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Amnesia: The Bunker Evaluation

by Ethan Marley
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Amnesia: The Dark Descent modified the face of horror video games 13 years in the past, and 2020’s Amnesia: Rebirth appeared to convey the story seeds it planted to a bone-chilling and climactic closing bloom. So Amnesia: The Bunker, a smaller and extra self-contained chapter, has its work lower out for it in getting me enthusiastic about this horrifying franchise once more. And whereas numerous the basics of its stealth and exploration have stayed the identical as they have been after I wakened as Daniel greater than a decade in the past, this gloomy, open-ended cat-and-mouse thriller proves you may train an outdated hellbeast some new tips.

Set in a dim, doomed World War I bunker in 1916, we tackle the position of a French soldier who’s wounded in battle, and wakes to seek out the exits destroyed and practically all of his comrades-in-arms slaughtered by one thing lurking at nighttime. The first and largest shake-up to the same old Amnesia routine is that the complete bunker, which feels larger than it appears to be like on paper, is out there to discover from pretty early on. Similar to Metroid or Resident Evil, you may have to trace down a small arsenal of instruments to entry sure areas and progress the story, however you are given little or no route by way of the place to go subsequent. This helps to construct rigidity, as a result of each expedition out of the lamp-lit central protected room is a drain in your very restricted assets, and possibly your resolve, too.

Whereas most enemies in different Amnesia video games are scripted to patrol a selected space in a selected means, The Bunker takes a refreshing web page out of Alien: Isolation’s e-book and incorporates a single, ever-present menace known as the Stalker that lives behind the partitions and above the ceiling of your concrete jail. It’s interested in noise, which could be something from working, to firing off a weapon, to utilizing your hand-cranked flashlight. The indisputable fact that its habits is considerably unpredictable dials up the dread and provides some much-needed dynamism. And you may know if you’ve gotten its consideration by scraping and growling that use efficient sound design to additional gasoline your paranoia.

Shoot to Thrill

Amnesia made a reputation for itself as a horror recreation with no weapons, so it appeared odd to me at first that The Bunker palms you a pistol and even generally grenades. But the joke was actually on me as these can, at finest, make the Stalker go away you alone for a couple of minutes. Munitions are situationally helpful, however finally find yourself making the foe even scarier. After all, what’s worse? A monster you may’t battle in any respect, or one you’ve got seen can take a bullet to the face and merely get a bit aggravated?

Where this beastie didn’t impress me, although, was its AI. The alien in Isolation would slowly study extra about you the extra instances you encountered it, particularly in case you had a go-to technique like hiding in lockers. The Stalker, sadly, would not appear practically as savvy. On the default issue, in virtually all instances, I may merely crouch below a desk and it could by no means discover me even when I used to be virtually respiratory on its ankles. Figuring that out deflates a superb little bit of the strain The Bunker labored so arduous to construct. Luckily, it has one other, intelligent means of constructing you sweat even in case you’re an skilled at hiding.

See, the entire bunker is powered by a central generator that guzzles down gasoline like a thirsty elephant, and there are solely so many refills out there on the entire map. You can discover with out the lights on, however it’s… effectively, it is very unhealthy. The Stalker is free to roam the halls within the darkness, whereas it could usually keep in its tunnels till it detects you. Worse, your solely reusable supply of sunshine is that silly flashlight that makes a bunch of noise and alerts it to your place. 

What this implies is each journey out into the far corners of the bunker comes with a way of urgency and objective, embodied by a pocket watch you may sync as much as the quantity of remaining gasoline to know the way a lot time you have got earlier than lights out. If you select to cover each time the Stalker is round, you may be burning a valuable useful resource, as it may well generally take a minute or two for it to cease patrolling and return into the tunnels. This is unquestionably The Bunker’s simplest new trick for making me really feel the best way the primary Amnesia did yet again.

War Stories

The story is a comparatively easy one, particularly in comparison with the interdimensional cosmic nightmare that was Rebirth. A timeline of occasions slowly comes into focus as you discover notes written by the varied enlisted males and officers who as soon as known as this field a house away from dwelling. There is a reasonably intelligent twist towards the tip that managed to subvert my expectations as an Amnesia veteran. Whereas the previous video games have largely been about remembering and coming to phrases along with your character’s sins, that is merely a prelude to what The Bunker really has in retailer.

There are actually some little peeks into the bigger Amnesia universe, however I discovered it refreshing how a lot smaller and extra self-contained this story is. If you probably did play Rebirth, you may be rewarded by understanding the context behind a number of the weirder stuff that reveals up. And in case you did not, you may get to be shocked and perplexed by these moments in a means I wasn’t. Then it is best to in all probability go play Rebirth so you may perceive what is definitely occurring.

I discovered the ending itself extraordinarily predictable although. If you concentrate on what you are doing all through The Bunker for even a second, I think about most individuals will pay attention to what “escape” would really imply the entire time. But it’s nonetheless efficient, reminding us that we, as people, can create horrors far worse than any author’s weirdest imaginings. And understanding the place it is going actually would not spoil the journey.

As a closing little twist, numerous stuff in The Bunker, together with the monster’s habits, locker codes, and the situation of some key objects, are semi-randomized on each playthrough. This is meant to maintain issues fascinating in case you resolve to replay it. I did not really feel like there have been particularly compelling causes to take action, however it’s good to know if I ever get the itch that I will not simply be speedrunning by the identical route once more. A primary playthrough ran me about eight hours by Steam’s depend, however solely round 5 by the in-game clock, which little question has one thing to do with what number of instances I tabbed out to have a look at humorous animal movies to get my stress below management.

There’s additionally one irritating little technical problem: When transitioning between areas, the display screen hangs because it masses in, generally for up to some seconds and even when put in on a quick SSD. Considering these areas aren’t very huge, and developer Frictional’s video games do not precisely seem like Crysis, this appears poorly justified.

I am unable to say Amnesia remains to be a groundbreaking horror franchise prefer it was initially. The bigger story it was constructing has already been performed out with Rebirth. But Amnesia: The Bunker proves that smaller, anthology-style episodes inside its universe can nonetheless convey the strain and the scares. And Frictional’s bag of tips is much from exhausted in relation to getting our hearts pounding and making us rigorously contemplate methods to use the restricted instruments out there to us. It’s not an unmissable expertise, however as an Amnesia fan, it positively sated my urge for food for some gut-churning horror and moody, bleak storytelling.

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