Thursday, 17 January 2013

Amnesia - Why Does This Seem Familiar?

These are some of the first words you see when you start Amnesia: The Dark Descent:

Amnesia should not be played to win. Instead focus on immersing yourself in the game's world and story.

Sorry, but no.


I have a few issues with Amnesia which I'm trying to overcome (this game's title is ripe for double meaning sentences). The first of which is the sentence above. Not necessarily the sentiments ( I love a well thought out and immersive world ) but their use of the word 'game'. Dragon Age is a game with an immersive world and story. Amnesia is an immersive world and story. From my playthrough so far there's no 'game' to it. There's controls, there's 'levels', there's some mechanics, but they're all aimed at the story and not at making a game. I've done a 'puzzle', it involved walking around various dark rooms opening drawers and left-clicking. There was nothing to work out, only places to look. It was just trial and error. I just went around every room until I found what I needed, and then when I plugged them in and it didn't work, a prompt told me exactly what to do. What a detective I am! A puzzle is supposed to make you feel clever when you figure it out. You're supposed to be presented with a situation and then use your ingenuity and the things you find to work out a solution. This puzzle says - 'You need four chemicals'. There's only four chemicals to get so you just go and get them (and it takes an annoyingly long time to find them). You then put them in the contraption for heating them. There's no special order to work out you just put them in. You then turn a handle and they heat up and some glowing liquid comes out of a pipe. The liquid falls on to the sideboard, but instead of letting you figure out how what to do now it says 'you need something to collect it'...thanks for assuming I have no brain!
You put your chemical collecting pot underneath it and get some acid to throw at a horrible fleshy door. Hooray! I have monotonously followed instructions and reached an inevitable conclusion! I am a genius!

Here's the 'headspace' I've put myself in. Neil and Ben have done the business of being scared and so on. They've bought in to the world and story, they've been scared and excited and all that. I know what's going to happen - I'm going to throw this acid at a fleshy door, I'm going to go into a frightening factory type thing, I'm going to see a big monster and then I'm going to fall in some water and probably die because the game is DESIGNED FOR THAT TO HAPPEN ON YOUR FIRST PLAYTHROUGH.

So you know what Amnesia? I'm not going to be told how to play, I'm going to play you like you're a 'game' because I like games! They're my favourite thing!

My experience so far has been trying to do things like walk around and explore and do puzzles and enjoy myself, and every 10 seconds having control wrested away from me to look at something scary like some paper flying around or a door opening on it's own or getting slapped in the face by weird invisible blood hands that don't really hurt but are extremely annoying. The only reason it's taken me 40 minutes to get past the chemical mixing bit is because I keep having to stop to read manuscripts and listen to bad voice acting or stare up at the ceiling for a while or something. There's only actually been 10 minutes of 'gameplay'. Sigh. Anyway I'll press on again tomorrow. If we get to the end of the 'A's then we're going to do a little podcast of our experiences and thoughts so far so the thought of that is getting me through the tedium.

And one last thing - if your story and world are so immersive you probably don't need to tell people that at the start...


  1. :)) I literally fell off my chair when I clicked to read the story! now THAT is Amnesia levels of scary!...

    And yes, some games are not meant to be played to win.. or played at all. See The Walking Dead. It's more like an interactive story, where sometimes you need to do something, so that you are reminded that it is not a movie. But still, if the story is good (again, see The Walking Dead) it will make you WANT to go ahead with it. I prefer this kind of games to any FPS whose main focus is on multiplayer... but that could be because of me not having any friends to play with;)

    1. ha ha! I couldn't resist it :D I'm slightly overplaying the rage in it for entertainment's sake, but I do just want to get this one out of the way. what else is there to say bar what Ben and Neil have already said?

    2. If only Amnesia had shotguns...