Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Before and After I: Amnesia: The Dark Descent (Before)

Decided to try out something new. In these B&A segments, I'll be writing about something I'm watching, reading or otherwise enjoying, in not too long. I'll inform you of what I think about the hype, the trailers, preview, sales blurb, whatever I've picked up that might shape my expectations. This is partially to make myself aware of how my perception of a work changes based on my preconception, and partially to be entertaining with my insistent backpedaling or snarky "I told you so," whatever works.

The first target is something as unusual in this blog as a horror game. This game is called Amnesia: The Dark Descent, produced by an indie company called Frictional Games, who as far as I can tell are Swedish. Now, Scandinavian Pride being what it is, I'm pretty much obliged to give this one a try, since it's produced by Norway's nearest neighbour cum sitcom nemesis. This is, of course not the only reason I've decided to try this game, no, one will find no small amount of praise for this game on the internet.

One of the things Amnesia gets a lot of praise for is how scary it is. For various reasons, I never really got into horror games, mostly since most horror games also has some variant of the Shotgun, which mitigates the horror of nameless uglies somewhat. Sure, horror movie protagonists are occasionally armed, but for one, it seldom does them any good, and secondly, the whole movie is seldom (with some notable examples) centered around this having and using of guns. In games like Doom or Dead Space you might start out with a dinky pistol against the forces of The Adversary, or Space Satan or whatever, but by the end, you're pretty much shoved so full of guns that your fart bullets, and the feeling of dread usually goes out of the window, the game twiddling it's thumbs and providing the occasional JUMPSCARE to pretend it's still horror, which is the horror equivalent of making an inane pop culture reference every once in a while and pretend you're comedy (looking at you, Seltzerberg.) I've heard the Silent Hill series is better in that regard, but I currently do not own a Playstation 2, so I haven't tried them myself.

But to get back to Amnesia again, from what I'm told, this game is different, in that you do not have weapons of any kind and, unlike Penumbra, also made by Frictional,  you can't even McGyver yourself something resembling an instrument of murder. I'd say it says some dodgy things about the games industry when a game that does not involve grievous bodily harm (to others, anyway) is something extraordinary, but that's a whole other chestnut, and probably a topic for a OTT some day. So, with no weapons and, I assume, something shambling around, trying to eat you, or worse, the only alternative would be to run and hide, so here's hoping the game handles stealth in a way that does not make it hair-tearingly frustrating, as a lot of games do.

Storywise, I don't really know much. You play as a guy with amnesia, no big shock, perhaps, who finds out that prior to this, apparently self-caused, amnesia, he wrote a letter to himself, stating that he had to get to this other guy in this creepy old castle-thing and kill his ass. That's about it, though, although I assume that at some point, this plan will be complicated by some sort of monster or monsters, and also, probably puzzles. Doesn't look like it'll blow my mind, storywise, but as long as it tells the story it has in a sufficiently skillful way, I'd say it does it's job admirably.

So, let's see how this turns out. Part 2: After will probably be up some time this week, but I'll have to see how much I need to play to get a good impression of the game.

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