Review - Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is one of the recent standout survival horror games, and has been known to induce a bowel movement or two. Dear Esther is another game that has left some players' pants a bit more brown than when they put them on. Now with Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, Dear Esther developers The Chinese Room have joined up with publisher Frictional Games to make you wonder if that noise is just the wind or if you're about to die. It's asking a lot of this dynamic duo that they surpass their previous accomplishments, and to be honest, A Machine for Pigs falls short of that. They shot for the moon and missed, but they've still landed in some very scary stars.
The sound design in Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs will settle in and make things unsettling for players starting at the main menu. Even when there is zero chance of something jumping out of the shadows, The Chinese Room has you wondering what is lurking just out of sight. Just after that, they capitalize on all the potential creepiness a 19th century English mansion can provide. With its creaks and moans, the howling winds, and the most subtle moments of music all drawing the player in so that a simple telephone ring can startle them. Save for the occasional quick chat with the Engineer, Pigs' protagonist has no real contact with anyone or anything until descending into the machine. The tension just builds up to the initial encounter with the first of the games' many abominations you'll try to avoid altogether. The game got so far under my skin that when it sounded like something was about to smash into a garage where I stood, all I could do was remain planted to the ground. It was so menacing I wanted to run but I also had to know what was on the other side of the door. It only gets more disturbing the further you get in Amnesia as more parts of the story unfold and add to the unsettling presentation of 1899 London. For that, The Chinese Room deserves plenty of credit and applause.
The story that Frictional Games and The Chinese Room have crafted also deserves some praise. The stuff that Oswald Mandus uncovers about his past that was lost in the Amnesia is dark! Like the original Amnesia, A Machine for Pigs begins with an orb. Inevitably, what started with good intentions has gone horribly wrong and the hero must put together the pieces of their past to stop what they helped start. The more you learn about Oswald Mandus' past through discovered notes and recordings, the more you realize how dark things really were. If Mandus didn't have to go save the world from himself, he really would be better off with the amnesia. A Machine for Pigs taps into some serious parenthood fears and big picture ethics in a supernatural historic kind of way, and it works. The way the world was at the turn of the century, the way England was at the time, and where we now know things were headed makes for some good storytelling.
A Machine for Pigs' graphics are also just as dark as the game's story. Your only item, your lantern, can be absolutely essential at times when you put your gamma setting where the game requests it be. Sometimes you'll just want to have it on because it's like a kid's nightlight and you just feel safer. Other times it might be that you just saw something of unspeakable evil scurry in the dark and you want to see it coming. However, your light can alert that evil to your whereabouts and work completely against you, so be careful where you point it. Amnesia's basic experience has actually been simplified in some ways, like your lantern now being electric since A Machine for Pigs is set 60 years after Dark Descent and the Industrial Revolution is in full swing. Players no longer have to worry about sanity meters or maintaining health, as health only really becomes a concern if you're spotted by one of the creatures in the machine. At that point you either run and hide or die. Health in a video game doesn't get much simpler than that.
One thing that does bother me is how simple the gameplay itself actually is. The most complicated things get involves the creatures and slinking through the shadows so that you evade the things that want to kill you. Those are the moments I can count on my fingers, and the rest of the time it's getting into rooms where you look around until your cursor becomes a hand so you know you can interact with something. Really, the clean room transitions that require flipping a switch, turning a wheel, flipping another switch, turning another wheel, then disengaging the first switch. The mind will be taxed by Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. Or not.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is a game that's more about the experience of being scared than really engaging you with its gameplay. As far as being scary goes, Pigs definitely has accomplished that. I started out playing lights off, headphones on, sound up, and I jumped a few times. I used the restroom prior to playing so I can't confirm anything further than that. I can confirm that after opting to play lights on with speakers for the latter half of my review play-through, A Machine for Pigs is just as scary. The world Fractional Games and The Chinese Room created is great. The world is creepy as hell and the story has plenty of those “aahhh...OOHHH” moments as you go on a dark descent of your own with Oswald Mandus. It's just disappointing that the gameplay seems to lack those sort of moments and is relatively straightforward. I wouldn't recommend this for someone looking for great puzzles, but it's worth the $20 if you're looking for a scare.
A 6.5 Hmmmmm I wonder what they would have gave Outlast?
The fact they removed Custom Stories really hurts the game's overall value...
I'm watching Lanipator play it, and I love how he plays the role of a drunken father, although I wonder just how accurate that really is...
felt too shallow to me plus pigs aren't scary pigs are food
I have really mixed feeling about this game, I really liked The Dark Descent but I feel they removed abit too much from it, on the other hand the settings looks fantastic. I think this will be a sale buy for me though.
Honestly, I didn't get much of a scare off this one. Maybe it's my fault for exposing myself to great survival horror games like this and for that reason, this one seemed mediocre at most. 20 dollars is a good deal but I feel it's not deserving of much more.