Monday, November 4, 2013

Full Review: Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (PC)

First off, you have to understand that this is a game from the people who created Dear Esther, which means that the story might be a little confusing and mysterious.  This is also a game from the people who created Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which means that, as the main character, you're not going to know anything about what is going on because, shocker!, you have some form of amnesia, hence being an integral part of the story/plot yet as the player, not knowing what is going on and exploring the world for the first time.

After I completed the game, I was pretty sure I knew what had been going on, but I still had some questions.  The story in the game is told through your fractured psyche talking to you and finding sheets of journal entries and letters, and never in chronological order.  You might find a letter from December 19, 1899 followed by one from August 5, 1899.  Naturally this form of storytelling is going to be a bit disorienting especially since I didn't play the game in a single sitting.  Additionally, relying on the player to discover potentially key pieces of information before permanently leaving an area puts a lot of faith in the developers.  

Admittingly, I visited the Wikipedia page and read over the plot.  I had a number of "Oh, okay" moments and none of the "Wait, is that what happened!?" variety.  It has made me wonder how much I missed going through and where I missed picking up notes.

Presently, I could see myself going through the game again, knowing what I now know, which is what the industry calls "replayability," but I will probably hold off for a bit to let the game sink in some more.

Gameplay is very simple.  WASD to move, mouse to look, hold "shift" to run and left click to pick up and hold on to certain objects.  Pigs uses Frictional Games' HPL Engine 2, the same that was used for The Dark Descent so there is nothing out of the ordinary or out of place here.  

Because the game was developed by The Chinese Room (Dear Esther), you do a lot of walking although running is also an option, but I only found myself running when I encountered some unnamable horror; I know what they are, I am just choosing not to name them for the sake of not spoiling too much.

Unlike Dear Esther, death is an option, but as there are no save points (of which I was a little disappointed that the relic/artifacts from Penumbra and The Dark Descent weren't brought back as saving mechanisms, but the game does frequently autosave), you will "respawn" in the general area from where you died.

As stated previously, there is no inventory system here.  You also have no health or sanity meter.  There were a couple of times, like after a miss-step and falling down a ladder, that the screen took on a reddish tint, which I took to mean that I shouldn't do that again or I would be dead tone, but after a while the tint went away.  

I showed a lot of examples during my First Impressions article about how the game looked while running it at near optimum performance.  But in case you missed that article, here are some more lovely screenshots of that beautiful machine.

Churches are always great places for horrible things to happen

Mapping in the game is achieved by map like diagrams.

Sound & Music
The music to Pigs was written by Dear Esther composer Jessica Curry.  I really enjoyed the score to this game, I think more than The Dark Descent (music composed by Mikko Tarmia) and Dear Esther.  Both of those, while both were very atmospheric scores, they were not very melodic and therefore not very memorable; not that the music wasn't good, it fit the mood and setting of those games very well.  The music in Pigs was really good.  There were a number of cues that I really enjoyed hearing, both as an atmospheric piece and as music that I could listen to outside of the video game setting.

Sadly, the soundtrack was not made available through Steam when I preordered the game, but it is available through Jessica Curry's bandcamp site.  So I may just have to pop on over there (again).

Final Thoughts
As you can probably surmise at this point, I really enjoyed this game.  I was confused at times as to what I had to do and what the overall story was, but maybe that was just me and not a fault of the game designers.  Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is definitely a game that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys storytelling and survival horror games.  

One potential downside is that I was able to complete the game in 8 hours.  That might be a huge turn off to a portion of the gaming community, especially games like Skyrim and currently GTAV, both touting game times of over 100 hours.  I cannot see Pigs maintaining the level of horror/uncomfortability/confusion for more than the time that was given.  Eight hours is the perfect amount of time for this type of game.

Granted it's not your traditional survival horror, but it's one that I came away feeling good about, albeit with the desire to take a long lukewarm shower.

Into That Great Void My Soul'd Be Hurled

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