Amnesia: Rebirth is not a game about winning, you are warned. It’s about avoiding the darkness, living with the terror of it, and mastering your own fear. That alone sounds absolutely terrifying to me.
It’s not so bad, I think. Playing as a French woman in 1937, travelling to Algeria for a mining expedition, your plane crashes. Upon waking, you’re alone and go searching for the crew, your friends. Still, not too bad. Then you go into some caves, get pulled into an alternate dimension and things get real, fast.
It’s a story horror game, by that I mean there are lots of objects to pick up, examine and story beats to uncover. For a slow, brooding horror game, this is good, but for those wanting some snooty-man action with scares, well you’ll need to look elsewhere. For a fair while, you’re mostly uncovering parts of your memory about your crew, and if you’ve been to these locations before whilst lighting fires to keep the darkness at bay. Easier said than done when you have limited matches, thankfully there are helpful amounts of torches and lanterns dotted about just begging to be lit.
Two things stand in your way of uncovering the story here, puzzles and enemies. Fairly standard fare really, although the puzzles are made more interesting by having to move the controller sticks in the way you would for real motion. For example, opening a chest has you grab the handle, and push the stick up to move your arm up, to open it. Simple. At points the angles to move make your brain feel a little weird, and I did wonder if this is going to be VR bound at some point (it has been modded to run on Quest 2 already).
Whilst you’re completing puzzles, darkness can seep in, and black tentacles can crowd your vision. This is the major threat you face in the game. Whilst enemies exist and chase you, your options are run or hide. Get caught however and you don’t die, the same black tentacles will crowd your vision and you ‘respawn’ in a different place and often have to solve another simple puzzle to move forward. This balance of getting killed (or not) and having to go back to a checkpoint works well and removes some of the ‘seen it before’ feeling that some games have after you respawn and know what’s coming. This helps keep up the intensity in Amnesia.
I enjoyed the story in Amnesia: Rebirth. Tasi (you, the French lady) is a mother and tells tales of her memories through her drawings. In reality, this is a loading screen with some voiceover, but it’s done well although doesn’t always quite manage to bring the world to life. Story-heavy games can sometimes feel padded out to increase length, and therefore lose impact, but there’s a good balance here and Amnesia: Rebirth does not overstay it’s welcome and manages to keep the terror sustained for the majority of the game. I kept thinking to myself that it reminded me of Soma – and sure enough, that game was developed by the same folks behind Amnesia: Rebirth.
A fair summary would be to say that Frictional Games are carving out their own little niche in the story-horror genre, with each getting better and better. With a development team of only 15 core people, it’s an amazing technical and narrative achievement – I can’t wait to see what is coming for the next generation.
Reviewed on PS4