Unlike the jump-scares found in the original Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the sequel – A Machine for Pigs – preys on your feeling of helplessness and vulnerability throughout the entire tragic tale. While I became increasingly worried when the demonic bi-legged pigs appeared, many of the encounters allow you to see, but not touch. Occasionally you are placed in the same dimly light area, but for the most part you are actively running away as quick as possible.
It’s New Year’s Eve at the turn of the century and industrialist Oswald Mandus has returned home with a fever after a disastrous expedition in Mexico. Through the use of journals and eerie audio logs, we learn Mandus has no recollection of the past few months and by seeing the bars surrounding beds and the ornate locks on dressers and doors, we can assume things aren't quite normal in the Mandus household. After hearing the ghastly voice of his children, Mandus is driven to look for them, searching the hidden passages between the walls, previously used to keep tabs on the occupants throughout the Victorian mansion. The mansion isn't the only place you will explore; as the dark tale unfolds you’ll make your way underground in a steampunk-esque facility that fuels nightmares. Good luck falling asleep.
The sanity meter, which was a big part of The Dark Descent, has been removed for the sequel. Previously, the insanity system increased the tension, as the protagonist Daniel began to hear eerie noises, breathe heavily and his vision became distorted when spending too much time in the dark or near monsters. Lighting candles, collecting tinderboxes and filling your lantern with oil was the only way to keep Daniel’s sanity in check. In A Machine for Pigs, an electric lantern negates the need to collect these items. Occasionally the lantern will flicker, signaling that a monster is nearby, similar to the radio in Silent Hill. I still don’t want to hang around those foul pig monsters, but it certainly doesn't have the “oh my god” moments of the original.
Developer The Chinese Room does mess with your sanity however in subtle ways. Exploring the environment, you may turn around to find things have moved, disappeared or mysteriously appeared, or the path you took to enter a room is gone by the time you turn around. The first time this happened I chalked it up to happenstance, but when I wanted to retrace my steps, I swore the door I entered with was no longer there. Creepy and very fitting with the overall theme of the game.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs feels like a horror game that not only can be enjoyed by a wider audience than The Dark Descent, but also a game that wants you to experience the climatic ending. It’s easy to predict where the story is going however, lessening the impact on some key points in the narrative. With the changed mechanics, A Machine for Pigs should feel fresh to those that already survived the true in the darkness.
Note: The Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs review was written based on the PC version game provided to us for review.