Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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

It might have been a bad idea to chose a game as my first B&A, considering how you usually have to spend longer time on a game than a movie, if nothing else because the game takes longer time to complete. So, no in-debt review from me, but a suitable first impression? Probably.

Anyway, I learned two things while trying out this game, one, my general lack of courage in video games might make testing this game more difficult, and two, this game is downright fucking terrifying, but we'll get back to those points in time. First, some gameplay thingies. The whole thing is in first person, almost ridiculously first persony, actually, considering you push & pull objects with your mouse, allowing you to pretty much pick up anything you want, throwing it around is also an option. It really does wonders for the immersion, not to mention the soothing feeling of being able to do a little property damage when the going gets a mite too tough for you.

Another large part of the game is light and darkness. You see, being in the dark damages your character's sanity, causing his vision to blur and distort and creepy noises to be produced, or at least I think the noises was due to the sanity loss. For us Lovecraft fans, the concept of sanity-drainage may not be alien, but something as relatively simple as darkness provoking it? I guess our hero is afraid of the dark. To combat the darkness, you have two tools at your disposal, a lantern, which needs to be resupplied with oil fairly regularly, and tinderboxes, which you can expend to kindle a light source, providing a somewhat more permanent light to a small area. I guess it's somewhat hypocritical of me to lambaste the main character for getting freaked out in the dark, considering how much I used the lantern, but hey, it was partially to prevent the poor sod from going insane, too.

To get back to the story, very briefly, I did not learn all that much more in the relatively short time I played, but what I got sounded good, there was the amnesiac getting a letter from himself to go kill some old guy who he apparently used to dislike before he amnesiaed (probably not a word) himself, but there's also references to an archeological dig that apparently didn't go quite as planned and an ancient godless that I'm willing to bet, dollars to doughnuts, is more or less eldritch and unpleasant, Cthulhu-style. All in all, it very much seems like something Lovecraft himself could write, except excessive amounts of racism and cascades and cascades of purple prose, neither of which I miss to any degree, so it's good so far.

It's time to get back to the horror aspects of the game, and boy, does this game not pull any punches. From the first minute, you find yourself in this spooky castle, completely empty save for yourself, or at least so you're fairly certain. Sure, there's the odd warm-up scare, like the wind blowing open a door, or blowing out a torch you lit with one of your precious tinderboxes, but it all ties together, giving the impression that there's some malignant intelligence out there that's pretty determined to make your day worse. Combined with eerie audio flashbacks and the occasional vaguely ominous sounds from distant rooms and corridors that does not exactly invite curiosity, it's a pretty eerie and atmospheric trip. Of course, the subtle ambient music doesn't help either, it's very obvious the makers of this game did not want people skipping around, thinking about puppies and rainbows.

One particular horror beat that got my heart racing was when I, fairly early on, investigated some sort of library, only to be confronted with two puzzles in a row after which... well, I'm not certain what it was, but I'm pretty sure something snarled in the next room. At this point, I booked it. This scene is interesting, because if this had been your typical game, I'd probably be investigating, safe in the knowledge that I could fill whatever was snarling in the next room with bullets and probably find some more lead, ready for delivery into the brainpan of some monstrosity, in the very same room for my troubles. In this game, though? Fuck that noise, although if I get brave, I might test out throwing books at the whatever-they-ares, but not today.

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