of the game (the latter being mainly Tasi and the doctor of the expedition). After The Dark Descent and (mainly) SOMA, I expected Amnesia: Rebirth to have a heavy calibre story like previous Frictional Game’s titles but, unfortunately, it isn’t the case. The events narrated are pretty common in other games and some aspects of the story go deep into clichè territory: you remember nothing, you have some strange sickness, you (and only you) have the tools needed to progress into the ruins, and so on. I really don’t want to make any spoiler, but the story isn’t original or particularly interesting, it doesn’t have major twists and sometimes progresses in a rather shallow pace.
Like in the previous title – and every respectable horror game – in Amnesia: Rebirth you will explore all sort of dark places: ruins, caves and even weird sci-fi structures. Instead of having only a single lamp, this time you’ll also able to consume your matches to illuminate the area around you, effectively removing the limitation of the previous game where you could only light candles and torches. I like the idea, as you won’t have an oil lamp and the start of the game and matches go out fast, giving a sense of dread every time one gets consumed and you remain in the dark. This lasts only during the initial part of the game as, later on in the story, the game tends to shove so many matches in your face that I literally started to light everything I could in order not to waste them (you can only carry 10 matches maximum).
Add a lamp to this and managing resource is not a problem anymore: you can’t keep the light one in every single moment, but you also don’t need to make too many sacrifices. Which is rather annoying, since in the first title, managing the resources in order to have the light when you needed it was a huge deal.
From Another World
Fortunately, a lot of aspects are in a good shape, starting from the locations you’ll explore while impersonating Tasi. When not wandering in dark caverns, you’ll walk around ancient ruins, explore a fortress abandoned by the army and roam around structures not of this world. There’s plenty to explore, and many locations are rather suggestive, at least when the game doesn’t take place in long dark corridors.
Puzzles are rather simple and, more often than not, just require a little exploration to be solved. This was probably done to not interrupt the flow of the narration, and they blend in with the game pretty well and do not feel forced just to extend the total playtime. Speaking of total playtime, the game can easily be beaten in around 6-7 hours, which isn’t a lot. Considering also that there are no major ramifications during the course of the story (the three different endings strictly depend on what you do in the very last minutes of the game), make for a game that isn’t really worth all the money it asks.
And the Horror?
The horror aspect of the game starts great, particularly by making you feel observed, leaving the traces of creatures initially you can’t see. The first hour of the game is great, since you see movement at the corners of your eyes, you see THEM watching you through the little windows of the abandoned desert fortress. Unfortunately, this is ruined later on in the game, as the monsters are, again, incredibly similar to what we have already seen in the previous Amnesia. At this point in time, I know I have to crawl in the darkness and move when the are far enough and, sadly, there is nothing more than that.
In Amnesia: Rebirth, the mental health mechanic was removed in favour of an illness that takes over you when your scared. This means that the more you stay in the dark, the more effects of this illness will show up: this includes some images flashing in the screen with loud sounds, in the form of jumpscares, that stop being relevant after you’ve experienced them one or two times. The final form of this illness tries to take over your mind, and you’ll have to struggle in order to maintain the control.
Amnesia: Rebirth would’ve been an incredible game… ten years ago. The problem of this title is that Frictional Games failed to innovate, bringing very little new features to a game that, honestly, doesn’t feel like a 2020 release. Add a rather old technical side to a rather shallow story and you have this title: I can give it a Save for Later as it still engaged me, mainly because of its atmosphere and the beauty of its locations. Amnesia: Rebirth could’ve been much more, but dubious choices made it a title that I can’t fully recommend.