Anything but forgettable
Thank you to Frictional Games for providing a review copy
When I first launched Amnesia: Rebirth, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve never played an Amnesia title before Rebirth, but I have always heard that its predecessors The Dark Descent and A Machine for Pigs were fantastic horror experiences that must be enjoyed at least once. I still have failed to do this, but after spending time with Rebirth I feel I can’t neglect them any longer, due to how phenomenally horrid this third installment is. This won’t be a full review unfortunately, however, as by the time our review copy arrived our team here at TGP had already been heavily preoccupied with compiling notes and working on coverage for the newly released Watch Dogs: Legion. Regardless, the title is too great to skip discussing outright, so this article will cover my earnest thoughts and honest impressions from the somewhat substantial slice of the game I’ve played through. Without further delay and before I lose my memory (bad joke, I’m aware), here are my impressions of Amnesia: Rebirth, the true sequel to Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
There is one key aspect of Amnesia: Rebirth that makes this title as excellent as it is, one component that outshines everything else the game has to offer: atmosphere. In the beginning of the title, you are stranded via a supernaturally induced plane crash in the middle of a Middle-Eastern Desert in the 1930’s, with no satellite phone being invented yet to call for help. You wake up on your own and with barely any recollection of your past, and the game immediately drives home the point that you are isolated without allies, but not necessarily entirely alone; you are instantly hit with the sense of being watched with malicious intent, it’s apparent and further implemented deeper subtlety over time. This unsettling feeling is amplified even more due to your only human contact (corpses aside) being provided through regaining memories, which introduces compelling characters without even talking to them face-to-face. These relapses of memory are quite frequent, and therefore the player is consistently being provided meaningful exposition and backstory on a sprawling cast of characters with each slice of memory retained. When you’re not traipsing over the scorching dunes or restoring your memory, more often than not you’ll find yourself in a cave or some other underground area; which is where the horror of Amnesia: Rebirth shines and is put on full display. The unsettling atmosphere ramps up significantly in these sections, mainly due to the sound design. From the drops of water plummeting from the ceiling and smacking into the stone beneath you to infiltrating winds blowing through miniscule cracks of light and swooshing throughout the cave, the hollow emptiness of the noises around you really drives home the aforementioned sense of isolation and the fear of being lost in an unknown, desolate land. These sections in particular, and especially when in a confined, dark passage, personally give me a sense of claustrophobia; and I’m not even the slightest bit claustrophobic in real life! That, right there, is incredible fear factor that this game achieves so easily, which many other horror titles fail to come remotely close to even with much more, although forced effort. Additionally, at one point during my exhilarating underground escapades of Arabia, I discovered a special compass with supernatural properties. I won’t spoil the narrative specifics of this contraption, but it does allow the player to travel between two different worlds, or realities, or planes of existence: one of those three nonetheless. Going back and forth between the two worlds is not only a neat gameplay element, but it also provides the player with an amplified feeling of uneasiness by making it a bit difficult to discern what truly is “reality”. As I stated previously, however, I won’t speak a word of the story as that is the main reason to play through this title to the end; but what I will say is that the plot is immensely intriguing and dabbles in biblical/religious history and mythology from multiple cultures/civilizations embedded with supernatural elements, themes, and legends.
But that’s enough about the atmosphere of Amnesia: Rebirth, because the intricate gameplay must be mentioned as well. First and foremost, the amount of items the player can interact with and examine is absurd compared to titles of any genre, including point-and-click adventure games. Almost every item is interactable, allowing the player to engage the environment with an unparalleled level of detail and finesse. The other main component of the gameplay is the fear mechanic, which I’m mostly indifferent to. Whenever you don’t have light in a darkened area or see something disturbing, your character’s fear level increases; if it increases too much, you’ll reach a game over. It makes sense narrative wise due to the main character’s history with mental health, but can be irritating in gameplay when you find yourself out of matches and trying to locate the route to progress.
Regarding visuals, the graphics on display in Amnesia: Rebirth are adequate for the $30 USD retail price point. The art-style opts for a stylized appearance over photorealism, which fits the genre and game with no conflicts regarding the narrative or theme. In particular, the art-style is radiant when the player is present within the alternate plane of existence. Also, there aren’t an exorbitant amount of graphics options to fine-tune, but the necessary ones for the majority of players are there. Overall, Amnesia: Rebirth is a strong and formidable contender for the best horror game of 2020, and I believe it’s well-worth any horror fan’s time: this is a title to remember (and I will never apologize for any of these puns).