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Anmesia The Dark Descent Days 3 and 4: Forgettable

These are basically my final days with Amnesia. It’s got some nice atmosphere and there’s good elements, but the game is too slow and it’s just too willing to let me fumble around trying to read the designer’s mind. I’ve wasted too much time trying to find a lever or a door or an interactive object just because the signs weren’t clear. I give up. Maybe there’s a great game in here, but it’s just not engaging enough for me to wait around to find it. Points for some good creepy, but some good creepy is not enough for me to continue to plod along in the dark. Even though I can’t say I would never return, I’m done for now. Spoilers within.

So it looks like a bunch of text was lost from my last post, so I’ll take it from the archives. The archives are a different space, softly lit and carpeted. It’s a set of hallways with a bunch of side rooms, and I immediately begin exploring rooms. In one I find a note about service. In another, I find a journal entry of mine in which I’m on an archeological expedition of some kind and my team finds a sealed tomb. As I wander into dark spaces, it becomes clear that my heartbeat increases and the view blurs and warps the longer I’m away from light. As I continue to explore these small specialized libraries, I find another note that explains how I had the workers on the expedition with me pry the tomb open so that I could slip in, only to get caught inside. I find a map room, and entering it triggers an audio flashback in which Daniel and Alexander discuss reinforcing the building, as it will weaken when the Shadow (?) arrives.  There’s a collapsed hallway outside of the map room, and I’m not sure how to continue. There’s an apparent weak spot on a wall nearby, but when I click it I’m told I can’t break it with my hand. I go and pick up a helmet from the floor, but the controls are wonky and I have no idea how to swing it other than to hold it in front of me and ram it into the weak spot. Either I get that right or something in the game takes pity on me, because the wall collapses and I can pass.

I enter into another library space with bookshelves, and there’s a obvious hidden door behind one of them. An audio flashback tells me that I have to pay attention to timing. I wander around the space and light a candle on the far side of the room to stay sane as I explore. I find that there are three books that are oddly colored, and if I pull all of them out at the same time (which takes a couple of tries) I open the hidden door. Inside, I find a key to the wine cellar. Another door I didn’t see earlier opens and allows me back out to the main archive hallways. As I wander, I hear a BAD sounding animal noise and duck into a room where I find the final note about the archeological mission. The note triggers a full visual flashback where I see the dark inside of the tomb with a light source up ahead. It takes me a second to realize that I have control, and I follow the voiceover’s description of me approaching the light. The glow is coming from some kind of relic that I then pick up. I get a voiceover description of a vision Daniel had of “impossible geometry” and the flashback ends. “Impossible geometry” is very Cthulhu sounding. Once the vision is done, I leave the archives for the main hall.

The game loads into the entrance hall and I head towards some of the other hallways here. As I’m walking away from the archives, I’m hit from behind by something, but it does no damage. Nevertheless, I run towards some light. There doesn’t seem to be anything around, so I head down another hallway. The door at the end of the hall gets covered in red mucus so I can’t enter. I go back to the entrance and I find a door to a lab. Entering the lab loads a new scene. There’s a wooden staircase that goes down to a dark basement. I run through the basement to avoid lingering too long in the dark and use my lantern for a moment to orient myself. I find a side room that’s a small lab setup. In there, I find a chemical and a note saying the chemicals are used in alchemical experiments but that the other chemicals were moved to the wine cellar for safety. I don’t see anything else down here, so I quickly exit to the entrance hall. Back in the hall, I find the door to the wine cellar. It takes me a few passes with the interface to figure how to equip and use the key, but I get the door open finally and enter the cellar.

I go down a flight of stairs and light a candle when I get there. There’s an audio flashback of a bunch of servants of the castle drinking in celebration of something. I find the first chemical I need, Cuprite. There’s still enough darkness around here that I run across the room, which triggers another audio flashback of the aforementioned servants choking from something in the drink and cursing Alexander for not letting them out of the basement. They realize they are going to die. I start using the lantern to navigate the space. In another part of the room, I find a note from a Wilhelm. He describes how Alexander told him to kidnap people who would then disappear in the manor. Alexander locked the people who did the kidnapping in the wine cellar after a celebration of their work, and Wilhelm describes how they are going to die from some unknown evil. I find a second chemical in this room. I exit this room and enter another one. This room is very dark, but I find the third chemical in it. I’m exploring the room for any other exit when I hear a noise and we cut to a shot of a barrel falling on me. I can’t do anything but let it hit me and then I black out. This is a set piece, and it feels very cheap. Why do I need to get hit by this barrel? Is it just to move me somewhere? Whatever it is, I don’t like this sudden lack of agency.

I come to in front of a desk. I honestly don’t even know if I’m in the same room. I light a candle to orient myself. The door is blocked by rubble. I circle around the room for a few minutes before I realize that I have to pull the debris away from the door. This is indicated by a mouse over state when you hover over the debris, but you have to be quite close to get it, so if you make the mistake of assuming that this rubble blocks the door, JUST LIKE THE OTHER BLOCKED DOORS EARLIER, you never get any feedback to tell you that what you need to do. And of course, the generally awkward control scheme for carrying things makes this unbearably slow. Click rock, drag rock around until you free it from the pile, then click plank to move it two feet, then click rock … sigh. I eventually clear the door and I exit.

The screen turns red as some messy gunk covers parts of the walls and floor and I’m hit from behind again. I run to the light in the entrance hall. I wander aimlessly for a while because I can’t remember where the lab is , but then I find the door. In the lab, I navigate to a lab table. I have to equip each of the chemicals and the mixing vessel and click them on the lab apparatus. This is pure grind — whatever chemical I click goes into the place it’s supposed to. I then have to turn the wheel, which creates an acid in the vessel that I imagine I can use to burn that red stuff away. I take the acid. I go back to the main room here, but the staircase back has been destroyed. I go back into the room with the lab equipment. I search around for another way out and I find a glowing thing. When I touch it, I get a weird bit of text telling me about returning to love and not lusting for power. That’s interesting, I guess, but it’s not an exit from this room.

You know, this is like the fifth time I’ve been in this situation in this game so far. I’m stuck in a room, waiting until I happen to find the almost hidden object that gets me out. I’m tired of this. I don’t want to spend a half hour clicking on everything until I find the one, poorly labeled thing that designer wants me to notice. I give up. Amnesia is good at creepy and has some neat elements, but this is too slow and too annoying. I’m going on to another game.


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