Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a survival horror game by the indie developer, Frictional Games. Amnesia is the type of game that truly tests the idea of survival horror, a game where the goal is not to kill your targets but instead avoid them at all costs. Set in first-person, the only real thing you will wield is a lantern for light.
Amnesia starts you off in a dimly lit castle, where the main character has no idea of who he really is besides his name. He sees a note on the ground directed to himself that tells him to avoid the darkness that currently is hunting him, and he must find the baron of the castle and kill him. The note explains that he erased his own memory and had previously failed. As Daniel explores other parts of the castle he sometimes has flashbacks where he can hear previous conversations that he had in the past or the screams from past occupants.
The game takes place in the 19th century with many notes and journals scattered throughout the castle that not only piece together Daniel's lost memory, but explain what happened to other members of the castle and a mysterious orb that links many events together. The story is the driving force in Amneisa, as players try to solve the puzzles and piece together why Daniel is here, why Daniel must kill the baron, and what evil lurks within the walls of the castle.
They aren't the world's greatest, and most computers can easily run Amnesia, but the graphics do make an atmosphere that truly lives up to the idea of a dark scary castle filled with monsters that will demolish you on sight. The lighting, which is a key focal gameplay component, makes a dark creepy hole slightly less scary as the player lights a candle in a room. The graphics have no problem trying to scare the hell out of you by playing with your eyes and the details in each room or section of the castle. The castle varies greatly in style, you won't feel like you are going down the same halls or areas over and over again.
The menus are pretty standard survival horror stuff, pressing a button takes you to your inventory and shows what is/isn't equipped. You can also review your notes and any journal entries you may have come across. There is a menu to review your current objective, in case you forgot the next time you load to give you somewhat of an idea on what to do.
A horror game fails to be a horror game if the sounds of the game can't scare you. Without spoiling much, there are parts (especially if wearing headphones) where you will be walking down a narrow corridor and all you can hear in pitch black darkness is people screaming, people saying things or whispering with some scenarios such as if some horrible creature spotted you and shouts that he see you, when there's no creature.
The game likes to play tricks on the mind, hearing doors open, footsteps that don't belong to you or the heavy breathing of the foul demons that lurk the corridors of the castle. There is also a noise that sounds like a slight shaking or clattering, it is used to tell the player that Daniel is starting to get scared and lose his mind. It becomes a noise you hate to hear, as you plunge deeper in the darkness you know by that noise you have to find another candle to light or use your lantern.
Amnesia is not the type of game most people are used to playing. The point is to solve puzzles while avoiding detection in the castle. Your goal is to kill the baron and figure out what happened here through various notes and journal entries. Daniel is not armed, the creatures are very dangerous so Daniel cannot fight them. You won't be shooting monsters to death or clubbing them in the face, you simply hide in the shadows when they come around, and hope they don't see or hear you.
There is a health and sanity meter. Getting hit by monsters depletes your health, where seeing the monsters themselves or being in the darkness of the castle for too long depletes the sanity meter. If sanity gets too low, Daniel starts to lose his mind and can attract the monsters easily and he starts to hallucinate. To restore sanity, one must simply light a candle or torch. If a monster sees you in the light, you must run as fast as possible to a dark corner and hope the abomination lost sight of you.
There are many matches you can pick up to light candles and other surfaces and you find a lantern early on that can be used to walk around the darkness when there may not be a readily available light source. The lantern needs oil, so don't expect to always use it. Exploration becomes important to not only solve the puzzles and get the key items to move onto the next section of the castle, it's important to explore every avenue in hopes of finding more matches or oil for the lantern.
The gameplay is simply light as many candles as you can to keep sane, avoid detection by staying in the darkness, and figure out how to get through the various puzzles to reach the ultimate goal. There is no powerful item like a shotgun to make you feel safe, you always feel vulnerable and weak. This is the type of game for anyone looking for a something that's more about surviving than killing.
I personally haven't played many survival horror games like this one, but I have always loved the concept of trying to survive a nightmare without any real means of defense. Amnesia is a scary game, especially without lights or wearing headphones. The game picks its moments for when it tries to scare you and it has a pretty good story to go with it. A story that is interesting enough to make you want to go further into the castle, but dread going further at the same time when you know you're about to enter a dungeon that used to be filled with prisoners.
+ Interesting story that isn't too heavy but still very good
+ Pits the players in a true test of survival
+ Sanity meter, while not a new concept, is a nice addition to the game
+ Good visuals and audio that will scare you
- Not much replay value once beaten
- Some parts can be a little vague in direction