Wot I Think: Amnesia – The Dark Descent

By John Walker on September 7th, 2010 at 6:57 pm.

Even the title screen's too dark for a good screenshot.

Frictional’s first full-length game, and a successor to their Penumbra series, comes out tomorrow. Amnesia is a combination of classic haunted castle horror with their unique first-person adventuring. Is it good? Is it scary? (Let me give you a clue: flipping yes, and oh good grief yes.) Read on to find out just exactly Wot it is that I Think.

Paint the man, cut the lines. Paint the man, cut the lines. Paint the man, cut the lines. Paint the man, cut the lines. Paint the man, cut the lines. Paint the man, cut the lines. Paint the man, cut the lines. Paint the man, cut the lines.

Help me.

Good flipping grief on a barge, Amnesia is a scary game. There is no question, not one, that it has instantly equalled with the original Thief in terms of making me feel like I’m constantly on the verge of a hideous heart attack. If it failed at everything else – and it absolutely does not – then it would still be an extraordinary achievement simply for so ceaselessly inducing ghastly fear.

However, Amnesia achieves on so many levels, from phenomenal architecture to astonishing visual design, from exquisite use of darkness to a game-changing use of physics. It has shortcomings too, and I’ll get to them, but this is an overall tale of impressive success.

But most of all, it’s the fear.

You’re walking down a barely lit corridor, bleak with shadows. You light a single candle on the wall, more to mark that you’ve been this way than to provide any respite. But suddenly everything starts shaking, a roaring crash deafens you, and in front of your is a rockfall blocking your path. So you turn around to make your- WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?

Stood in front of your is the horror of a mutant, its face in a ghastly, deadly yawn, arms twitching, staggering toward you. It hasn’t seen you yet, but the music has, and it’s become discordant, threatening. Daniel’s breathing picks up, his vision stretches out thin, before swimming slowly back to normal. But you’re lit by that candle, and it’s going to-

It’s seen you, and the screech begins. It’s not a scream, not a roar, something between, one tone, horrendous. It speeds up, charges, and you can only run. Darting past, it clips you with a talon-finger, a slice of blood ripping across the screen. Daniel staggers, his sight goes red, but you keep your finger on sprint and you just run, in darkness, no idea where you’re going. Finally there’s a door. You race in, and slam it shut behind you, and run into the darkest corner, crouch, and face the wall.

It’s growling moan still grows louder, and then you hear it slam against the door. Its fists batter at the wood, and you turn around to see splinters flying off, then a hole punched through. Face the wall. Just face the wall.

Whether it comes in to find you, or loses you in the darkness, is up to the moment. But you can’t turn around to find out what it’s doing – see it, and Daniel will react, perhaps make a noise. That’s death. So you stay there, panicking, panting, staring at stones, unsure if it’s even in the room any more.

While the idea of a player character who’s lost their memory may induce a groan, here’s the game that’s allowed to do it. This allows a narrative of gradually revealed horrors to seep back in as you progress through the first-person adventuring.

And it really is adventuring, but in a way that – if only any other developer in the world had had the sense to copy from Frictional’s previous Penumbra series – should be the genre’s new direction. Taking Penumbra’s technological reigns, once again this is a collection of large, complex physics puzzles, combined with exploration and inventory application. However, unlike Penumbra, there’s no combat whatsoever. That there’s still deadly enemies is in a large part why this is so damned scary.

You play Daniel, an explorer who apparently discovered some sort of magical orb. The only knowledge you have of yourself are the notes you left behind, and the memories that assault you as you enter certain locations. Why you’re stuck in a giant castle, and where you’re going, are unknowns. And because the narrative cleverly doesn’t come together in a meaningful way until the final acts, I’ll not say a word more.

So your objective is progression. Get away from where you are, because it’s bloody terrifying, and try to move on. And you can’t stick around, because the building itself is corrupting around you, the rocks growing horrendous pulsating flesh and exploding pustules.

Or more often it’s because you’re running for you life, too scared to turn around, racing until you can find a door to slam shut behind you. Really, having the character make yelps and frightened breathing sounds is completely unnecessary – I was making plenty of my own.

Running is the last resort. Ideally, should you hear the guttural groans of the grotesque mutant creatures that stalk the castle’s halls, you hide. Anywhere. Turn off your lantern, run toward darkness, and crouch. If you can find a wardrobe, climb in it and close the doors. Because you cannot fight back, and any attempts would be hopeless.

Running to darkness is quite the opposite of your usual intent. Darkness leads to fear, and fear leads to insanity. To maintain your mental acumen, you need to seek light, and it’s in extremely short supply. The building is inevitably plunged in black, and too long without being able to see properly causes Daniel to begin losing his already fragile mind. You discover a lantern early on, but the game’s rarest commodity is lantern oil, and you’re going to want to ration it for emergencies. The other option is finding tinderboxes to light lamps, torches, candles or fireplaces. These offer a faint glow in the gloom that can allow you to keep a grip on reality. But again, tinderboxes aren’t in wide supply, and you’re going to have to think carefully about where to create light.

The loss of sanity can only be restored by progression. (An absolutely fantastic improvement on the preview version’s Sanity Potions, that really made no sense at all). This is either geographical, or completing puzzles. It makes sense. These moments provide calm, offer satisfaction. It allows you to believe you’re having an impact, making a difference, and not just the victim to this horror show.

But insanity is rife, and you will be subject to it. The portrayal is splendidly evocative. The screen contorts, bellows, and woozily twists. Colours bleed, the world blurs, and you lose full control of your movement. At worst your legs give way from underneath you, and you’re left dragging yourself across the floor by your arms. And the sound. God, the sound. The screeching, screaming, wailing. The tinnitus drone, the whispering voices, the distorted, atonal instruments. Help me.

Every moment of sound is a masterpiece (with the exception of the voice acting, which is mostly decent, but rarely brilliant). The thumping machinery, colossal chains and cogs, dripping viscera, unholy moans, and swelling tunes constantly conspire to terrify you in even the most gentle moments. Add to this Daniel’s frantic breathing whenever he’s scared, and his little yelps of terror when surprised, and you’re left a gibbering wreck.

Those enemies – it’s not just a case of hiding from them. You can’t even look at them. Their sight is too frightening for Daniel, quickly tipping him over the edge.

It’s crazy how affecting it is, every time. I found myself chanting, “Only a game. Only a game.” But it didn’t work. And I think at the point where a horror game has anyone tell themselves, “It’s only a game”, it’s unquestionably a success.

One particularly horrendous (in the good way, you understand) sequence involves negotiating flooded chambers, stalked by an invisible beast. You can see its footsteps splashing in the water, and it can only detect you by yours. I’ll not ruin a moment of that bit, as it’s possibly the game’s greatest scene, but wow it inflicts terror.

The sense of urgency to get back onto a box, out of the water and onto the safety of a crate, is insane. The whole of my body tensing as the click of my mouse becomes more intense, more frantic, leaning forward in my chair as if that will help me climb to safety more quickly, my spine and chest tingling with urgent fear.

Things are so much more effective for the remarkable way you interact. It’s similar to Penumbra, except without the key to have the mouse become a cursor. Instead you use the central reticule to interact, pointing it at objects. When you can interact a hand icon appears, which lets you click on something to manipulate it. And you manipulate it in a tangible, real way. Opening a drawer isn’t clicking the button to initiate the drawer opening. It’s gripping the handle of the drawer, and then pulling it toward you. It moves as a drawer moves, as quickly as you pull it. Should there be an object inside, it will slide forward if you give the drawer a sharp tug. It’s so simple, but crikey, it makes such a difference.

The same goes for opening and closing doors, which makes that earlier description of slamming doors behind enemies literal. You can gently creak them open, just a crack, to peer through. Or slam them against the wall behind in a mad rush. Objects can be picked up, and sort of magically float in front of you – you have to imagine your arms for yourself. They can be rotated, and thus stacked into improvised structures. You can build ramps, or impromptu staircases to reach areas, from any local furniture.

It’s utter lunacy that more games haven’t mimicked this, but if Amnesia is the success it deserves to be, perhaps it will finally be noticed. For adventure gaming it’s the ideal solution to 3D, letting you apply inventory objects in the real world.

What I found most remarkable about this was the nonchalance with which I applied it. Stood by a balcony in the gloom, I wanted to know how high up I was. So I picked up a stone from the floor and dropped it over the side, and waited for the clatter. It wasn’t until I’d done it that I realised that no game had ever needed me to do this, let alone made it so instinctively possible.

There's quite a lot of winkies in the game.

There’s some silliness in there too. An unfortunate side effect of having puzzles be solved by improvising with the surrounding items is highlighting how daft it is when it requires a specific object in a specific place. One scene needs a rope to lower a container into a hole in the ground. The room is decorated with non-interactive spools of rope, but you have to find the correct bit of string in another location to get anywhere. A normal oddity for gaming, but here it stands out a little bit more. The hammer and chisel in your inventory is used to get past quite a lot of challenges, but there’s many where they’d clearly work but the game just says no.

The script isn’t perfect. There’s some broken English in a couple of places, and a huge number of very long letters you find aren’t voiced. Stopping to read a missive that doesn’t make narrative sense yet doesn’t really fit into the panicked theme of the game, and often things are so obscure that it’s hard to pull it all together in your head. By the end the core plot does come together extremely well, but there’s a lot that’s left confusing because you didn’t do your comprehension homework properly. Daniel’s voice veers between competent and a bit overly pantomimed, often quite mood-breaking. But Alexander’s – and you can learn about him yourself – is great.

But so much more is done so well. There’s an almost Valve-level of smartness with visual cues, and I cannot think of a game that uses audio cues better. Most times I got stuck anywhere were because I was forgetting to listen.

And did I mention it’s scary? I was inventing new swears by the end of it. “Fucking cocksticks, what the shitstack was that?!” And I confess I yelped on more that one occasion. One of them might be considered, by some, to be a squeal. But more often I’d find myself rigid with fear, my stomach pressed against my desk as I leaned into the monitor trying to reach the next illusion of safety more quickly. I think it is safe to say that Amnesia is the most successfully frightening game to have been made. It feels perhaps a slightly over-obvious observation, but the compliment is utterly valid: It’s Thief III’s Cradle as a full game. Unrelenting in its scares and jumps.

That this was made by a five-man team who built their own engine is bewildering. At around ten hours long, that it’s £13 (and discounted currently to pre-order for tomorrow’s release on Steam, GamersGate, and presumably elsewhere) is amazing value. If you pre-ordered it, you can start pre-loading now via Frictional’s site. I cannot recommend it enough. So long as you don’t mind being utterly bloody terrified.

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225 Comments »

  1. Warduke says:

    Awesome! Been waiting for this and your thoughts on it.

  2. Binman88 says:

    Jesus Christ, I can’t wait for this to come out.

    Sorry John I didn’t read the article before commenting. I’ll read it later.

    But damn, I’m looking forward to this.

  3. Daniel Rivas says:

    Ooh! It’s a game about me!

  4. UncleLou says:

    Oh my, I am confused. I read your great and passionate writeup, and I read Quintin Smith’s review on EG, and you even mention Thief as a reference point (a game that is surprisingly rarely mentioned as a scary game), and it sounds fantastic – but when I tried the demo last night, it didn’t do much for me, and I found the insanity effects a tad annoying.

    Now what scares us and what doesn’t is as subjective as it gets, but I don’t want to miss a scary game (they’re just too rare) just because I couldn’t get into the demo. Guess there’s only one way to find out. :)

    • Ricc says:

      According to the developer’s blog they “made the sanity mechanic be a bit more aggressive”, so maybe that has something to do with it.

      (Haven’t played the demo, because the game is being released tomorrow.)

    • Ricc says:

      @myself: Sorry for the double post. *The demo* is the one with the more aggressive sanity mechanic. Forgot to say that.

    • TheTingler says:

      I wouldn’t use Thief as a reference, more the opening levels of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (before you get a weapon). Just smarter and even scarier.

  5. Ignorant Texan says:

    Mr Walker -

    Is Xanax or a teddy bear a better companion when I play this?

    • John Walker says:

      I recommend a cat, who sleeps on your desk, and sits up with a start at exactly the wrong moments.

    • Calabi says:

      Thats handy because I do have a cat that sleeps on my desk, and he slaps me if I move the mouse to suddenly.

    • Nick says:

      my cat used to sit on my knee and hit the spacebar itself if it was hitting it too often.

    • jaheira says:

      Well, my cat used to sleep on top of my old CRT monitor and dangle his tail over the screen.

    • deanimate says:

      Wish I had a cat :’(

    • El Stevo says:

      My cat just steals my chair whenever I get up from the computer, and then gets very grumpy when I move him.

    • lemming77 says:

      My two have a habit of sleeping on my desk. And they were living on a farm until we got them, so they’re quite aggressive. One of them was laying on my desk, resting his head on my mouse arm. After he got irritated by me moving said arm too much during a game, he bit me. :(

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      Come to think of it, I haven’t seen my cat since she lap-sat me when I played the demo.

      Or, since she’s communal(i.e. I’m one of three ownees (cat people will understand what I mean) in the neighborhood), she may be sheltering from the remnants of Hermine at one of her other residences.

  6. Warth0g says:

    Gosh, how scrumptious.. I love being scared by games (remember the level with the statues in Bioshock 1? God I loved that..) and this sounds like the ultimate pants soiler. Somewhat like Call of Cthulu but hopefully in a more modern engine?

    My only worry is about the disembodied hand that you to use to interact with the world… I get that pushing and pulling things is more immersive than clicking on them.. but doesn’t a disembodied floating hand kind of, well, break the immersion?

    It matters not, your review pretty much sold me on it ..

    • MadTinkerer says:

      If it’s like Penumbra, then the hand icon is not a problem. Mentally, you just acknowledge it as being part of the incredibly sparse interface and representative of your “real hand”, especially since (and this is the clever part) it moves along with your actual real hand. Myst and the Underworld games did similar things.

    • TheTingler says:

      “Somewhat like Call of Cthulu but hopefully in a more modern engine?”

      Absolutely, specifically the first few weaponless levels, where it’s all just investigating, solving puzzles and then OH MY GOD RUN GET OUT OF THERE RUN!!!

  7. Javier-de-Ass says:

    superb. can’t wait for the download link to appear on their site

  8. Jambo says:

    Shitstack is my new favourite word

    • Warth0g says:

      I’m rather fond of cocksticks myself..

      ..perhaps I should rephrase that

    • MWoody says:

      What IS a cockstick? My best guess is something like pixy stix, only the stuff inside tastes like a pool smells.

    • Vandelay says:

      I would prefer a cockstack, personally.

      …Again with the wrongness.

  9. dtgreen says:

    Hands up, how many people are going to start using ‘cocksticks’ as part of their regular profane vocabulary?

  10. Freud says:

    Great piece of writing Mr Walker. Always knew you were a wuss.

  11. Xercies says:

    This is my kind of horror game, more game creators should really try to copy and expand on this horror technique then the usual survival horror about.

  12. Navagon says:

    Yay! Already pre-ordered.

  13. Jharakn says:

    Demo scared the pants off me, I’m not sure I can man up enough to buy the full game. Also full frontal on that corpse on the table in the screenie struck me as unusually gritty, you don’t see many games prepared to go that far…

  14. Dominic White says:

    I preordered this the moment it was announced. That was how much faith I had in Frictional delivering a marvelous bundle of scares.

    It sounds like they’ve done that and more.

    Now, just two days after Amnesia, another indie hit lands – who are RPS is going to be Wot He Thinks’ing over Recettear? I’ve heard it’s rather huge, actually – there’s a 100-floor dungeon later on, and that’s not even the last one.

  15. Huggster says:

    Great. This is why I love PC gaming.
    They won me over after I completed Penumbra BP the other day.

  16. Huggster says:

    Also:
    Headphones or 2.1 speakers? I might try headphones for the first time more or less.

    • John Walker says:

      If you don’t have 5.1s, I’d go with headphones. The location of sound is often crucial.

    • Vandelay says:

      So, 5.1 if you have it then? I do, but was considering headphones for this.

      I’ve been fairly underwhelmed by the surroundyness of surround sound in games, but uncertain whether it is a shortcoming of games in general, the developers or my lack of a sound card. Spinning away from the origin of sound makes it incredibly quiet (this is even noticeable in cutscenes when you the camera is showing the speaker’s perspective,) whilst environmental sounds don’t really feel as though they come from all around me. Watching films in surround is fantastic though and my speakers provide good sound quality for music, it is only games that seem lacking.

    • Fazer says:

      How about 5.1 headphones?

    • Huggster says:

      Even better pay friends and family to creep around behind you rustling paper bags etc., drop Hertfordshire Huntsmen on your shoulder, and so on …

    • Dozer says:

      If you’re using 5.1 speakers, remember to tell Windows that you’re using 5.1 speakers. I had mine set up for close to a year before realising that only two of them were making noises.

    • DSX says:

      I prefer a good set of headphones over any speaker set up. The noise dampening in Sennheisers makes up for surround sound by letting the world be either be perfectly silent, or perfectly loud without any distractions beyond your screen. Just finished Singularity and there were several ‘Holy fuckstick” moments due to the superb audio.

    • Starky says:

      Sorry to tell you Fazer but 5.1 headsets are snake oil, there is no such thing – it’s not possible.

      Ears don’t have directional hearing, they only calculate direction by difference in left/right volume, which stereo headphones are all that is needed to do.

      5.1 headphones are a lie.

    • Huggster says:

      Okay so my decent 2.0 Senny’s did a great job. I don’t see the need for anything other than a decent pair of Hi-Fi cans.

    • GenBanks says:

      @Vandelay
      You can adjust volume so that your rear speakers are louder to compensate for distance. Once I discovered this it made a big difference to my enjoyment of surround sound.

      I like headphones a lot, because it makes it easier for me to accurately distinguish sounds (like a spy uncloaking in TF2), but my speakers have a more dramatic, ‘bigger’ and movie-like sound, they’re more charismatic in the experience they deliver if that makes any sense. I’m using Z-5500′s and like them a lot.

    • SuperNashwan says:

      “Ears don’t have directional hearing, they only calculate direction by difference in left/right volume, which stereo headphones are all that is needed to do.”

      Err, that’s not strictly true, your hearing uses several mechanisms for determining sound location, not just simple volume difference, but time of arrival differences and inferences from a learned model of how your head and torso interfere with sound. It’s the latter that “surround” headphones particularly emulate to try to give a good spacial impression, although the degree of success varies from person to person.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head-related_transfer_function

    • Vandelay says:

      @GenBanks

      I do have my rear speaker volume adjusted. In the Realtek HD Audio Manager, I have my rear speakers both set to +10 DB (the highest they will go to) and the distance set to a little over 9 feet (which is about the actual distance. Still sound very quiet. As I say, its fine for watching films, as the speakers our right under my bed, which I would normally be lying on, but they are just too quiet to really get a good surround sound feel.

      Having said that, a quick glance at the speakers you say you are using and I can see that mine are about fifth of the price (Logitech x-540s, which I got for about £50,compared to the £250 the z-5500), which may go a long way to explaining why they aren’t brilliant. Still, quite interesting that they are fine for everything besides games.

  17. Neil Pemberton says:

    Fucksticles.

    I am a complete and utter pussy when it comes to scary games, but this looks so damn awesome.

    I wish my balls were bigger so I could play it!

    • Vague-rant says:

      Unfortunately, I am in a similar situation.

      Fortunately, a friendly chap on teh interwebs can help, having contacted me via spam e-mail.

    • Markachy says:

      Same also. After watching Paranormal Activity in the cinema I shat myself at every little squeak in my house for literally a week after.

      But this got such a glowing recommendation I feel I must…

    • Robert says:

      Oh this smells like the future of adventure gaming. But I’m afraid the stench of my fear will overstem it.

      If I imagine future adventure gaming, I imagine this, but with illuminati instead of mutants.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Same here. The only thing this,

      It’s Thief III’s Cradle as a full game.

      inspires is a Oh fuck no of epic proportions. Amnesia looks awesome but the one thing I do not like in games is fear, to the point where my brain seems to have blocked out 95% of the Cradle.

    • apa says:

      I’m getting almost heart attacks from Dead Space on PS3… I can’t play this :D

  18. Maale says:

    Excellent, just finished my Steam pre-install, now only to wait it be activated. I will be scared shitless playing this game, I know that now for sure!

  19. The Sombrero Kid says:

    w00t i’m at 80% preloaded on steam, can’t wait hopefully i wont have to wait till 8am to play :D

    • Jake says:

      How do you make Steam preload it? Sorry I can’t figure it out, and I want to be playing this at whatever ridiculous hour it first comes available.

    • Huggster says:

      Ha! same problem as me. Its not on my games list. I did have the demo there, maybe that mucked it up.

    • Huggster says:

      And its still saying “In cart” like I have not bought it. Paypal complete though. Dammit.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      if you bought it on steam for some bizarre reason you can’t preload it, if you bought it from the developers site you can goto https://shelf.frictionalgames.com/ & type in your email & order number & you’ll get a key, goto steam and put the key in then double clck it in your ames list to start preloading :D

    • Huggster says:

      Ahh okay. I pre-ordered from steam – silly me :-( . Still not in my games list though, nor email notification from steamgames. i will give them until <I go to bed then send them an email – cannot miss out on day one release!

  20. Vague-rant says:

    The Penumbra series made me realise that perhaps true horror games are not for me (I prefer the horror to be in isolated levels than whole games). Liked the controls/mechanics a lot, though. Hopefully their next game is more cheerful?

    • Clovis says:

      Yes, This. I’m gonna’ buy Amnesia to support the developer, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish it. I loved everything about Penumbra BUT the horror. I really, really hope that their next game is less frightening. Their chances of making a big impact on adventure games is affected since so many adventure gamers hate horror.

  21. Maale says:

    Excellent, just finished my Steam pre-install, now only to wait it be activated. I will be scared shitless playing this game, I know that for sure! And thank god they dropped those sanity potions.

  22. Dean says:

    Yeah, the mechanics in this look great, but I am far to much of a wimp to play it

  23. robrob says:

    Really glad to hear this is good, I loved Penumbra except for the combat and this seems to fix that. Will definitely pick it up when I get a computer which can play it.

  24. Snall says:

    Hmm, I’m not usually into these types but you do make it sound rather good…maybe I’ll check it next month.

  25. HarbourMaster says:

    Incredibly pleased that they’ve stuck with one of their lessons from Penumbra, to drop any pretence of combat. It was always the idea in Penumbra that you were not some kind of soldier and that your melee efforts were clumsy at best – the problem was leaving in an attack verb at all, which triggered game-years of conditioning that Kill Solve Problem, thus unwittingly generating misery for players of Penumbra: Overture.

    Well, I guess I’ll be downloading my pre-order tomorrow. Don’t think I’m going to open it up straight away, may not be man enough to handle it.

    It’s good to know that someone is carrying the Thief torch for scaring the fucking shit out of gamers and that the world isn’t solely reliant on Eric Brosius to pull this off at last.

  26. Tweakd says:

    I pre-ordered the moment it was announced after completing the Penumbra series one by one. I don’t often get excited about single player experiences but this one has me pinning towels over my curtains and hanging a DND sign on my door.

    I’m looking forward to an evening of simulated insanity. Is that wrong? Is that sane? Who cares, i can hear the noises getting closer and I reckon I can use that shard of wood that’s lodged in this cadavers head to lever the door open… FUN!

  27. kenoxite says:

    I just read the prologue and epilogue of your review, John, but I’m glad you’ve given it a thumbs up. I’ll read it fully once I’ve played it myself.

    And BTW, the Steam serial is already available in their “shelf”, if you’re one of those who purchased this through the Frictional Games store. Steam is downloading it as I write this.

  28. The Sombrero Kid says:

    btw John thanks for letting everyone the secret I’ve been trying to keep for like 3 years, I’m currently a few months into development of a first person adventure game much like the penumbra games, but I’m the only person on the project and i have to do it outside work so I’m a year off even having anything to show, i don’t want anyone thieving my idea!

  29. Nihilileth says:

    Sounds delicious, but I won’t play it. Couldn’t even play the haunted hotel in VtM:Bloodlines but had to send my savefile to a friend who finished it for me and sent it back. I will however be waiting for someone to make a good let’s play out of this because I would love to experience the plot!

    • Schmitzkater says:

      My hope is that the Helloween4545 bloke off of youtube makes a Let’s Play for this.
      I find his LPs hilarious and sufficiently scary at the same time.

      http://www.youtube.com/user/Helloween4545

    • Nihilileth says:

      I’ll check him out! Looking at Khad’s Penumbra run now to get a feel for the spiritual predecessor to this game, his approach seems more cocksticky than scary right now though (which might be a good thing, i don’t know).

    • neems says:

      Let’s be fair, the haunted hotel mission in Bloodline was shitstackingly scary. Probably the scariest thing I’ve played – at least until the advent of Shadow of Chernobyl.

    • Sigma Draconis says:

      For being in a game that isn’t expected to have such a mission (or even that early in the game), The Ghost Haunts at Midnight ranks quite high in terms of dread. Without spoiling much, the various mishaps at the Hotel as you progress established a creep factor, but the sound design there is what makes the general unease shoot up quickly.

      Even though you’re a vampire, you didn’t feel quite so powerful there.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      I don’t know, I thought the hotel was a decide haunted house, but precisely because I was a vampire it didn’t really work for me to instill any sense of dread.

      Compared to the oft-mentioned Cradle which was the same year I believe, and featured in a game that was generally about making your character feel weak, I felt that the Oceanfront Hotel lacked a little bit of punch.

      It was very well designed however, and it had plenty of good tricks, I just felt that it was in the wrong game. The fact that Terrese acts so blaise about the ghost and tells you that it’s harmless doesn’t help, compared (again) to Thief 3′s game long foreshadowing of Shalebridge combined with the total mystery of what you expect to find there when you go in certainly didn’t help matters..

  30. Huggster says:

    Strange – why is my steam purchase not available to pre-load? Just bought it but never been an issue before.

  31. The Sombrero Kid says:

    omg i can play it!

  32. Hopterque says:

    I’ve been playing for about 20 minutes and I’m shaking and have to take a break, this is the scariest game ever made.

  33. Slayman says:

    Hot Damn. Man i shat my pants over some lurkers crashing trough windows in Resident Evil 1 on PSX. Even though your write up was the best thing I have read all day I am simply not man enough for these kind of games. But I will say this: In it’s genre it appears to be a fist-sized diamond.
    Gonna recommend the article and thus the game it to all my chaps.
    And I must admit the general tone and attitude of the comments on RPS is far above what my eyes usually must endure.
    Great Site, even greater article.

  34. goatmonkey says:

    Arrghhh pre-ordered this ages ago I’m not a huge fan of being scared but seeing as I have it I will need to force myself to play it

    • Freud says:

      Same here. Bought it after trying the demo a bit. I might not be able to finish it, but at least I have supported a developer going off the beaten patch. So I don’t really see how I lose here.

  35. ChaosSmurf says:

    The insanity mechanic (and general theme of the game) reminds me of Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth. Though it was, by the sounds of things, an AWFUL lot harder to go insane in that. Also you got guns. Also the ending sucked.

  36. Shazbut says:

    I’ve finally decided to pre-order

    This is the first time I’ve pre-ordered anything ever.

    • The Tupper says:

      First time I’ve ever pre-ordered anything as well – the review just makes it sound so damn juicy.

  37. _Parasite_ says:

    Alright, that’s a sale. Brilliant write-up, I have a love-hate-hate-love-shitscared relationship to The Cradle in Thief : DS. So this became a buy after this. Been a while since i’ve been properly scared by a game *puts on diapers*. Bring it.

  38. Markachy says:

    OK, just watched the teaser trailer and could barely take it, couldn’t even face using my headphones rather than shitty 2.1 speakers, too scared.

    Not gonna waste my money, I won’t be able to take it!

    So glad to see a game that makes proper use of sound though. Not enough games do, it makes or breaks the experience for me. I always remember Gears of War having excellent sound effects.

  39. laikapants says:

    I cannot fathom a scenario in which I successfully play more than a handful of minutes of Amnesia, but dammit if I don’t want to hurl cash at them anyway for doing such a good job at giving me the wiggins. Just reading about it makes me want to go do something moderately cheery.

  40. Guildenstern says:

    I’m so buying this.
    .
    .
    .
    .
    I’m so not playing this.

  41. Dan says:

    I think i may have to pass on this. I’m sure you understand.

  42. Justin Keverne says:

    Purchased…

  43. Toby says:

    I have barely managed to play a grand total of four hours of Penumbra. These four hours taking place in the very first hour of the game. I have never been so scared in my life playing that damn game. Yet there is something in there that sucks me in again. Argh!
    It’s so horrible I can’t sleep at nights. My friends were afraid to ride their bikes home at midnight because of it. (After we had been playing it for a while.)
    I literally screamed like girl at one point, with a deeper voice but still. (A girl with high levels of testosterone.)

    And to think that I will now pull myself through this, I won’t even complete it. Oh no, never in a million years. But yet, I have to play it.

  44. reginald says:

    I don’t doubt that this game is scary as all hell. but how many people are actually looking for this ? I have a tendency to close these games and never open them again, because they’re simply too stressful. I’ve always felt that the real trick to making a horror game is to position the player on the constant threshold, the of death, an atmosphere of dread, without simply making the enemies instant kills, stressing the player out and causing him to leave the game.

    I want tension and atmosphere, not painful amounts of stress and constant anxiety.

    • mrmud says:

      I agree with this.
      This game sounds incredibly interesting but I cant even stomach horror movies, how am I going to be able to deal with this?

  45. DXN says:

    Oh gawd. Why did those bastards have to go and make another game? Now I have to play it. Which means more evenings of cold, sweat-soaked terror and gibbering and running away from the computer when things get too scary.

    I still have flashbacks to the kennels in the second game.

  46. post says:

    post to avoid the failure response that I will get.

  47. The tetchy snail says:

    I’m too much of a wuss to ever play this game – literally had chills running down my spine just reading the WIT. Still, incredibly glad that companies like Frictional are doing their thing. If I had any tolerance to being scared shitless, this’d be an instant buy. The fact that I’m considering it anyway says a lot.

    To those of you who actively enjoy torturing yourselves with digital entertainment, I say cocksticks.

  48. Jimmy Jazz says:

    Jesus, this is one of the few. (if not the only) games that succeeds to make me equally excited to, and reluctant to play it.

    Penumbra I couldn’t manage to gulp down the first time around. and two months later I decided to man up and play it, no matter ******* what.

    I am both very regretful of, and happy with that decision. I might have had to change my underwear at least once during my two week long play-through of Penumbra, and Black Plague.

    I might have to search for the most relaxing game I can, and then immediately buy it, and play it after sessions of this game.
    for it will scare the everliving **** out of me.

    • Vandelay says:

      I’m currently playing Penumbra for the first time in preparation for this and I’m not actually finding it that scary (even lights out, speakers up.) It is certainly very tense and the atmosphere is fantastic, but there hasn’t been any crap my pants moments. Just done the tunnel with the spiders and thought it was going to be scary, but the trial and error nature of the moment made it less so. The dogs too I initially thought would be creepier, but now they are fairly easy to avoid. I did have trepidation going into some vents and descending a long ladder, but there hasn’t been anything that has made me want to quit out of the game the way Call of Cthulu did or make me run back for no reason, like the long ascend up to the room with the ghost in Thief’s The Cradle. The only moment that has come close was when there was the sound of someone moving around above me and loads of banging, quite early on.

      Still, it is quite early days and I’m sure things will continue to build. The game itself is brilliant and this new one sounds terrifying. Can’t wait.

    • Jimmy Jazz says:

      Well, the first time I played Penumbra was honestly my first encounter with a game set out to terrify you.

      while a few months later I found it just as you described, or at least the first one.

      The second one is tense, and has a few *shit your pants* moments. such as running down a hall way, slamming a door shoving a barrel in-front of the door and keep on running praying like hell that you don’t turn the corner and find another one of *THEM*. running from what I’ll not say.

      But yes, Penumbra is tense and scared me, but Black Plague more so.

    • Ozzie says:

      I might have had to change my underwear at least once during my two week long play-through of Penumbra, and Black Plague.

      Ick! Personally, I’d recommend changing underwear every day.

    • Jimmy Jazz says:

      *chuckles*

      Bravo, sir, I applaud you.

  49. Brag says:

    What about 7.1 headsets?