My name is…is…I am Daniel. The last words muttered by Daniel before collapsing on the floor. He awakes to find himself within a castle in the midst of night with no memory of his whereabouts or who he is. It is now up to you to help Daniel find out what has happened to him and what is truly going on behind these stone walls. The entire time you’ll be making your way through the labyrinth set before you with the feeling that something sinister lurks in the shadows…and you would be right. This is Amnesia: the Dark Descent.
As you start to play you will come across a pink liquid on the floor that leads you to a letter Daniel wrote to himself. The letter states that he has purposely erased his own memory and that he must make his way down to the inner sanctum of the castle and kill the Baron, Alexander. Soon after, you will obtain your greatest tool of survival in this game; it is a lantern that runs out of oil. This lantern will play a key role in lighting the way though dark hallways as well as restoring your sanity as it becomes stretched thin. The longer you are in the darkness, stare at the monsters, or see some horrendous sight it will cause your sanity to worsen. The longer this goes on Daniel will begin to hear voices, start to talk to himself, and have hallucinations.
The idea in this game is not to take any monster head on. Daniel is unarmed and the only thing he has that is keeping him alive are his wits. You will need to manage your resources effectively to survive. You will receive only so much oil for you lantern and you never know when you will come across the next jar. One way to save oil will be using tender boxes to light candles or torches close by. Much like any other survival horror game, your supplies are vital to you staying alive. Also, all of the items you can collect have a light blue glow to them to help you spot them when your supply of light is gone. Keeping an eye out and searching rooms and furniture will prove helpful later on as supplies become scarce.
The game does a great job of mixing in puzzles to help break up the action while keeping the game feeling fresh. The first few puzzles you will encounter are the standard gimmes, but make no mistake they will become more difficult as you progress. You have the ability to look at your log and see what objective you have to accomplish. But you will not be given instruction on how to accomplish the given tasks. Finding yourself staring at a puzzle for minutes just to find that what you needed to do was as simple as tossing a rock at something is not uncommon here. These puzzles vary from using key items to what may be lying around and will cause you to think outside of the box.
Now the controls are pretty standard for the keyboard, wasd, etc. I would recommend playing on keyboard if possible, as it feels a little different on the Onlive gamepad than your standard First Person game. For example, your default sprint button is the left trigger. It gave me a bit of trouble at first but I got use to it. The actions you can preform are somewhat limited but it all flows well with the gameplay. The simplistic controls work very well and in no way hinder you when things take a turn for the worst. Another interesting aspect to me was the interaction with the environment around you. To open a door you don’t just simply press a key/button. You have to take hold onto the door and open it like you would a normal door in everyday life. I know that doesn’t sound mind blowing or revolutionary, but it does bring an added element to the game when you are in a panic, running from a monster. I can’t tell you how many times I went to open a door and pulled when I should have pushed. You just feel your stomach drop, as you hear the monster close in on you, as you are messing with the door.
This is one of those games that was meant to either be played with surround sound headsets on or have it play over a surround sound system; the sound design is what really stands out here. I had to play this with my head set and I have to say it makes the difference. Nothing adds to the tension of hiding in a closet and hearing every footstep of the monster as he scours the room looking for you. You slowly open the door to see if he’s gone and you catch a glimpse of him turning to you as you quickly shut the door. You hear his footsteps getting closer until they stop inches from where you are as his breathing almost becomes deafening; the feeling of relief you get when he turns and continues down the hall or sensation of terror as he starts to break open the door as you sit there helplessly is simply amazing. Also the score of the game is fantastic and really adds to the overall eerie ambiance. Making even a safe room feel less . . . safe.
As far as the graphics go in this game, they do the trick. The real star is the lighting and at times lack thereof. The lighting, coupled with the score, helps keep you on edge, especially when you pull up your lantern and reveal a monster standing right in front of you. Also, going from light to dark areas will cause the camera to have to focus and adjust much like the human eye would. These moments are nice touches and help you become completely immersed in the gameplay.
All-in-all with the lack of the DLC, add-ons or the custom-made maps, the game will give you about 10-12 hours of gameplay. The replay value may be there for some but it offers nothing new the second time around aside from a few alternate endings. But don’t let that deture you from trying this game. The experience alone is worth it for any horror game enthusiast. Also this is one of the few games that I can honestly say has made me audibly scream more than once or made me pause several times just to compose myself. This game would make a perfect addition to the library and just in time for Halloween. Just make sure to turn the lights for this one.