Fin De Siècle: Amnesia – A Machine For Pigs

By Adam Smith on September 20th, 2013 at 8:00 pm.

I’ve spent most of the week thinking about Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs. I finished the story at the weekend and spent the last five minutes of the game with a huge grin plastered across my face. Not the reaction that a horror game might hope to elicit but thechineseroom’s cleverly concealed secret, hidden behind the dark curtain of that title, is that in some ways they haven’t really constructed a horror game at all. Thankfully, they’ve made something far more interesting instead.

It’s very difficult to talk about what A Machine For Pigs actually is, rather than all the trappings that come from the Amnesia bit of the title, without detracting from its power. If you haven’t finished the game yet, probably best not to read too much of my witterings, but there will be another warning before we pass the point of no return.

Let’s talk about what the game is then. It’s the story of a Machine, of course, an enormous contraption, all gears and steam, and as we expected, the Machine slaughters pigs and other assorted swine.
As if the title wasn’t suggestive enough, the trailer makes explicit what everyone had surely guessed. The Machine for Pigs was never going to be a trotter-friendly touchscreen tablet but it was also unlikely that hogs would be the only grist to the slaughter-mill. The final line of the trailer conjures cannibalism, mechanised mass murder and the vanishing/victimisation of an underclass.

“That all rather depends, Professor, on what one considers to be a pig.”

But, then, maybe it’s not the dispossessed and the forgotten that are to be fed to the machine. Perhaps it’s the upper class that will fill the role of swine? Selecting a specific target for vitriol at the anxious end of the nineteenth century in London isn’t simple. While Britain was recoiling in just about every manner that the word suggests – like a fist, a punchdrunk pugilist, a snake – social structures were undergoing recalibration as the dispersal of information, ease of travel and rise of the machines carried both threat and promise.

AMFP revels in those anxieties and the writing is as interested in the period and the place as it is in sending shivers up the spine. There are precious few chases or games of hide and seek, and I finished the entire game without dying. In fact, I don’t even know if it’s possible to die. Several times, I was wounded and cowered in the dark, bleeding, but there are no health bars or sanity meters – even the lantern is eternally charged. Dropping the inventory system and mechanics of its predecessors, AMFP does not allow confrontations and death to detract from its narrative.

During the opening couple of hours, when the total deviation from Amnesia’s template is less obvious, I missed the mechanical parts of the game. There’s precious little to do and, as Jim noted, the phantom children who act as motivation and bait are unconvincing – we’ve seen them too often before and they seem like a borrowing from a lesser place. Being charitable, I reckon that might be the point – they are a horror trope that has survived from 1899 to the present, a reminder that very little changes in a game that is, at its foundation, about the fear of change. That’s a stretch though. They’re probably just slightly naff ghost kids, although they do have a significant role to play as the story develops.

There are bumps in the night and blood stains on the floor, but it’s the details of the world that disturb rather than the broad strokes and the loud noises. The cages on the beds and the elaborate locks on the doors. These do more than limit the player’s freedom. Everything exists for a reason and, yes, the world has less points of interaction than Dark Descent’s and objects can’t all be thrown about the place, but there’s a great deal more to see.

The Dark Descent certainly fits the form of what I’d consider a pure scare ‘em up and it’s an excellent example of that form, content for its plot to lumber in the shadows for most of its length, while it concentrates on saying ‘BOO’. It does so convincingly, until, like an overworked CGI monster, the narrative finally emerges, and drains the tension and fear with a cosmic guff of hot air. The recently released Outlast is of the same ilk, although it leans heavily on its impressive technology to keep things interesting, a trick that wasn’t enough to keep me invested during the short running time. I can only run away from grunting maniacs so many times, through corridors lined with intestines and severed heads, before I become desensitised to their plight and my own.

A Machine For Pigs is different. It deserves mention in the same breath as Silent Hill 2, the great example of character-based interactive psychological horror.

The excellent and too-much ignored Shattered Memories aside, Konami’s series hasn’t come close to the heights of its second entry, nor have the sequels even aimed for that peak. Nothing really has. Whether it was heading for the same ground or not, A Machine For Pigs finds itself in Silent Hill’s neighbourhood. The themes that it eventually settles on are psychosocial rather than psychosexual – although there are plenty of parted haunches and a great confusion of fluids – but both games find their strength in the use of various forms of the horrific and the weird to reflect something recognisably disturbing.

And now, if you haven’t played, stop. Or continue a word at a time. I’m not going to reveal that the Machine is actually a spaceship or that the pigs are actually puppies – it’s not that sort of a story. I am going to unpick aspects of the narrative though, in a way that will reduce the enjoyment of experiencing them without prior warning or analysis.

Here we go then. Monsters are metaphors. The best monsters, anyway. The ones that get under our skin, between the membranes of our minds and into our memories. Bloodsuckers, flesheaters and parasites are formed from our urges, fears and desires, while phantoms and banshees tap into folk histories, and personal tragedies and regrets. AMFP takes the fin de siècle angst of a society and crams them into the overcrowded mind of a single man, the game’s proto-antagonist, an explorer/father/industrialist/butcher who has become lost between the tick and the tock of time’s passing.

His adventures to the ruins of other civilizations pre-empt the destruction of all that is civilized in his own world, but as he plays the archaeologist he is also stamping in the footsteps of the conquistadors. Restoration and recovery are inextricably linked with destruction. He returns with conquest on his mind but he is not intent on terrorising, instead he brands himself, in part, a philanthropist. His aim is to feed, to nurture and to father, and those instincts mingle with his fears to become part of a deeper paternalism, running through the veins of Empire. The milk of human kindness, polluted by the needs of industry, commerce and war, eventually runs red.

Just as Mandus is many things, so is his Machine. It is, at times, his dead wife, an anatomical and erotic structure that is also a prison, like Iain Banks’ Bridge. At other times it belongs on a factory line, or in an abattoir, producing and processing, but its true purpose is elusive, even as its innards are revealed. The descent to the heart of the device comprises the bulk of the game and the writing deserves a great deal of credit for its ability to maintain a sense of mystery throughout.

From an obvious starting point, the journey inward takes unexpected turns, although ‘turns’ may be the wrong term. There are no twists, as such, but rather the sense of a storyteller warming to a theme, elaborating and weaving new threads, or an orchestra adding new sections to its symphony as the music swells and changes. And that’s why I had a big grin on my face when the game ended. The finale is a performance and the rest is prologue. In the final moments, the game bellows, unashamedly pleased with the place it has found and the pitch of its delivery. It more than earns that right.

With AMFP and Outlast released so close together, I found it hard not to see the former as a riposte. That’s not the case, of course, but even with the caveat of Evil Corporate Experimentation, Outlast asks us to fear the madness of others. A Machine For Pigs is about fear of the self, whether it be the actions taken or the inability to act, and it ends with an agonised vision of the atrocities of the 20th century, the one that begins as the game ends and the one that our world survived, although not unscathed.

Mandus doesn’t believe that anything will survive and, as he clutches the ruins of his family and his own life, the many metaphors of the Machine come together. It is progress, it is mechanisation and it is the future. At one point, as the player emerges from the belly of the beast, explosions wrack London. It’s the sound of war, apocalyptic and urgent, and it seemed entirely natural at that point. The world hadn’t changed – the violence was always waiting in the wings or cringing behind a veil. Those sounds are Matthew Arnold’s “confused alarms of struggle and flight / Where ignorant armies clash by night” and, in its own strange way, A Machine For Pigs works as a splendid cover version of Dover Beach.

Unlike the poem, this story ends with hope. Not for Mandus but for the rest of us. The thing that he fears so much has come to be and, terrible as it was, we’re still here. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Even if we are building more machines by the minute.

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53 Comments »

Top comments

  1. Jack Mack says:

    Try Yume Nikki. It’s purely about surreal exploration through creepy dream-worlds. It’s mostly about being lost in a big, broken place.

    http://www.theneitherworld.com/yumenikki/links.htm

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  2. Turkey says:

    It’s been interesting looking at the reactions to this game.

    There’s a pretty big margin between reviewer opinions and what the public thought of it.

    I don’t really know where I stand on it. I enjoyed the narrative a lot, but I still don’t see why they had to throw out so much of the interactivity to make it work.

    • Remer says:

      Agreed. It is weird that you can’t pick up a ton of the objects or explore a little more. That disappointed me slightly, but the story is told brilliantly. It’s delivery is just perfect.

    • RedViv says:

      You can’t throw something out that hasn’t been included in the first place, can you? It would just be additional filler to what’s other wise a rather heavy but pleasantly straight-forward narrative.

      • fenrif says:

        Define “first place” because the trailers all show the player hiding from stalking monsters and I’m pretty sure the sanity mechanic too.

    • Ravenholme says:

      I have to agree, I felt the narrative was simply sublime once it got going, and the ending scenes gave me chills (the good sort), but I really felt the lack of the puzzle elements of it’s forefather in the moments when it slumped. The few puzzles it has are great, if a bit simple, and I would’ve liked more of that kind of thing, especially because of the Machine. The Machine is a fantastic setting and I felt like I got to interact with so little of it, when it could’ve been the bringer of many a fantastic puzzle structured around it’s fevered workings. The few that do involve that are a testament to that fact, but again, too simple.

  3. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    I would really love to play these games, but I’m a big huge coward and I don’t want to flee from beasts. I think there’s a real market for a horror game that doesn’t fit into the standard “monsters and murderers” mold and is purely exploration-based (note I didn’t say “impossible to die”). It would be hard to make, I’m sure, but hopefully someone will make a horror game someday that even nervous, high-strung people like myself can play.

    • RedViv says:

      Anna.
      Go play it.

    • Jack Mack says:

      Try Yume Nikki. It’s purely about surreal exploration through creepy dream-worlds. It’s mostly about being lost in a big, broken place.

      http://www.theneitherworld.com/yumenikki/links.htm

    • fenrif says:

      You’d like A Machine for Pigs then. There are maybe 2 scenes in the whole game where you can actually die, and a handfull of jump scares, and other than that it’s pretty much devoid of anything scary

      • Ruffian says:

        As odd as it may seem, I’m with fenrif, in that you should just play AMFP, the scares and jump scares are ratcheted waay down in favor of the story. AMFP is a lot more Poe than Slasher film. There’s maybe one or two pee your pants running the dark from pigglies moments and the rest is pretty great creepy narrative and atmosphere.

      • Drinking with Skeletons says:

        I caved and bought it from GOG. I really am worried about it, though; I don’t handle “scary” entertainment very well at all. At least it’s not about demonic possession which, for some reason I can’t quite fathom, scares the shit out of me. I slept poorly for months–honest to God months–after watching the first Paranormal Activity (and yes, I know that about 50% of the viewing public seems to think it wasn’t scary in the least; like I said, demons and possession occupy a weird space for me).

        Odd as it sounds, I’m hoping that, having more-or-less spoiled the entire plot for myself, I’ll be able to enjoy AMFP without being completely freaked out.

  4. sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

    I’m assuming this article is filled with spoilers and I shouldn’t read it until I’ve played the game?

    • Ashen says:

      Or, just buy it and then watch in on youtube. Slightly more convenient and exactly the same experience.

  5. Amun says:

    they haven’t really constructed a horror game at all. Thankfully, they’ve made something far more interesting instead.

    That right there was why I felt so let down by the game. It wasn’t nearly scary enough to follow up the previous game carrying the Amnesia title!

    And the obscurity of the writing reminded me of this: http://art-fag.ytmnd.com/ (just replace “humor” with “horror”)

  6. mrmalodor says:

    Fin De Amnesia. This game was a total disappointment.

  7. altum videtur says:

    The game is about as subtle with its central metaphor as a brick to the face.
    “Oh you see it was about the horror of the 20th century in general and specifically WWI all along!” the game says at the end. Which it already said with its title and historical date.
    It’s not open to interpretation. It’s not the meticulous weaving of some grand and thought-provoking narrative.
    It’s fucking philosophy undergraduate level bullshit.

    Edit: Also:
    pigspigspigspigspigspigspigspigspigspigs

    • AlienMind says:

      Also, why would you expect purity higher than a human from a swine brain? He prolly meant the purity to be easier enslaved.
      Edit: Or was he planting human heads on swine bodies? I don’t remember exactly.. Doesen’t matter anyways, both suck cock.

  8. AlienMind says:

    - There are more mechanical things in this game than in Amnesia!
    - You can die. Takes relatively long standing besides one of the human-pigs but you can.
    - The only problem with the game I have is they slapped AMNESIA in front of it when the gameplay clearly has very little in common with that AMNESIA title.

  9. Kaira- says:

    I felt the game was… well, not good, honestly. It wasn’t scary, and the story wasn’t good – there was no subtlety there. Overexposition, oververbosity and straight up rubbing the theme into your face tends to not work so well, and comparing AMFP to SH2 feels just wrong to me. The other worked its themes and symbols with subtlety and care, the other shoves them down your throat. “Hey, did we mention already that humans are like pigs? Here’s it again!”

  10. methylene blue says:

    Machine for Pigs offers a cool, measured, intellectual sort of weird. Silent Hill 2 seems like it was made by genuine maniacs.

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  12. Jake says:

    I’m really glad you wrote more about A Machine For Pigs Adam, I respect your opinions on horror games a lot and this was about the only game recently I thought would be interesting to read more on.

    I didn’t think the game was especially scary (although I did manage to die after getting cornered by the Tron Pig). The writing was excellent – I loved the phrase ‘my teeth scattered across the floor like mice’ (or something similar). And the tone of the whole thing was good as well, perhaps not as oppressive or upsetting as Silent Hill 2 but it sometimes reminded me of the nihilism of Thomas Ligotti (the greatest horror writer around). Hell, the pyramid just needed some great old one symbols and it would fit as part of the Lovecraft mythos.

    I think the things that I disliked the most were probably the result of technical limitations – going up and down into the factory seemed a bit contrived and also made it seemed like he could always just run away, go off to the countryside for a bit and forget about this mess. But even compared to Penumbra where by the end you are just miles underground and fucked it didn’t feel oppressive enough.

    And it felt as if a chapter was missing – surely there should have been more made of a level in the actual slaughterhouse where pigs are being killed/gore everywhere/carcasses on hooks etc? I was dreading this for the whole game and it never really happened. Then the pig rampage also seemed anticlimactic. But it’s an old engine and I suspect there were limitations.

    Also, there wasn’t a single difficult puzzle – barely anything that could be called a puzzle at all. Putting gears into the engine when they are right next to the engine, for example. Or flicking switches at random to make things explode. This seemed like a wasted opportunity, especially as this engine does puzzles so well.

    The finale was perfect and because of that scene I found that I loved AMFP. The way it worked with the music was excellent. But at quite a few other parts of the game I was less impressed. Tron Pig was a low point – was that some sort of methaphor I didn’t understand? Of all the scary ideas that could have surfaced for a final boss… Recycling the invisible monsters for no reason and with a plot device that was not mentioned again and made little sense was not great either. And the children were quite terrible, at least they were boys rather than the more typical creepy girls, so that’s almost something.

    The main thing I like about AMFP is that it seemed to get what made SH2 great – it makes you empathise with a damaged and interesting mind – and even though it didn’t do them as well, it’s much closer than most of the other games I have tried. While it is true that games can do horror really well, it’s pretty baffling that they hardly ever do.

  13. czerro says:

    I really disagree with this analysis. The game was not deep. The weak metaphor: Society is a Machine and Men are the Base Pigs fueling and worshiping it while it grinds them into dust…is kinda weak and ill-considered. Additionally the game beats you over the head with this metaphor repeatedly. How much more explanation is there to this? I believe Mandus even states this view within the first 15 minutes of the game. So what trough of revelation are we snuffling towards? Also, if this is what Mandus believes, why did he have to make a literal machine powered by literal pig men? Really undercuts the already heavy-handedness of the metaphor while sloppily and nonsensically forcing it in the most literally fashion into the plot itself. I don’t get the love affair critics are having with this game. ATDD and Dear Esther deserve all the praise they earned, this does not feel the case here. This game is pretentious yet doesn’t have the depth to back it up. The only enjoyable bits were the suggestive pages detailing the grim industry of the machine.

    • Adam Smith says:

      Enjoyed the response and the way it was written.

      I think it’s a game that will attract (hopefully) a great deal of analysis and a huge amount of disagreement amidst all of that. I found layers and layers in the storytelling, and by the time I understood what was being said, I revelled in it. Hence, the grin. I would’t claim to understand your disappointment, but I think I’ve taken a very different view – for me, it’s the elaboration of a metaphor rather than the revelation of it. That’s the joy of the story, which is almost a serial sense of storytelling, which perhaps this ties into.

      Not a huge fan of Dear Esther, which for me lacked purpose, and perhaps that says something about our reactions? I like that AMFP hit me with a heavy hand and then caressed me toward sleep. I also love that there is discussion. Let’s have more. And more games that allow for it.

      • grrrz says:

        yeah exactly, the social comment “men are pigs” and such is only the base layer, I liked the machine as a metaphor of Mandus’s fractured Psyche, and the obscure references I found out after (notably about James Tilly Matthews and ritual aztec sacrifices just to name a few) by digging a little deeper make it even more haunting.
        By the way I still don’t think the machine IS litteral no more than the pigmen are.
        (a lot of these things are discuted at lengh here
        http://www.frictionalgames.com/forum/thread-22974.html )
        and not everything of it can be explained by rationnalisation; there’s also a very sensitive and musical structure to the whole thing.

        • Turkey says:

          I liked the quote about the Aztecs, if they were simply mad for sacrificing all those people or they just didn’t believe hard enough that they could stop the end of the world. It’s kinda the whole story in a nutshell, and it explains the motivations of Mandus’ split personalities.

      • czerro says:

        Thanks for responding Adam. I did not find that this metaphor was ‘elaborated’, it was simply broadly restated ad nauseam. It also lacked parallel to Mandus’s backstory…outside of the ludicrous artifice of a machine fueled, powered, worshiped by pig-men. Makes it a weak metaphor, and weaker in relevance to the central issue of the plot which is revealed to be Mandus’s struggle with his own groan-worthy LITERAL duality rather than an existential one. It didn’t irk you whatsoever that the belabored ‘machine’ metaphor had nothing to do with the ending? It was a ‘duality of man’ in the clunkiest sense.

        Edit: I know my style isn’t the cleanest. No need to be smirky about it :).

    • Clockwork Peanut says:

      Yeh, the most depressing thing about a AMFP is that both Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Dear Esther are brilliant in absolutely different ways, and yet AMFP cannot muster ANY of that brilliance.

      Looking from the perspective of The Dark Descent, AMFP failed to involve me because it is almost completely bereft of any gameplay mechanics. Let me be clear, the problem isn’t the lack of a sanity meter or the fact your lamp never runs out, the problem is that there is no running, no hiding, or any sense that you are at risk. Why the developers even bothered leaving in the lean feature is beyond me.

      Then again Dear Esther barely had gameplay, but Dear Esther had plenty to make up for it. The island and its innards were both weirdly real and surreal, the story was mysterious and every morsel of information felt like a revelation for me to ponder. By contrast AMFP’s story comes of as simultaneously pretentious and amateurish. I’d agree with Adam that the themes are interesting, but the way in which they were delivered? It all seemed a bit overdone to me.

      So without those bits crucial to The Dark Descent and Dear Esther I found myself uninvolved, bored and painfully aware of linearity. Damn shame.

  14. airtekh says:

    Interesting analysis. I can’t say I thought along the same lines when I played it.

    I came away from AMFP very disappointed, to be perfectly honest. Especially since I played it and Outlast back-to-back and I definitely enjoyed that a lot more.

    I don’t play these games for their stories, I’m here for the scares and the atmosphere, and I thought Outlast had a lot more of that. The nightvision is superb at creating tension, and AMFP didn’t have anything to compare to it, especially since they gutted most of the mechanics from The Dark Descent.

  15. Granja says:

    I do think the game does many things right, but i think it did not need to take away so much interactivity from the player to do so. I mean, there are some PHENOMENAL setpieces, especially in the second half of the game. However, the first part is really, really.. Boring, i think? The pacing of the story and what the beginning reveals are not enough to keep the player interested, which, when you take so many gameplay mechanics away (which made the first one so fun and interesting, in my opinion) is what pushes the player forward. The ghost of the childs calling for the father are one ridiculous trope, the enigmatic calls are senseless and a way (initially) to give an objective for the player, so, yeah. The environments are nice, but you are thrown into them without much context, and, what you have to do, as the player, is so bland that it really made me think if it would continue like that to the end, which it obviously did not.

    And i say that not comparing it to ‘A Dark Descent’ or ‘Outlast’ which are very different games. A Machine For Pigs is a different vision from a different developer, so i don’t think comparisons are really fair, here. However, the second half does SO many things right, and the pacing, story and characters get so much better that i ended up really enjoying the game. It is really short, so it didn’t dragged at the end like ‘A Dark Descent does.’ Even though it is a bit pretentious, The Chinese Room really nailed the narrative and it’s metaphors, the ‘enemy’, the mechanics (brief ones, but really good) that it provides at the end are awesome, too. Some of the setpieces really got me, and like Adam, i was grinning through the whole ending, and the final part of the game, too. The game gets some unfair criticism because of it’s predecessor, but it is a really good game on it’s own, even though i didn’t like it as much as Adam did.

    With all that said, i still enjoyed ‘A Dark Descent’ and especially ‘Outlast’ more. Damn, i really, REALLY loved Outlast. The writing gets ridiculous at the ending, but i had so much fun with that game, and loved the setting so much!

    By the way, sorry for my bad english!

  16. Jason Moyer says:

    Why I can’t really stand this game:

    a.) They’ve replaced interactivity and exploration with pretentious narrative.
    b.) The narrative they’ve replaced the actual gameplay with is about as deep as a Nine Inch Nails song circa 1994.

  17. ziusudra says:

    I have nothing against Chinese room guys, I like their writing. Korsakovia stuck with me for example. But Penumbra was a far superior game, CR took all the interactivity out of it.

  18. strangeloup says:

    I haven’t played this, but wanted to read more, because although I think Dear Esther is really quite a wonderful thing, I’m having to force myself to get through The Dark Descent, and not out of a sense of fear — it’s just mind-bogglingly dull to me. I’m by no means trying to paint myself as brave or jaded, as I’ve found a great many games immensely emotionally affecting, on the entire spectrum.

    This one sounds promising, though. The comparison to Silent Hill 2 sounds promising, but I’ve found in the past that it can often be a bit hyperbolic — the only thing I’ve found that comes close (largely in terms of “everything is utterly, nightmarishly fucked”) is the Siren series, which is produced by a team founded by the original creator of Silent Hill. Horror is obviously vastly subjective, but I’ve found it’s often games of Japanese origin that have really stuck with me — the Fatal Frame/Project Zero series is another good example.

    That being said, the just-showed-up-on-Steam Doorways looks pretty promising, especially for the fairly modest price of entry.

    • Jake says:

      The one thing that puts me off Doorways is that it has the voice actor from Amnesia: The Dark Descent in it. He was the one thing that put me off Amnesia as well.

  19. chaggo says:

    I never thought, when Amnesia was released, that it would have such awful fanboys, the first game is great and damn scary, but it has a ton of flaws too, the plot is weak and it’s based around jump scares a lot of the time, the whole “invisible big evil chasing you” gimmick felt like an excuse to make you jump and run for no real reason most of the time, not to mention the Gatherers background is not that great, yeah they are fucked up and creepy as hell, but there’s basically no story behind them, they’re just there to scare you, they’re monsters, freaks that a bigger freak created, that’s it, and don’t even get me started on Daniel, oh my god, such a shitty character IMO, one of the things i hated the most about the first game was how ilogical the whole thing was, this guy was torturing people and walking among abominations on a daily basis, he drinks a potion, gets amnesia and all of a sudden he’s the biggest pussy ever, SMH.

    A Machine for Pigs is not perfect either, but it does way better in a lot of things, IMO, the plot is better, more fucked up and makes a ton more sense, the main character is way better too, he’s a legit insane man that went amnesic but didn’t turn into a big fat pussy, the lack of the sanity gimmick is something i was really thankful about too, i mean, people bitches about it, but it’s the most sensical thing, Mandus is fucking insane !! there’s no sanity to lose to begin with !! and the “fear of the dark” was daniel’s thing, mandus didn’t need it, the monsters are better too, there’s more of a background to them, you see them and it makes you think about the wicked experiments Mandus should’ve made to get to that point and about how fucked the whole thing is, not to mention you even get to look at them in their “environment” and realize even when they’re trying to kill you, they’re just victims to the insanity of Mandus, and don’t you dare say there’s no exploration, heck, imo, exploration is even more important in AMFP than in TDD, the more you explore the machine, the more it makes you think about the crazy shit that happened in there and make your own theories about the things the game doesn’t explain, the game doesn’t hands you everything, you need to use your imagination and conjecture and think about it while you explore, and that’s something not a lot of games do nowadays and i personally love.

    I understand people love TDD because it’s more scary, but cmon people, the fact that this is not The Dark Descent 2, doesn’t mean the game is bad, it’s a great game and the changes should be appreciated.

    So, i’d say if you want to play The Dark Descent, go play The Dark Descent, this is not it, and nobody said or promised it was going to be, this game takes place in a different time, with different characters and a very different story.

    • fenrif says:

      A Machine for Pigs isn’t really a game. And the plot is pretty poor too. Everything is so obviously telegraphed and derivative that you can figure it out immediatly and then the rest of the game is just it hitting you over the head with stuff.

      It might take place in a different time and place, but they used the Amnesia name to advertise it and people expected more of the same. They also specifically showed mechanics in the trailers before release that weren’t in the finished game. People are upset because they were promised an Amnesia game and got Dear Esther 2: pig mask.

      • Daryl says:

        I’m wondering exactly what mechanics they showed off in the trailers you speak of. I am not calling you out on this. Rather, I’m just wondering since I watched the only two trailers I could find and I did not see anything that was not included in the game except maybe one scene.

        • fenrif says:

          Both the trailers I watched showed some semblance of the sanity mechanic from Amnesia. One of them (I think just one, maybe both?) show you having to hide from monsters stalking you. Which is probobly the hallmark of the first game. I think that might be in the scene you’re referring too that was cut?

          I just rewatched it, and I guess I could be reading into it too much… But the whole sequence showing the player hiding from the squealing monster seems pretty mis-representative to me of the final game. For a start the lantern doesn’t flicker to announce the monsters presence. The player hides and the character reacts strongly to the closeness of the monster. It heavily suggests that the game will involve gameplay that seems very reminiscent of Amnesia: A Dark Descent but isn’t present in A Machine for Pigs.

    • czerro says:

      CR did have some good ideas. Personally I did not find baby-sitting the lantern in ATDD very thrilling and found it broke immersion and reduced the game to inventory management, or at the very least made the player believe they needed to focus on inventory management. Did anyone ever run out of lantern fuel? CR did the right thing by recognizing the pointlessness of this mechanic and how it detracted from the atmosphere which should have been focal. Also, tinders were useless and in fact counter-productive. Again, a useless mechanic worth tossing aside. The sanity meter? I actually liked this, but it doesn’t mean it fit in CR’s game. Since we have done away with the inventory though, why didn’t CR focus more on the physics manipulation of the HPL engine and direct interaction with the environment? There is very little one can actually interact with in this game unless it is specifically intended to be interacted with. Also, a game based around navigating the internals of a massive machine simply seems as though it would lend itself to some more clever mechanical puzzles that would mesh well with HPL engine and the precedent set by ATDD. Seems like a real missed opportunity.

  20. Daryl says:

    For me it was just lacking in challenging, thought-provoking puzzles and any sense of danger. I almost never felt threatened by the pig men. There are some cool scenes in the game. I do like the part where the pig men are unleashed on London. I also like a couple of the parts where you’re being chased. Those got the adrenaline pumping a bit. Overall it was disappointing though.

    I am glad they simplified the lantern. Seemed like a pointless mechanic. At first I thought not having an inventory was a good thing but I think ultimately it lead to much simpler puzzles. I felt the pacing of the game was better with the sanity meter. You couldn’t just run past things. You really had to completely avoid the zombies/whatever they were. There was a reason to fear them and avoid them; not just because they could kill you but because your sanity meter would go down if you were exposed to them. I think they could have redone it in some way to make it easier to understand, but ultimately I think getting rid of it entirely made the game worse off.

  21. Elevory says:

    I was disappointed. The game is not scary, and the story is pseudo-intellectual buffoonery, complete with spelling errors and a general sense of ambiguity. Tastes like bad creepypasta.

  22. Xantonze says:

    Just finished the game and I have to agree with all the people finding its story too heavy handed as a metaphor.Overall, it was okay, but not as deep as the cryptic memos and dialogues would like to make it. Plus its really grinding its theme to death.

    But the real downer was the way the game unfolds and the story is delivered: another amnesiac character to add to the long list of cliched heroes fallen on the fields of script delivering.
    And the game itself is so utterly lazy… it’s barely interactive novel stuff, like a ghost house on rails: go there, play a record/read a memo/trigger some monologue/shady cutscene that unlocks the only door to the next room, and so on ad nauseam.
    Grammophones, notes and sudden phone calls were perhaps the state of the art narrative tools when System Shock and co were released, but I sure hope game creators find other ways… It’s become so stale and gamey… Ironic since it was supposed to strengthen immersion.

    Long story short: a mildly interesting, mildly disturbing, not frightening short story about industrialization, class struggle and power, stuck on a very weak game. Very nice soundtrack though.

  23. Atwa says:

    I really think people are looking at it wrong, the fact that Mandus says what the center of the plot is in the beginning should be telling that its not the entire point. There are plenty of things to keep the player guessing, unless of course you simply approach it by thinking, “HA I figured it out” and then simply keep pounding away at that every time its mentioned. There are plenty of other threads that make up the fabric of AMFP, The main metaphor is obvious but the other things that were mentioned kept me interested and guessing throughout.

    As for the mechanics I really don’t understand why people complain about the lack thereof. First of all the game is much shorter than the first one, which they said all the time that it was a smaller project than the first game, Amnesia had puzzles and the interactivity to break up the pace and get a clear distinction between the acts. AMFP is a straight descent into the conclusion and any big breaks for puzzles would probably just disrupt the flow. I also don’t see what interactivity would bring to the game, its not like The Dark Descent’s strong suit was all the interactivity and layers of the gameplay, in fact plenty of people I have seen thrashed the first game because the lack of gameplay. Both games are clearly about other things so why the focus lands there baffles me frankly.

    I personally found it scary and had a genuine fear aimed at the creature, much more so than I did towards the monster in TDD, in fact I thought the creature in the first game looked silly and wasn’t very scary by itself. In that game it was rather in the way the monster was used than what it was. The pig creature is genuinely horrifying for me, maybe because I have seen some gnarly videos of pig slaughter that have created a bad feeling towards a pig screaming at the top of its lungs before it even began. Maybe the game should explore that more, and as someone else wrote have a big slaughterhouse level at the top half of the game.

    I do however believe that AMFP took a completely different approach intentionally. Its more about thematic horror rather than the outright terror that TDD bombards you with. I see people lament it for being different, yet I appreciate it. A game simply aping the first one trying to recreate the magic is almost impossible to achieve. Thechineseroom instead focused on making something different, which is why its not called Amnesia 2, but Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.

  24. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    I was waiting for one of thoughtful reviewers to explain to me what about this story was any good, but I’m still not buying it. Maybe someone else will spell it out, like, for the idiots, what particular storytelling device was clever, or what thought expressed was interesting in any way.

    I thought the storytelling was really, really poor, like the developers were just throwing shit against the wall at random, not building drama or trying to engage the viewer. Big things get revealed too early, obvious uninteresting points are repeated ad nauseam while key information and more intriguing parts of the story are glossed over or brushed aside.

    The main motivation that gets the plot going is simply laughable.
    To avoid spoilers, THEY ARE TRYING TO PREVENT SOMETHING BY DOING THE SAME VERY THING, EXCEPT MUCH WORSE. It is not “ironic” or anything, there is no lesson to learn from realizing it, because what they are doing is very literal and impossible to misinterpret. If the explanation is “because they’re insane”, well then they are insane in a very uninteresting way, and insanity is just an excuse to make a character do something you can’t relate to.

    There is no “character” to the main character at all, he is the most random person in the world. He will literally yell “Mah babies! You’re the most precious thing in the world!” in the same breath as recalling the way he fed living orphans to the pigs. We don’t witness him transitioning from one state to the other, don’t see a reason for this change.. To us, he’s all those things at once. It really seems that the developers just really wanted to talk about orphans being fed to pigs, because that’s what they consider to be drama. And again, insanity, or some other contrived unintuitive motivation would be just an excuse.

    And no, I do not miss the “pick stuff up and dangle it in front of yourself” kind of interactivity, or “look at this torture deviiiice!” kind of scares. I tried to enjoy this game on its own terms. And, well, I did enjoy it somewhat, as something that’s really broken but kind of neat. But damn, anyone praising the story is yet to present a convincing case.

    • czerro says:

      This game is really bad. The story is so frail and unfocused that they literally had to trap the player on the top floor of the mansion lest they wander around too much. There are NO STAIRS. When I first started playing, I thought there was a maze mechanic. Oh…there’s literally no stairs because the game designers don’t want me to go downstairs yet, but they don’t know how to direct the player without creating a poverty of choices…

      Immersion…Chinese Room created this btw people. Why did we HAVE to go into the attic in the first place? It’s so strangely bad and on rails from a team that is known for making an open narrative. So what if people don’t go into the attic? You literally have to DO everything that was made for this game, for no reason whatsoever. It’s not interesting whatsoever. What is up with NO STAIRS and HAVING to go into the attic?! What did that bring to the table? Such a mess of a game.

      Edit: I feel like you could throw somebody into any 5 minutes of this game and then interrogate them about it, and they would hit the nail on the head: I dunno, I think he killed his kids and forgot about it, he also made an inexplicable machine powered by pigs or something? He forgot about that too? It’s a metaphor for the industrial revolution and society in general, the game definitely won’t let that fly by you. He’s also the antagonist right? Like, we already know he killed his kids? Is any of this stuff supposed to be a surprising reveal? So like, I just keep pressing forward, right? Did someones son come home from college after his first introduction to philosophy and insist on writing this? It’s so clumsy. Is the narrative supposed to be this goofy and bad?

  25. Kubrick Stare Nun says:

    Finished it yesterday. I think that Amnesia 2 was a brilliant game which was obviously made with great intelligence and care, but the parts where it shows the most are the ones that people are overlooking. I disagree with anyone that would say that the “story” or “ending” are the highlights of the game, the biggest merit of Amnesia 2 lies on it’s atmosphere, it’s level design, it’s rhythm, the sophistication of how it does terror and the overall the geniality of the way it’s gameplay was put together. It’s when you get into the mind of the devs and start seeing how every single element of the game was placed where it is with a very good reason behind it that the brilliancy of it all becomes obvious, I mean; there isn’t a single thing (from the audio to the scenario) at any time in the game that is not in perfect harmony with the reactions that the devs wanted to invoke from the player at each each specific moment. For me, it was very apparent that TheChineseRoom had some very rigorous and well-thought methods to the way in which they modeled the gameplay to cause psychological terror, they use everything in the book: Gaslighting, subliminal messages, tension building, expectation subversion, rhythmic fear inflicting, waterphones… Absolutely everything that happens in this game happens to support it’s own premeditated plans of creating feelings of mystery, eeriness, horror, disgust, fear, guilt, despair, etc…

    If you play this game slowly, non-stopping, in a silent and dark place, respect it’s rhythm, surrender yourself to it’s strong atmosphere, suspend your disbelief, explore it naturally, read every note, follow the plot and pay careful attention to the scenario… then I guarantee that you will feel immense amounts of fear (among other many feelings). I, for one, felt more scared playing this game than I did playing the first one.

    Additionally: Mandus has some meaningful allusions to Darwin, Marx and Nietzsche; and I think that’s just charming :3

  26. Strickebobo says:

    Finally, someone who has something to say about the game that isn’t complaining about the loss of the sanity meter or that it’s less scary than the predecessor.

  27. alphyna says:

    It seems to me Iike I’ve been playing a different game than everyone else. I’ve found the monsters scary (and died like ten times). It took me very long to finish each level since I got constantly lost.

    …Which is probably why I’ve found the game too damn long! It should have been like five times shorter. Then the story would feel less grinde, and he game would’ve been brilliant. But the plot structure of “go down, then up, then down” is just ridiculous.

  28. BreadBitten says:

    “The excellent and too-much ignored Shattered Memories aside,” I shed a tear of pure joy reading that. Shattered Memories was the last game I bought for my PS2, and what a game it was.