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Amnesia: Rebirth - sequel to Amnesia: The Dark Descent set in the desert of Algeria

Wirdschowerdn

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And for completion's sake here's the PS Blog writing:

https://blog.playstation.com/2020/10/02/updating-a-horror-classic-in-amnesia-rebirth/

Updating a horror classic in Amnesia: Rebirth

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Frictional Games' horror adventure comes to PS4 later this month.

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Thomas Grip Creative Director, Frictional Games

Creating Amnesia: Rebirth we wanted to make sure that it retained as much of the feel of the original Amnesia: The Dark Descent as possible. At the same time we wanted Rebirth to feel like a fresh experience, and to make use of the expertise gained over the past ten years since the first game was released.

Thinking about gameplay systems is a bit different in a horror game compared to other genres. Instead of trying to make things more fun, you want them to increase the game’s immersive aspects. Just like a driving game will spend a lot of effort to simulate the experience of driving a real car, we want to simulate the player being the lead character in a horror book or movie.

In our case, we try to simulate Gothic horror, especially of the type from masters like Poe, Stoker, and Lovecraft. These stories usually involve vulnerable protagonists exploring unsettling environments and confronting all sorts of disturbing stuff. So when trying to simulate these sorts of narratives, you want to have systems that support that.


The original Amnesia had a bunch of features that aimed to do just this. While these worked well ten years ago, we couldn’t just use them directly. So we had to dig into each system and see how we could make the game better at simulating Gothic horror.

One is the ability to light various things. In The Dark Descent, the player collects tinderboxes and can then use these to light torches, candles, and so forth. Being able to light up a dark environment like this is essential to get the feel of exploring an unknown and creepy locale. However, there were lots of issues with bringing the old system into Rebirth. For one, we couldn’t use tinderboxes as they no longer fit with the period the game takes place in (1930s) and it always felt a bit odd to just light candles by clicking on them.

The solution we eventually ended up with was to have matches that the player needed to light before using them on a candle or lamp. This allows the player to light many nearby light sources at the same time, and also lets the matches serve as an additional light source. This might seem like a slight change but it comes with a lot of benefits.

For instance, when you are in a dark tunnel, players need to choose whether to use their precious matches in order to easier find your way or save it for a light source further ahead. Matches will also blow out faster if you move quickly, so the player is forced to slow down and think hard about their next move. A match might also go out at the wrong moment – just when you hear menacing footsteps approaching. This also allows us to simulate, without using scripted events, the player lighting a match only to stand face to face with some sort of horrible creature. A moment straight out of a Poe story, but all built by dynamic gameplay.



This brings us to the next system, which is The Dark Descent’s sanity system. In the original game it worked so that darkness and certain sights made your sanity go down and if it went too low, you collapsed and attracted any nearby monster. The idea was to emulate the

Gothic tradition of characters being driven mad the further they went into an unfolding mystery.

When reimplementing this for Rebirth, the major updates were not just on a systemic level, but also on a narrative one. While we did a lot of tweaks in order for the whole system to be more reactive, the major change was how it affected the player. Having some generic idea of ‘sanity’ that got lower also felt a bit simplistic to us. In Rebirth, the protagonist Tasi is afflicted by a mysterious disease, which is all part of the story. The more afraid Tasi becomes, from darkness or terrifying sights, the worse the symptoms get. This means that we now give players a much more visceral reason to care about the fear.

This draws on a lesson from creating our previous game, SOMA. Here, the main focus of the game was to explore consciousness and what it means to be human. This is not really something that can be done via moment-to-moment gameplay. Instead, we had to let this slowly brew over hours of the game experience. Designing SOMA like this was a major gamble for us. We didn’t know if it would work, and since it required so much of the game to be completed to test, iteration times were long and frustrating. Luckily it paid off, and it gave us the confidence to do something similar in Rebirth.

Tasi’s worsening condition is something that unfolds over time. In order to make sure it hits home we weave in some core narrative motivation into it. I am afraid I cannot go into what this part of the story is, as it is something we want to keep secret until release. But it is something we hope to be just as impactful as the mind swapping was in SOMA, if not more so.

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Another aspect of The Dark Descent in dire need of update was the failure system. An important lesson learned from our early Penumbra games was that forcing the player to repeat the same section of the game over and over greatly reduced their fear. Repetition and frustration took players out of their immersion, replacing fantasies of real monsters with abstract notions of the gameplay system.

The Dark Descent approached this in the following way: if the player was taken down by a monster, players didn’t have to do a traditional restart. Instead they were teleported back a bit, and something changed in the environment. Sometimes a new monster appeared, sometimes it was replaced by another scare, and sometimes no threat was left. This removed frustration, avoided repetition, and worked well. That is, as long as the player didn’t catch on to how the system worked. When they did, they could easily bypass any hurdle by simply running straight at it many times.

We knew we had to make some changes to this. The solution was to tie it into the fear system. If Tasi becomes too frightened, her affliction will take a harsh turn for the worse. There will be very visible changes to her appearance, and worse still, it will have immense narrative significance. If the affliction goes too far, not only will it threaten the life of herself, but also of her loved ones.

The whole fear system has now gone from being a gimmicky addition to being an integral part of the whole story. It really helped us to simulate a looming sense of dread and to capture that feel of character’s descent down a spiral of despair.

Finally, I want to note how all of this adds up into a coherent whole. As pleased as we were with SOMA, we never felt that the gameplay closely supported our overall narrative. This was something we wanted to do better. In Amnesia: Rebirth the narrative is supported on everything from the moment-to-moment system to the higher level narrative.

It is hard to describe the feeling of all of this coming together. The best way to find out is to give the game a go when it hits PS4 on October 20, and take a chance to live through a horror novel from within.

Plawt twist: Tasi was having a really bad nightmare.
 

Starwars

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Looking foward to seeing what they do with the setting and environs in this game. Should be interesting and hopefully scary.
 

garren

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Hopefully the monsters are more scarier than in SOMA, the only monster that was kinda scary in that game was the fleshy one that followed you by sound.
 

Wirdschowerdn

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https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/...s-more-than-a-decade-of-horror-gaming-refined

Amnesia: Rebirth is more than a decade of horror gaming refined
Frictional talks its evolving relationship with fear.

Ten years have passed since Frictional Games' seminal horror classic Amnesia: The Dark Descent traumatised the gaming world, and it's been five since the release of its astonishing sci-fi horror Soma; finally, though, the Swedish studio is set to make its long-awaited return, this time revisiting its decade-old franchise with new series entry, Amnesia: Rebirth. Yet while that might initially feel like an unexpected regression, especially after the dazzling freshness of Soma, Frictional sees Rebirth as the latest evolutionary step in the studio's journey - one it's been on since its inception in 2007 - to create a very particular type of horror experience.

"The thing is," explains Frictional's co-founder and creative director Thomas Grip of the studio's fascination with the genre, "in a shooter you shoot people, in a puzzler you puzzle things, and in a strategy game you strategise things, but there's not really any activity that's central to horror games... it's the emotions that you evoke.

"I think that's quite different from how you approach other genres and it adds so much more focus on how you structure narrative... and that's a very interesting way of making games."

It's a development challenge Frictional has been attempting to perfect for over a decade now; however, since the acclaimed release of Soma - a game whose gut-wrenching moments of woozy existential terror lingered long after its unforgettable finale - the studio has focussed its ambitions still further, aiming to create narrative experiences that don't just make players "think about things in a different way", as Grip puts it, but, by carefully threading gameplay and story, makes them an "active force" in how events unfolds.

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"In some ways," explains Grip, "Amnesia: The Dark Descent was a newer and better version of Penumbra [the studio's earlier horror title], and, in some ways, I even think Soma is a better version of Amnesia. One of my annoyances when doing Amnesia was that the player didn't confront the things we wanted them to confront when we first made the designs. With Soma though we went all in and wanted people [to really] confront the thematics... but it also felt like the gameplay didn't hang as tightly together as it should have with the themes we wanted."

Rebirth, then, is essentially a culmination of all the studio's learnings so far, and an attempt to address those perceived weaknesses with earlier games. "We're trying to do what we did in Soma in terms of the overarching narrative," says Grip, "but we're trying to get back to better lower-level gameplay - which I feel we had in Amnesia - and then combining those two together to form a really coherent and nice package."

"We've learned so much and gained so much confidence in doing Soma," Grip continues, "that now I think we can really do it on a purer horror experience as well, and that's what we're sort of aiming for with Rebirth; there's gonna be scares with monsters popping up from unexpected places and so on, but if everything goes as we want it to, that's not what's gonna keep you up at night. That's gonna be the long-term effects of the journey throughout the game and the choices you end up making. That's the thing that's gonna be haunting you in the very end."
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Why, though, did Frictional feel the urge to return to the Amnesia universe, especially after the emboldening success of an entirely new, and refreshingly different setting, in Soma? "It's two reasons," explains Grip, "One is that after we released Soma, we never wanted to do another game that took five years to make - which we ended up doing anyway, but never mind - but we still wanted to improve, we still wanted to merge gameplay better with narrative, and we felt that if we could go back to Amnesia, that would be something that we had a lot of established things for. So it would be easier to have a go at a sequel and improve it and make that interesting, rather than just reinventing everything from scratch.

"But then on top of that, while the environment in The Dark Descent is actually pretty boring to render - it's an old castle, there are some normal rooms, there are some cellar rooms, and that's it, there's just not a lot of variety - the lore of Amnesia has a tonne of environments. There are deserts, tombs, and all kinds of weird stuff, and it felt like it would be really cool if we could visit those places and have them finally not just being lines in the text. It just felt like we had a lot of unexplored lore to base it all around."

Five years later and the studio's continued experimentation with horror has resulted in Amnesia: Rebirth, a game that follows the harrowing journey of protagonist Tasi Trianon as she travels across the Algerian desert of the 1930s. It's an unusual, ambitious setting - one that creative lead Fredrik Olsson calls "the biggest variation in environments we've had in any of our games" - not least because its brilliant light and wide open expanses seem completely antithetical to the traditional modes of horror.

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Grip says the initial inspiration for Rebirth's desert setting came from a book he was reading called Skeletons On The Zahara, which charts the real-life story of Captain James Riley and his crew in the early 19th century, after their ship became wrecked on the shore of the Sahara. "It's really much a horror story," explains Grip, "and I felt, well, wouldn't it be cool to have a horror story set in the desert, because that's fairly uncommon... but we sort of figured out the hard way that deserts are not so scary. We started making the first concepts, and, well, when you have a desert in front of you, it looks very much like a day on the beach. It's not all that frightening."

The solution, it turns out, was variety; "Rebirth doesn't just take place in a desert," says Grip, "it takes place in caves and other sorts of buildings that you can enter, but I really like that diversity. The desert is a really cool way of emphasising the contrasts that you go through; in one area of the game you squeeze through tight tunnels and then come out of an opening and you're in the middle of this wide-open, endless desert. And that just makes the desert seem even bigger and more empty, and it makes these crawl spaces feel even more claustrophobic... that's a really cool sort of juxtaposition to work with."

"And there's a difference between how you contextualise things," continues Grip. "If you have a desert setting, and you just put the player there, it's not very scary. But if you build a narrative where they're alone, and they have to get out there because they're dying, then just being in a desert and not seeing any kind of help in any direction, suddenly, it's a scary place to be. So it depends a lot on how you build it all up. I think that's an interesting part of the challenge."

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But while a desert might be something of a bold choice for a horror game, it's a setting that, crucially, is immediately understandable - a valuable lesson Frictional learned while working on Soma's relatively high-concept bio-mechanically infested water world.

"When we started making Soma," explains Grip, "one thing I had in my head was, 'Okay, we're just gonna skip any kind of convention, we're not going to do any tropes, let's just go wild here'. But I remember seeing the first impressions from a friend... and he was like, 'You know, I can't really figure out what genre this game is because it starts here, and then there's some weird thing there, and then it goes to that sort of environment.'"

"He didn't talk at all about what he thought about the game," recounts Grip, "he was just so confused where to place the game genre that he didn't really get a good experience. And from that I was like, 'Okay, shit, we actually have to pull back a bit on the weirdness, because otherwise that's all that people are gonna talk about and think about'.

"And we had that same thing when we asked people, 'What do you think about your situation as a robot in Soma?', and they'd reply, 'My situation as a robot?! Well, I was thinking about these weird air blimps that were flying all around!'. So you have to sort of ground things, and I think that tropes can be extremely important; in a dark castle, for instance, the player knows, 'I've heard about these from ghost stories and if I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night with the wind blowing and rain on the windows, I would be fucking scared'. And then people can very easily relate to that situation, and you've got them hooked... they're like 'Oh, now I understand the concept of this environment, now I can start getting scared by it!'.

"So I think that some sense of familiarity is extremely important if you want to build a good horror experience. If you just go all out to crazy wild, it's just gonna fly over [people's heads]."

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Understandably, Frictional remains keen to talk about Rebirth's actual game experience in only the vaguest of terms ahead of release. "We're really hoping that people will find this to be a very personal and kind of different experience," explains Olsson, "and we don't want to spoil it until people actually get their hands on the game". However, fans of The Dark Descent should immediately feel at home with Rebirth, not least because it shares the Amnesia series' DNA of, as Grip puts it, "isolation, striving towards an uncertain goal, and constantly not only fearing for your life but also trying to survive your own internal demons".

"I think we had to have an amnesiac story too," continues Grip, "so that's sort of what we're going for here as well; it's going to start out with a bunch of mysteries, the player figuring out who they are and why they're there, but then I think the story changes gear a bit and becomes more like what we had in Soma where the story is the gameplay."

"I'm slightly annoyed by games where the story is, like, the notes you read," Grip elaborates, "and I think the story should really be what you as the player are actually doing in the game. I don't think that was a focus for the first Amnesia game very much, apart from, you know, running around and being scared by monsters, but now there's a much bigger focus on the player character being an active force in how this story unfolds."


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That's not to say series staples like monsters won't be returning; mechanically, there are numerous similarities between The Dark Descent and Rebirth, from its focus on light manipulation to its sanity management. "I don't think we're going to do anything mind blowing on the mechanics side," explains Olsson, "but rather it's taking what worked and trying to improve it... with a twist and an evolution".

Grip believes Rebirth's strength comes from the studio constantly asking itself 'Okay, what's the most interesting thing that could happen now?', and by focussing on contrast. "One issue I have with many other horror games is that they're sort of like a one trick pony," he explains, "They almost go at horror gaming like you would do a racing game. Like, if I do a racing game, I make the racing as fun as I can and then that's going to sustain hundreds of hours of racing.

"But you really can't do the same with a horror game, so one of the things we've been doing a lot is just thinking about different situations and making sure there are cycles of calm and cycles of intensity and thinking about it all from a high level standpoint. So there's this constant variation on what you're doing... we're almost making a mini game for every single location... and that's also why it's taken so long damn long to make!"

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One thing Rebirth won't have on release, though, is anything like Soma's post-launch Safe Mode, which optionally disabled monsters' ability to kill players. When I ask how Safe Mode came about, Grip offers, "I think the bigger question is why was the game not like Safe Mode? [Initially], the fear of threat felt like an important immersive aspect of the game. Like, if a monster could run up to you and hit you in the face, the environment got a bit more real because it had consequences; you weren't just working through this façade, this performance that was being played out as you moved along. But then as people started playing it, it was obvious there were a lot who really honestly would enjoy the game but had issues with the monsters.

"I think this is different from something like Dark Souls, where you're like, 'Oh, yeah, I would play it if the difficulty was lowered', but in a sense the high difficulty is the game because it forces you to attack and play in a certain way. But Soma's monsters, especially if the player was already immersed in the game, didn't really add that much. So we could remove the threat of them and the sneaking, and for many people that improved the experience by removing their frustration and unnecessary annoyances".

However, Grip sees Rebirth's monsters as "much more integral to the story", explaining why the studio has opted not to implement a Safe Mode this time around.

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With Rebirth now complete and ready for release, I'm curious to know if Frictional finally feels like it's finally satisfied its horror ambitions, and if the studio - which, these days, works to a two-project development cycle - might consider stepping into a new genre for future games. "I'd say that we moved away from horror a bit already with Soma" say Grips, "the horror bits in there were more like remnants from our pedigree with Amnesia that we felt, you know, we had to have. But now, in retrospect, we might have had an even better game if we'd let go of more of those aspects. And so no, totally, we're not going to restrict ourselves to horror but I think that the way in which horror games are designed - which is that you focus on evoking certain emotions and discussing certain themes - is still going to be central to all our games".

For now though, Amnesia: Rebirth - which comes to PS4 and PC on 20th October - is the culmination of over a decade of Frictional's evolving efforts, but what does the studio hope players will take away from it all? Olsson responds, "I hope they'll come out of it feeling like they've had a personal investment into this game, and with that feeling of having experienced something they've not experienced before".

"I'm hoping people will see it as, like, a holistic experience," adds Grip, "that they've gone through this, not just played a game but actually been on this long journey and become emotionally affected by the end of it. Hopefully, laying awake for at least a few nights before being able to sleep again."
 
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Starwars

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That dude is always interesting to listen to. He's also one of the most Swedish Swedes who ever Swed(ed).

It's great fun to hear from someone who tries to hone their craft, really think about what they do and not try to take the easy way out.

It's kinda crazy to think about how different the whole horror genre is nowadays compared to pre-Amnesia. I mean, Penumbra was around, was obviously similar in many ways and was scary as fuck but it really felt like Amnesia changed things a lot. And nowadays, horror games are absolutely everywhere. Most are completely terrible, but I feel the market is so saturated that it affects even the good games in a negative way. Hope that Rebirth can manage to stand out.
 

some funny shit

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Is it me or new Amensia looks kind of... not impressive/outdated??
I dont want to sound like a graphics whore but I've seen many indie horror games like that with better graphics and art direction that flopped hard.

I am huge fan of Frictional Games, but damn, this look worse than SOMA. Its like this game was made by some kind of Team B with much smaller budget.


Like, this talented russian??? guy alone is making horror games in Unity on potato budget that looks far more impressive:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/661790/Witch_Hunt
https://store.steampowered.com/app/993110/Skinwalker_Hunt/


Not to mention mind blowing looking horror games made in Unreal
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1297300/THE_SHORE/
 
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Please No

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I think it looks pretty good! I don't know what people expected tbh.
There has been leaps between their game series, first from Penumbra to Amnesia, and then from Amnesia to Soma. Expectations are up in the air, but me, I hoped they would taker another leap rather than to go backwards and return to Amnesia. It was good at the time, but that niche it occupied has been filled with so many indie titles since then, and many of them are of high quality. I think it was P.T. that really kicked that into overdrive, they no longer stand out. In so many ways this project makes it seem like they are going in the wrong direction. Maybe it will get by on brand awareness, but my instincts tell me that this won't have the impact that even Soma did.
Is it me or new Amensia looks kind of... not impressive/outdated??
Yes, and it goes further than just graphics.
 

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https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/...orror-subversion-that-sadly-runs-out-of-steam

Amnesia: Rebirth review - an impressive horror subversion that sadly runs out of steam
Don't forget it.

Frictional returns with a subversion of horror tropes, though it's not quite the measure of other games in the series.

What kind of self-respecting horror game kicks off in the middle of a desert under a blazing sun?

It's a bold choice for a series so intrinsically associated with gloomy corridors and shadowy corners and flailing around in the dark. It feels intentional, too, as you trudge across the dunes, desperately hugging the shade to avoid dropping dead of dehydration before the game's even really begun. Later, you'll realise how foolish to have doubted Frictional's ability to mess with you - this is an Amnesia game, after all, not Uncharted; there is no buried treasure to recover here - but revel in the sunshine while you can, my friend. It won't last long.

There's a lot about Amnesia: Rebirth that feels purposefully different, actually. Though it retains much of the horror series' famed DNA, Frictional has been astonishingly audacious here, inverting many of our expectations to craft something that's at once both familiar and utterly otherworldly, and an effective, if complex, tale that's wildly ambitious.

It's about now I'd drop in a little taste of Amnesia: Rebirth's story, but everything I'd usually pop into this paragraph - the bit where I tell you about our protagonist, Tasi, and her stuffed-with-spooks adventure - is pretty much spoiler territory, which makes it surprisingly hard to write about, to be honest. Courageous and pragmatic, she's a compelling hero, though, and I reckon you'll like her, even if you don't always understand her motivations. And while it feels like Tasi's journey is unduly lengthy - particularly in the final act - her story gripped me right up until the credits rolled.

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An unforgettable time.

For those of you who prefer their horror to be more sedate and psychological than in-your-face, Amnesia: Rebirth chiefly shies away from modern tropes. While it does employ a number of (highly effective) jump scares, those scamps at Frictional don't give us enough of them to allow us to get desensitised. Instead, Rebirth freaks us out with its masterful world-building, carefully ratcheting up the tension with small, almost inconsequential things; the sound of scuttling behind the door, perhaps, or a vase rolling towards you, pushed by unseen hands. It's an incredible accomplishment, really, given the environments themselves, if striking, aren't particularly memorable.

That doesn't mean you won't spend your time scouring every corner of them, though. In line with the series' tradition, your resources are limited, and you'll only be able to collect matches and lantern oil in limited quantities. Consequently, you'll spend a lot of time picking through the detritus of those who've come before you, ripping through their tents or smashing jugs and vases in the vain hope of finding an additional match or two. While Tasi can light nearby sconces or candles to help mitigate the inky darkness, thanks to a stingy inventory cap, you'll never feel particularly flush with resources, even when you're fully loaded. One wrong turn and you may find yourself plunged into darkness, wasting your precious matches as you stumble around in the dark, trying to work out your next objective.

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I forgot what this caption was supposed to be.

Light is absolutely critical to your progression, mind you, because without a nearby light source, Tasi's ability to withstand the darkness is limited at best. Rebirth's "sanity system" - invoked when she's too close to an enemy or in the dark for too long - is a constant juggling act. Tasi's phobia is depicted by smoky tendrils that curl around the periphery of the screen, but as you're shrouded in darkness pretty much all the time, they're practically omnipresent, forever impeding the corners of your screen. For the most part, I thought the resources were pretty much perfectly distributed - I frequently dropped down to just two or three matches, but rarely ran out completely - but with so little environmental lighting, it's nigh on impossible to prevent fear getting the better of her.

The puzzling, on the other hand? This is where Amnesia: Rebirth truly excels. Neither insultingly easy nor frustratingly complex, these puzzles offer that specific kind of challenge that can simultaneously make you feel like the stupidest and the smartest person on earth. Few obstacles are straightforward but even fewer stumped me entirely, offering the perfect respite between terrifying chase sequences (and one incredibly tedious encounter in a pitch-black maze).

Though impressive in many ways, however, a lack of polish taints Amnesia: Rebirth's shine. I'm uncertain if the problems extend to the PC version, but the PlayStation 4 build I played was a tad unstable. Twice I lost an hour's progress, once because my save got borked - every time I loaded in, I was stuck at the bottom of a darkened stairway I'd never seen before?! - and once after Tasi was inexplicably impaled on the environment. Rebooting didn't work, either, but thankfully, the game keeps periodic autosaves you can access from the main menu.

The 12-ish-hour playtime could've been trimmed down a little, too, with the final act, in particular, feeling unnecessarily drawn out. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it because I did - beyond the times where I was scratching around in the dark, anyway, I had an absolute blast - but it did seem unduly long towards the end.

And after such a lengthy lead-up, I'll admit I felt a little cheated when the credits rolled. The ending sequences - I've seen two - felt abrupt to the point of rudeness and deeply unsatisfying. And while it's intimated that your ability to control Tasi's fear will have consequences later on, I'm not sure how - or even if - the decision she faces near the close of her story were impacted by this. Without multiple playthroughs, it's difficult to be sure, of course, but I certainly finished the game feeling like it would've played out the same way regardless.

That said, despite these setbacks, I can't deny that I enjoyed my time with Amnesia: Rebirth. The occasional uneven pacing and lack of direction weren't quite enough to temper the genuinely chilling spooks and intriguing tale, which makes Amnesia: Rebirth a solid entry into the franchise's canon, even if it might not terrify quite as much as its predecessors.

https://www.pcgamer.com/amnesia-rebirth-review/

AMNESIA: REBIRTH REVIEW
An unforgettable follow-up to a horror classic.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is one of the PC's best loved horror games, so this direct follow-up had enormous expectations to meet. Judging by the number of times my housemates heard me shout at it, I'd say that Amnesia: Rebirth succeeded. Navigating dark and cramped corridors with no way to directly combat the abominations pursuing you may not be as novel today as it was a decade ago, but it's as terrifying as ever, and Rebirth takes the series to even more profoundly disturbing places. It makes The Dark Descent look downright adorable in comparison.

It's almost impossible to say anything specific about the plot, characters, or locations without spoiling the expertly-crafted story. Here are just the basic details, then: The beleaguered protagonist Tasi Trianon, brought to life with a superb performance by Alix Wilton Regan, finds herself marooned in the Algerian desert in 1937 with, of course, amnesia. Trekking through a huge variety of dark and foreboding locales (most of which I can’t even hint at in good conscience), finding notes and photographs to piece together her past, while evading nightmare horrors using stealth and speed, all feel very familiar. But the stakes are much higher and the journey is much, much weirder. If The Dark Descent scratched the surface of the Amnesia mythos and 2013's A Machine for Pigs gave us a glimpse below the skin, Rebirth takes us all the way into its eldritch heart.

It is a little over-eager to throw you into the deep end, though. Within the first two hours, you’ll be exposed to so much lore and pushed so far beyond the ordinary that the feeling of a gradual sinking into hell that worked so well in The Dark Descent is lost. It shows too many of its cards too early. I think some of the big reveals would have been much more effective if we didn’t get such a clear preview of them so early on. Removing or relocating just one early sequence would have improved the whole considerably.

The rush to dive into cosmic horror makes sense if you look at Amnesia as a trilogy, but not so much considering Rebirth as a standalone story. Even so, the escalation of emotional intensity is definitely intact. It's just that you start at the bottom of the ocean and burrow to the center of the Earth, rather than dipping your toe in the shallows before the plunge.

More literally, you'll be plunging into ancient temples, abandoned villages, and far more bizarre settings that have been crafted with fine, high-def detail and moody lighting. At least, that's true of the interiors. Rebirth struggles with the concept of 'outside,' and terrestrial hills, dunes, and rock formations look blocky, half-baked, and unnatural. They don’t match up to the fidelity or believability of everything else, particularly some of the most nakedly dread-soaked later areas, which left me simply staring in gut-churning, appreciative awe (and which, again, it would be absolutely criminal to spoil even in the vaguest of terms).

Unforgettable
This is very much a direct follow-up to The Dark Descent, both in terms of story and game mechanics. If you had unanswered questions about previous protagonist Daniel, or Alexander von Brennenburg, or the mysterious Shadow, chances are some diligent exploration will find you the answers you seek.

Rebirth also creates new questions along the way. It mainly distinguishes itself by how far it gets to run with its predecessor’s themes. In a world where inflicting anguish on others can give you actual magical powers, what would be the implications of doing so on an unthinkable scale? The allusions to real 20th Century history are a little on-the-nose, but the presentation is superb so it never comes across as preachy or groan-worthy.

Given how much bigger and more ambitious the story is, I was a little disappointed that the basic gameplay is almost entirely unchanged from The Dark Descent. The concept of “sanity” has been replaced with “fear”, reflecting a more modern and thoughtful understanding of mental illness. But it’s just a re-labelling of the idea that if you hang out in the dark or look at disturbing scenes or creatures for too long, you’ll eventually lose control of your faculties. You’ll be scrounging for matches, which can be used to light torches and candles, and eventually oil for your portable lantern. The very limited amount of each you can carry serves to build tension, but both are abundant enough that if you’re tenacious about exploration and stingy with your resources, you’ll almost never run out.

I absolutely hated the new way succumbing to these dark thoughts is handled, though. At high fear, you will be periodically afflicted by jump scare-style visions of disturbing imagery, accompanied by a horrible, screeching sound cue. It certainly motivated me to find some light, immediately. But in a series known for unsettling you by getting inside of your head, these stingers feel cheap and manipulative. It’s not scary so much as it is stressful and irritating. I found myself really wishing for a way to turn it off.

The fleshy, chittering monsters often lurking just at the edges of your sight are visually horrifying, using clever design, animation, and sound to get your hairs standing on end. But their behavior doesn’t present any new surprises and stealth still feels as clunky and random as it did in the previous Amnesia games. A lot of the more tense chases through cluttered caverns and crumbling ruins feel like trial and error. On one hand, if you never really understand how the creatures work or how to avoid them, they are much scarier than if they're predictable. But on the other, you're not going to feel like you came up with a clever solution to get around them. My strategy was generally limited to run, hide, and pray. Compared to the brilliant AI work and nail-biting sneaking in a game like Alien: Isolation, these baddies don’t quite make the cut.

At least getting caught is now more than a minor inconvenience. Without spoiling too much, you still can’t exactly die for good, but there are certain endings that seem to become locked off if you allow yourself to succumb to the resident monstrosities or your own fear too many times in a given playthrough. The Dark Descent lacked any real consequences for failure other than losing progress. When I realized that wasn't the case in Rebirth, it was one of the most terrifying moments of all.

Frictional has mastered the art of building tension using imagery, music, level design, and sound mixing. Parts of the in-universe story even spell out how they do this in a way that is both openly self-referential and self-congratulatory—it comes close to breaking the fourth wall, but it feels earned. The breathtaking story payoffs are well worth putting yourself through the ordeal, too. Their ability to marry deeply personal, relatable fears with cosmic horror is nearly unparalleled in games. While mechanically rusty, Amnesia: Rebirth deserves to go down as one of the most effective and mind-bending horror games ever made, just like its predecessor. See you on the other side.

THE VERDICT
91

AMNESIA: REBIRTH
A brilliant tale of terror, even if the ride is a little old and clunky.
 

Darth Roxor

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Frictional returns with a subversion of horror tropes, though it's not quite the measure of other games in the series.

What kind of self-respecting horror game kicks off in the middle of a desert under a blazing sun?

stopped reading right there

holy shit dis subvershun of trooooooooooooooopes
 

some funny shit

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So this Phasmophobia game is selling billion times better than new Amnesia :deathclaw:


RIP single player horror games
 

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