Friends who follow me on twitter are occasionally confused by seemingly deranged tweets that appear at 3am saying things like “I’m running out of oil, and the room is starting to spin – help!”. It’s not that I’m losing my mind, I’m just playing Amnesia: The Dark Descent and freaking out slightly. Horror games hadn’t really occurred to me until someone recommended Amnesia, and at first I was sceptical. I like horror, but the problem with horror as a genre is how often it disappoints. When it comes to horror I don’t want something that will make me jump a couple of times, I want something that will get inside my head and leave me too scared to turn off the light. But, I was promised that Amnesia was very atmospheric and would definitely give me the chills I sought after. That (combined with an online sale – yay) saw me make my first horror game purchase.
If you’re not familiar with the game I’ll do my best to describe it briefly without giving too much away. Amnesia is a first person, combat free game, all you can do to protect yourself from monsters – which I’m assuming want to eat your soul, is run or hide. For me that added to the creepy element, I do not like knowing there are monsters prowling around and I’m unable to shoot them in head. Not only can you not shoot them in the head you can’t look at them either, because the longer you look at them, the more likely they are to notice you. The helplessness you feel definitely adds to the fear factor.
Your character Daniel is the crazy suffering from amnesia, and as you go through the game you piece together his past, and gradually uncover the reason for his presence in a decaying castle full of monsters. One of the unfortunate things about Daniel is his tendency to go mad if you leave him in the dark for a while – spend too long in a dark corridor without lighting your lamp or some candles and the room will start to swim, distant screams seem to get closer, and you may even hit the floor. Running out of oil in this game leaves me genuinely scared.
For me, the scariest thing about the game is the sense of anticipation and dread it creates. It’s recommended that you play the game with headphones and allow yourself to become totally immersed. Perhaps part of the reason I find it so immersive is because I tend to play it late at night, volume up, headphones in, lights out. I would probably find it more comforting to play it around other people, but the last time I did that seeing a movement out of the corner of my eye made me jump so hard I almost dropped my laptop. Amnesia isn’t a long game, but I have probably doubled the play time because of my tendency to take breaks when I get too freaked out.
If other horror games can scare me as much as Amnesia, I am definitely a fan, and when Amnesia 2 is released I’ll be playing it right away (http://www.youtube.com/user/AmnesiaTwo). If you haven’t played this yet, give it a try, just don’t blame me if you find yourself whimpering in the dark. And if you do decide to play it and you don’t find your pulse quickening, don’t tell me about it, okay? I prefer believing that I’m not a total wimp.