Eurogamer: Amnesia Hands On

By John Walker on July 5th, 2010 at 12:09 pm.

Well he's a fine looking fellow.

Amnesia, the new game from Frictional Games – they who brought us the Penumbra series – is due to be with us on the 8th September. I’ve had a play with the first third (of what must be a pretty big game), and have written up my thoughts for Eurogamer. It begins:

“I think a mark of quality in a game is whether you can return to a room you’ve previously been in, and know you were there earlier by the destruction you wrought. Amnesia, the new first-person adventure from Penumbra developers Frictional, does not paint rooms in the blood of your enemies, but rather in strewn desk drawers, boxes and broken glass.

And light.

Amnesia is looking to be an extremely dark game, but rather than offering you the opportunity to sneak silently in the welcoming shadows, here darkness is your enemy. It is the path to insanity.”

Read on.

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62 Comments »

  1. Nephilim Rising says:

    So, that person, if you want to call it that looks kinda creepy.

    I am really looking forward to this game.

    • Chaz says:

      I think it looks rather sad, like it needs a good hug and a pat on the back to comfort it.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      If I looked like that, I would probably want to eat people too

      Thinkin he needs some queer-eye for the straight guy ftw

    • YogSo says:

      It reminds me a lot of the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth.

    • jeremypeel says:

      It looks somewhere between the Pale Man and Dali’s melting clocks. Which is horrible.

  2. Jayt says:

    The Diary entry part in your Do/Don’t piece immediately made me thought of Penumbra, shame that’s not changing. Otherwise it seems like I made a decent investment preordering this one.

  3. Grunt says:

    It IS unusual why no other developer seems to have picked up that ‘press E to do everything’ robs as much from the player and the game experience as it solves. One of the highlights of overture was discovering that correctly hefted rocks of fair-to-middling size would kill the dog-things.

  4. LewieP says:

    This sounds great. No combat is a good move.

  5. Leelad says:

    Completely forgot about this!!

  6. robrob says:

    This is looking great.

  7. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I was wondering where all the RPS coverage of Amnesia was, I should’ve trusted you more.

  8. Cooper says:

    Ooh. Excited.

    Reading that preview reminded me of Silent Hill 2. A gaming great as far as I’m concerned.

    What I loved about Silent Hill 2 was the feeling that, as you delved deeper, the world itself was feeding off of your psychosis.
    No easy “villain” in the traditional sense, no bad guys for the good guy to surmount. The geography of the game itself was malevolent, but it came to life through an increasingly disconcerting symbyosis between the landscape and the mental wranglings of those caught up there. You were your own nemisis in that game.

    If, by the looks of things, this game seems to follow something like that, I’d be exceptionally happy.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Except hopefully it’ll be a lot better than SH2, because we won’t spend the first third of the game playing whackamole with enemies that fart from their rib cages.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      @ liliput king,
      You have to admit though, the dog-things!@$@
      Give me a headhumper anyday

    • Jake says:

      Hopefully Amnesia will be better than Silent Hill 2 because Silent Hill 2 is the best game ever. Amnesia does sound like it has a bit in common with the environment changing into something horrible. Hopefully the story is good – I felt Penumbra’s story started very strongly but got a bit messy near the end of the second game.

  9. Lars Westergren says:

    This sounds extremely promising! Sounds a bit like what I hoped Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth would be like.

    • Demon Beaver says:

      Dark Corners of the Earth started so promising, though… Attack of the Fishmen stays one of my favorite horror levels of all time! If this game captures that feeling, I will love it so much!!

    • qrter says:

      Eventhough DCotE had me screaming at my screen in frustration at regular intervals, for me it remains a deeply flawed game that I can’t help but utterly love.

    • HarbourMaster says:

      Ah I made sweet love to this game. It has some horrible flaws, really, a very hostile game in places (HOW MANY TIMES DID I HAVE TO WALK PAST THE SHOGGOTH TO GET KILLED IN THE ROOM WITH THE STATUE) but absolutely amazing vibe.

    • Chris D says:

      Deeply, deeply flawed, but still utterly brilliant. I never did finish it, couldn’t face being swept off the boat one more time. I remember finally escaping from the factory and then realising the FBI guy was going to make me go back down. I ended up yelling at the screen “No freaking way, just shoot me! Shoot me now!” Oh, it’s that or get sent back to the creepy asylum place? Guess I’ll take my chances with the factory then.

      If I were to go back to it I’d probably stick the difficulty down to easy and just play it for the atmosphere. Also the escape form the hotel sequence is one of my top gaming moments of all time.

  10. Ian says:

    I think my favourite insanity in games thus far is still Eternal Darkness, if only for the “We’ve just deleted everything off your memory card” dick-move. :D

  11. Morberis says:

    All I can say after reading this is, Fraaaaaaaaaack that. The game sounds great but the scaryness means I won’t be touching it with a 10 ft pole because I’m a big baby.

    • skalpadda says:

      Yeah same here, or I might be able to get through it playing only in daylight, which feels like it would sort of rob me of some of the experience.

  12. Humble says:

    God dammit, these guys should be given a huge budget to work with, if only to make sure there was no crappy voice acting in their games – but that would mean they’d have to listen to five or ten suits telling them what to put into the game. Too bad it’s next to impossible to get the best of both worlds in todays teen-obsessed market.

    • Lambchops says:

      The trailer voice acting is bad to the extent where I actually thought the player character’s name was Dandal, not Daniel.

  13. Krimson says:

    If you haven’t already, you should really check out the Penumbra series. The first one has some clunky combat, but the following games ditch that altogether in favour of running for you life.

    It’s also the closest a full game has come to scaring me as much as Shalebridge Cradle.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      I got Penumbra off the Humble Indie Bundle, but I haven’t had time to play it yet unfortunately. I did play a demo a long time ago, liked it a lot.

  14. Krimson says:

    Whoops, that was supposed to be a reply to Lars.

    This reply system is really hit and miss.

  15. WTF says:

    Well, like Penumbra, this looks to be an interesting idea but I doubt it will be worth the time. Firstly the team showed that they are very thin on ideas with the Penumbra sequence and that they are very bad at crafting endings to long winded games and secondly having no combat is just a stupid move. Having the ability to fight the things you fear is what makes the difference between a horror game and a horror “guess-the-number” puzzle. If you have no means of fighting back against the monsters you are simply playing a guessing game as to how far you can go, what is the right way to go and what actions do not trigger an instant and unavoidable death. This is just not good game design.

    Wanna-be horror game writers/designers need to start looking at the games in the genre that are considered classics and stop substituting gimmicks (physics puzzles: blah) for game-play.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I’m glad you don’t make games.

    • Lewis says:

      “If you have no means of fighting back against the monsters you are simply playing a guessing game as to how far you can go, what is the right way to go and what actions do not trigger an instant and unavoidable death.”

      That is simply not how it manifests. You can run, and hide, and you can lure monsters into traps.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      I thinking hurr-durr-dee, CoD MoW is teh best game imo.
      if you think anything else your n00b
      I am uber L337.

      That was actually painful =/

    • Jake says:

      What games in the genre are considered classics then? Penumbra was full of good gameplay, the puzzles were interesting and – something I liked – logical. You need to get somewhere, you stack stuff up to climb up there. The third Penumbra was obviously just entirely puzzles, which did get a bit boring, but that’s not really an essential part of the story.

    • WTF says:

      Yes – I only like COD 4 – Oh wait – I hate that game – In fact i think it and its pathetic sequel are amongst the worst games of the past 10 years. But never mind – You carry on being a total fucking douche.

      I am not saying that this needs be a shooter, but apparently my meaning was too veiled for your mind.

      The best horror games we have had all give you the chance to fight back. Period. Penumbra was a great idea and for the most part I enjoyed it, but once you realise there is no fighting and you can only run and hide it became a) tedious and b) far too easy. AI is not competent enough yet in even big budget games to make cat-and-mouse between you and a monster even vaguely interesting and in low-budget stuff like this it is just very weak sauce.
      Having weapons in Silent hill or Resident Evil (not a fan, but good for making this point) and Condemned do not make the game boring. It does not have to descend into a kill-fest, rather the guns become a resource that must be managed. Simply dodging around behind boxes with a binary “he heard you = you die” ” He didn’t hear you = proceed” mechanic is just tiresome and utterly lacks ingenuity. Having that kind of thing for a brief change of pace in a game can be fine but constructing the entire experience around it is a bad idea.
      But by all means, rant on haters. I own an opinion that is not yours so therefore I must be mocked. Sad to say that RPS has simply turned into a forum for ex CS 1.6 players to come and vent their mental retardation on the world…

    • Lewis says:

      “Simply dodging around behind boxes with a binary “he heard you = you die” ” He didn’t hear you = proceed” mechanic is just tiresome and utterly lacks ingenuity.”

      But the thing is you seem to be basing your judgement on this, which I’ve already told you is a misunderstanding of how the system works.

    • WTF says:

      @Lewis
      I understand what you are saying but if in a game I am given enemies I expect to be able to deal with them. I am not saying that all games should have guns; look at Portal. Thing is in that game I was given an effective and proactive way of dealing with threats I face.

      In this, as in Prenumbra, my only option is to sneak about until I understand what “physics based” jiggery pokery the developers have put at my disposal with which I can dispatch my attackers. – in other words, guess the number in the developers head. I just find it far too limiting and I really don’t see the purpose as I am utterly certain it adds nothing to the experience.

      Puzzles are great and using real-world physics to create traps that I can use to my advantage is also great, but only in an emergent style of play. Here everything is predetermined and, as a result, pedestrian.

    • Lilliput King says:

      “In this, as in Prenumbra, my only option is to sneak about until I understand what “physics based” jiggery pokery the developers have put at my disposal with which I can dispatch my attackers.”

      But that worked really well. It was interesting and original. The way you deal with the monsters is by avoiding them – there is skill in that, and calling it ‘binary’ is meaningless. Anything can be reduced to that level (i.e., you beat/kill the monster or you don’t). What it adds to the experience is a sense of powerlessness, which is the root of good horror and true fear. Contrast with Condemned, where if anything spooks you you taser it, get your bearings then beat it to death.

      Maybe this type of game just isn’t for you. It isn’t like there’s any shortage of Resi Evils, Condemneds and Silent Hills.

    • WTF says:

      @Lilliput King
      Fair enough. If that’s what you guys are after, a sense of powerlessness that conjures fear, and this game supplies it then all power to you. I just didn’t find anything scary at all in Penumbra and nothing I have seen of Amnesia seems any different. They both take horror too literally and at the end of a day a dude in a badly fitting wet-suit just isn’t scary – at least not to me. I require my horror to be a lot more psychological and creepy. These games relied on the horror of your actual avatar – the screen showing the effect that the monsters and scenery has on him – but I never felt any empathy for him and I don’t think I will with Amnesia. Maybe I’ve read too many horror books or seen too many movies but if some skinny little shambling thing comes at me flapping its pseudopodia I’m just gonna beat the sunnova bitch to death with the nearest stick

    • Jake says:

      “The best horror games we have had all give you the chance to fight back. Period.” – This is true enough, but you get to fight back in Penumbra as well. The first game you even have weapons. In my opinion the best horror games you get a chance to fight back but you suck at it is a more accurate statement. In Penumbra the fight back is desperate.

      There are monsters you can deal with in Penumbra but fighting them is not a case of just shooting them, you lock them in rooms, hide from them, lead them into traps, throw rocks or gas cannisters. That seems far more interesting than just shooting them. Silent Hill could arguably be improved if they removed most of the combat – generally it was so difficult to do properly you would run away anyway, and there was never any ammo.

      Resident Evil and Condemned are not horror games, in the sense that they are not scary – and one of the reasons they are not scary is that you can very effectively deal with enemies – in Condemned you basically control an unstoppable axe-weilding taser-firing magic-powered psychopath (surely the FBI aren’t meant to axe people in the face then snap their neck). In Resident Evil or Dead Space you are armed to the teeth. But in Penumbra you control a physically weak professor, in Silent Hill you control a depressed guy or scared teenage girl. In the first Amnesia trailer it shows Daniel’s reaction to the noises – he’s scared and basically defenseless. If he had guns it would be a lot less scary.

      Having said all this I do think there it is possible to have weapons in a survival horror game, but they should never be enough to make you feel safe.

      I for one loved the puzzles in Penumbra and the third Penumbra, which is basically just puzzles, still kept my attention. But then I loved the puzzles in Silent Hill 2 as well. Good puzzles can be all the gameplay you need.

    • Jake says:

      ‘I require my horror to be a lot more psychological and creepy’ – but that is why Penumbra is scary! It’s all psychological: sanity; stress; isolation. It’s all about creepy things in the shadows. The only game that out does it in those terms is SH2. I like the exact same criteria, so what other games were you thinking of?

    • WTF says:

      @Jake
      I *am* thinking of Silent Hill 2 and 3 as they are the only good horror games around to my mind. In those games while I am shown the reactions that the adventure is having on my avatar through cut-scenes and what not, I am not forced into screen blurring and gasping breaths like I am in Penumbra/Amnesia. The horror in these games just feels utterly forced like a bad Hammer Horror movie and it just leaves me cold. I wanted to like Penumbra a great deal and I initially thought the idea of having no combat was great but it simply did not work. The puzzles were weak, the “physics” interaction was simply broken and the persistent nonsense from my avatar was just annoying. The game should not be *telling* me when I am scared and trying to force me to be scared by faffing about with cheap special effects. My avatar should at all times be under my control and that is simply not the case in these games.

      Like I say – good ideas and intentions but very badly executed as far as I am concerned. By all means make the combat ludicrously hard or utterly absent and by all means make with the puzzles but cat and mouse gubbins and generic looking monsters are just a poor effort.

    • Jake says:

      I think the problem maybe then is just that SH2 (and SH3 to an extent) were just so impossibly good that all other games are going to struggle to compare – especially in terms of monster design and story – but who knows, maybe Amnesia will have a Pyramid Head.

      I thought Red from the first Penumbra was a highlight of the series, well written and voice acted, and there were moments that were genuinely chilling – like the ultraviolet room. I think in the entire time I played Penumbra I fought one enemy successfully and hid from the rest. I liked stacking objects to reach higher places, this felt like a realistic use of physics in a game – it’s what you would do yourself. There are very few loss of control moments – isn’t it just when you are very near to an enemy and not hidden that your vision goes funny?

      My concerns about Amnesia would be that the hiding or fleeing is too scripted – in the first video he hides in a wardrobe, but what if he didn’t? Instant death and retry until he gets it right? And then I worry about the story – Silent Hill just got better the more you understood of what was going on, but Penumbra got worse when the unexplainable was explained away.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      The power vs. not issue in horror games is the reason why I think it was criminal to rate the Oceanside Hotel in Bloodlines over the Cradle in Thief 3 (they both came out the same year, and I seem to recall the former getting a little bit more attention, at least at the time).

      Both well crafted levels, but in the Hotel I was a powerful supernatural creature. In the later I was a character to whom regular human guards were routinely a real hazard.

      Horror if your character is too capable just becomes aesthetics. That being said I’m not at all a fan of games that decide to make my character less capable by making them hard to control. I understand the mentality there, you want to make things a little less natural for the player when they get panicy, but it just doesn’t work for me. Every time I need to think about how to make my avatar do something that’s time I’m not involved in the game and I’m not being scared. That’s why Resident Evils never worked for me. I haven’t really tried the Silent Hills, but it’s my understanding they are similar.

      With all that said, however, I agree that having explicitly no way to fight back at all actually reduces the fear. A lot of fear comes from uncertainty. Being able to fight back, but badly, means that each encounter has you needing to very quickly decide whether to stay and fight, or run. And then if you decide to fight and it seems like it isn’t working you need to then make another decision quickly on whether to abandon your attempt or to keep at it a little bit longer. That uncertainty in what you should do in any given situation can provide a lot of the horror response; by keeping it from being too automatic it means you can’t fall back on your instincts as much, which leads to panic when you’re forced to make a decision quickly. That’s why games where you are too capable aren’t frightening; in any given encounter you just fight, no decision. But likewise, if your response is to always run, then that too is automatic.

    • Jake says:

      I don’t think many games actually take control away from you – things like the insanity effects in Call of Cthulu, or in Penumbra where your vision goes funny when you are too near an enemy are the only real examples I can think of. Silent Hill doesn’t take control away from you, what it does is have really terrible controls in the first place that mean you are rubbish at combat. Similar to the first Penumbra, you can fight but you will probably die or at least get really hurt. Good result maybe, but not great execution, it’s quite frustrating in both games. You can forgive them though as they are so good.

      Resident Evil 5 co-op is also great by the way, different sort of game though.

    • Clovis says:

      I don’t see a problem with the game taking some control away from you in a horror game. Unless you are a trained, hardened soldier or something, your body will take some control away from you if you were in that position. The protagonist is clearly not a soldier, so it makes sense for the game to inhibit the player in some way to mimic the body’s reaction to impending death.

      I agree that it would be better if the game didn’t have to do this. If the game was so effective that you physically reacted as if you were going to die, then it wouldn’t be necesary. However, I really wouldn’t want to play a game as effective as that!

      I guess this stuff doesn’t matter much to me. Killing the enemies, through physics or combat, was never what I was intereseted in. I considered Penumbra more of an adventure game.

  16. Pepelusky says:

    Already pre-oerdered this one, can’t wait to get my hands on it.

  17. Demikaze says:

    Gosh, this is the type of game I’ve been waiting for for yonks! No combat, having to flee your enemies, finding a hiding space. It sounds a bit like that sequence in Call of Cthulhu where you run from the assailants; best bit in the game and for very good reason!

  18. Ovno says:

    Sounds like they’ve taken a leaf from Eternal Darknesses book with the sanity potions.

    I always thought they (and the later magic power to remove insanity) spoilt the game a bit but boy were you glad you had them when you couldn’t enter a room without you arms and legs falling off…

  19. Freud says:

    The only way they can condition gamers to run away these days is to not give you any weapon. If you gave the gamer a weapon and then had enemies that were too strong for you, many players would bash their heads against those enemies and then declare the game is broken.

    • Jake says:

      Yes agreed, or if you limit ammo then people would quick load to do things more conservatively or would spend hours looking for more ammo or complaining (this happened a bit in RE5).

      Being able to only carry one weapon that you couldn’t reload (like in Condemned) and having no melee skills might work. Or a weapon that just temporarily immobilises so you can run away.

  20. Shazbut says:

    Looking forward to this very much, even if it’s unplayable with the sun in the sky.

    • airtekh says:

      @Shazbut

      I feel your pain; happens whenever I play Thief.

      Oh well, there’s always the gamma settings. :(

      Note to self: Buy thicker curtains.

  21. Urthman says:

    I’d really love to see them do a game with this kind of physics and gameplay but not in the horror genre.

    • Clovis says:

      Yes, exactly! That’s the big problem with Penumbra. They keep cutting out a big portion of their potential audience by sticking to this theme. I’m still excited that they have a new game coming out, but please no more horror!

  22. Dozer says:

    @the title picture:

    IT’S A TRAP!!!!!

  23. Grape Flavor says:

    Sounds excellent for those who will enjoy it. Personally I’ve never felt the appeal of intentionally terrifying oneself so I must take a pass. Monster sections of shooters like Ravenholm are uneasy enough for me already, and that’s with a gun.

  24. Malagate says:

    @Jake “My concerns about Amnesia would be that the hiding or fleeing is too scripted – in the first video he hides in a wardrobe, but what if he didn’t? Instant death and retry until he gets it right?”

    You should check their website and read about the video where he hid in the wardrobe, that wasn’t scripted. Apparantly it took them a while to pull it off properly too. I suppose it would be easier to ask John to find out how scripted hiding moments were, or if there was indeed a choice where you could just run to a safe area or somehow make a trap (I do like that enemies can be distracted).

  25. Aubrey says:

    Only tried penumbra recently. It was really good! I liked throwing shit at wolves and then pounding them during their knock down frames. NOT SO SCARY NOW, HUH WOLVES?

    Fuckin’ wolves.

    But yeah, really lovely use of physics. Made every action feel elegant – like an expression of a more fundamental system, rather than a variety of push buttons with an arbitrary outcome each time.

    And any game where I have to use a pen and pad to write down clues gets a thumbs up from me, except when I can’t find a pen. Or pad. Because I’ve never needed one for a game. Because games have made me lazy, and would decode the morse code and open the lock for me.

    • Clovis says:

      You should play more adventure games. Pen/pad are usually required tools for most of them.

      Then again, most adventure games suck, so you’d be just as well not playing more of them.