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Amnesia The Dark Descent: Days#1 and 2

Keeping with my indie catch-up, I decided to dive into Amnesia. It’s marketed on its mood and story, and there it’s quite strong. Not much has happened yet, but the tone of the game is very clear and quite effective. In particular, the game does a great job of telling its story as you run though the corridors. I’m holding out so far in terms of judgment, as I haven’t played much in these two days and seriously very little has happened – I’ve literally just walked around picking things up and wrestling with somewhat awkward controls. But the tone is strong enough that it’s worth at least looking at, and certainly for me worth sticking around. Spoilers within.

I should say that I’ve been playing a lot of indie games lately (Minecraft, Super Crate Box, Desktop Dungeons) and I should write something up on all of them, but those are kind of short takes due to their quick play or procedural natures. But there’s one recent indie game that has been on my radar as a must play and a dedicated one at that. That game is Amnesia: The Dark Descent. I am a sucker for horror and games about narrative, so this is no brain for me. It also won three awards so expectations are high. Let’s see how it does.

I’m playing game on Steam of course, so there’s that standard Steam download/computer verify/log in to play with your friends nonsense. Steam’s great – don’t get me wrong – it’s just a kind of annoying start process when all you want to do is play Plants vs. Zombies.  The game starts with a fairly normal set of loads except for one message you have to click through. The game says (in title card style) that I should be playing to learn the story and not to win. That is usually a strike for me. I should be able to enjoy the game and enjoy the story at the same time without directives. I also notice this is a Nordic Game – congrats to my friends in the Nordic game community. Further instruction reads that the game will save for me and that I should not try to fight enemies; I should run or even hide. I should also play the game in a dark room and headphones … yes, yes, I get it. You’re trying to be SCCCAARRRYYYY. Please stop talking about it.

Ok, finally, start new story. There’s a transition from the menu into a stone tunnel effect in a medieval still image. It starts in a castle where the lights go on and off. I’m on the ground. The castle is pretty in this old-fashioned game kind of way. It genuinely feels like a game from an earlier era with the rectangular block grey walls and the straight forward first-person perspective. This isn’t a bad thing. They’ve done a good job with it. Voiceover tells me that my name is Daniel and that I must stop him and I must not forget. It goes dark again and then comes up as I get up. I’m in a study like room. I can check my journal, notes, and diaries by hitting Tab – I see a lot of writing coming in this one. A memento I have says to follow the trail back to its source. There’s a line of purple dots on the floor and off in that direction I go. There are lots of passages here and as I walk there are strange wind effects and noises. Frankly, it’s just the right amount of accent to make me wonder what it is and creep me out a bit. There are passages of light and darkness, and it’s apparent that being in darkness too long causes me to lose sanity. Finding a window and light restores it. This is all done visually: heart beats and warping view when going crazy that slowly comes back to order when sanity is restored. The game is spooky — I’ll give you that. I also find a few items: tinderboxes that I can use to light candles, a lantern and oil for it. I wander for a while until I get down to a final level and find a journal on the table.

The journal explains that I took a potion to forget everything but there are a handful of things that I cannot forget. My name is Daniel and I must go down to the inner sanctum and kill someone named Alexander. He is old and weak and I am young. It’s a bit weird – this is the kind of thing that SCREAMS set-up to be a twist to me, but what else do I have to do? Well, it turns out to be retrace my steps for about a half-hour because I don’t see a little lever in the same room as the journal. Sigh. When I finally find it, I pull the lever and it opens a secret door. I pass into the Entrance Hall with a loading screen that says something about Daniel being kicked then Hazel (?). I come back on the Entrance Hall and see some red drops on the ground by a staircase in a fairly huge stone room with pillars and another set of stairs going up. When I approach it, it triggers a flashback, pure audio. Alexander is talking to me and he’s saying something about following him. There’s a light at the bottom of the stairs around a door. I walk down there as they talk. Opening the door, I see a passageway, but it gets blocked by a red web that the game tells me can’t be torn by hand or burned. The conversation ends and I can explore again. I go up the stairs and I hear a woman screaming, “Get off of me!” I get to a door marked Archives and enter to a new load.

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