Published on September 12th, 2013 | by Ari Nellen2
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs – Ari Reviews
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is a solid game, but it’s unfortunate how they took the worst aspects from Amnesia: Dark Descent and dropped the great bits. You play as Mandius, a man who is seeking his children from an unknown peril. Visions of them draw him ever downwards into an underground factory while more and more inexplicable terrors accost you. While AMFP is not as scary as DD and despite a disappointing story , it’s atmosphere and charm may win you over.
The music is so amazingly strong in this game, enough to give me chills of horror and excitment. In this way it truly is above and beyond DD. In AMFP they’ve dropped the inventory which does well to disorientate you, and I do like the clean feel of it. That said it means the puzzles seem to be simplified versions of those from DD.
The graphics have obviously improved, these and the music grants AMFP grandiose scapes. these stretch the imagination into every dark corner and have memorial points of wonder (if not fear). My favourite moment in game was when Mandius is accosted by apparitions from the past which gesture at him as if to communicate. Paired with the perfectly creepy music, you can draw out Mandius’s lantern and as you lift it a quick bright light washes the visions away, as if the attempt to illuminate the ghosts was what drove them away.
The story is partially told through recordings, notes you pick up, phone calls, disembodied voices and your own diary. It’s unfortunate that the diary entries and letters aren’t voiced, like they were in DD, since half the dread can be from hearing and believing the protagonist’s fear.
AMFP has a very Bioshock (the original) feel to it. They’ve even reused one of the sounds! It’s a similar era, with darkness with hints of gilt everywhere. But, like Bioshock, the fear factor has dropped and even with the music or graphics working so hard!
DD has a beautifully haunting story that you never feel quite in control of, and you never quite escape the control of darkness, within and without. This is the paradigm at the centre of Cthulhu mythos, the complete absolute pointlessness of humanity in the face of an infinite universe. Science and dark majicks, two sides of the same coin, cannot give control but can affect the world; but their use forces upon us the truth of pitiful human-kind. AMFP seems to dodge all core concepts of Cthulhian horror, and at no point do you feel truly out of the control of the situation. Rather, it is a story of man taking charge of his destiny.*
There are other issues I have with the plot, though the most irritating is how predictable everything is. In about 5 minutes you’ll get the gist of the entire story, and it make’s Mandius’s confusion and rejection of facts all the more implausible. There was certianly space here for more voiced dialogue in defence of Mandius’s current state of mind.
DD punished you for gazing on unspeakable terrors, and this was a brilliant way of maintaining dread. In DD, while the negative effects of lowered sanity weren’t stopping you from running around and throwing pigs at the abominations, it helped with maintaining atmospheric unease.** DD helped you get into the mood, rewarding you for sneaking around and listening, envisioning the creatures much more lifelike and terrifying than graphics can render.
So when AMFP removed sanity effects I found it harder to fall into dread. The game invites you to watch the creatures (though mostly poorly lit). Instead of something of unimaginable dimensions where physics no longer applies, we get a pretty creepy thing. They are not the same.
The puzzles weren’t that great, but at no point did it stop the flow of gameplay. There was mostly little challenge, somewhat a formula of “here is a switch, pull it, now, pull this other switch, okay, the lights go out…”. However, since the game is short and enthralling the lack of challenging puzzles wasn’t a necessary draw-back. DD‘s puzzles were of a similar nature and difficulty, so if you enjoyed DD‘s puzzles then AMFP‘s will definitely be to your tastes.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is a great game, with great atmosphere, and more than a few scares. It’s disappointing though that it dropped some of Dark Descent‘s more thematic dread, for something a little less horror.
If you haven’t played Amnesia: Dark Descent (and you like horror games) I really suggest you check it out, it’s a great game (though I’d suggest waiting for a Steam Sale!). Now, once you have played Dark Decent and you’ve decided you like it, play A Machine For Pigs. Because the game is close, but not as scary as Dark Decent.
*Cthulhian horror goes along so well with a linear game where, as in Bioshock: Inifinite, all your choices really add up to nothing! So it’s disappointing that this isn’t emphasised.
**At this point I’d like to point out a little pet annoyance, people bragging about how horror movies and games don’t scare them. You’re not amazing, with will-power everyone can not be scared, we can rationalise away from the game etc. What is braver, what is more enjoyable, is letting yourself be swallowed by the maw of terror, if you’re abstracting then you’re not doing it right. (Note: I also understand that sometimes a game makes it hard for you to get into the mood, as it were. In these cases you shouldn’t be bragging about how you weren’t scared, instead you should be disappointed.)