Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs Review – Not Kosher
I was actually happy, though terrified, when monstrous shadowy figures began lurking at the edge of my peripheral vision. Finally, I thought, an enemy encounter to release this pent-up tension. Of course, like its predecessor there is no actual combat in Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. The sense of helplessness as you run, slamming doors behind you to lose your pursuer, was one of Amnesia: The Dark Descent’s greatest triumphs.
Unfortunately, enemy encounters turn out to be one of the greatest weaknesses in Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. While terrifying in their first few appearances, it quickly became clear that the enemies paid little attention to my presence. They were drawn to the light of my lantern, but only when it was shining directly at them, and even upon being spotted I found that I was practically invisible when stowing the lantern away again.
It didn’t take long to realize that it was harder to get caught by the enemies than not, a matter helped by the flickering lights that always telegraphed when an enemy was near. My cries of “oh no” as the lights began to flicker quickly gave way to sighs of “ugh, no, another ones of these?”
Anticipation and fear had transformed into apathy and frustration, and even the atmospheric scenery that I once found so unsettling no longer held the same impact. The enemies had provided a release from my tension but they performed their job too well, dispelling any sense of danger the environment worked so hard to convey.
The strangest thing is, it could have still worked if the sanity system from the first Amnesia was still in place. If hiding in the shadows or seeing an enemy caused my character’s sanity to dip, making it more difficult to move or see, then their mostly harmless nature wouldn’t be an issue. I wouldn’t be able to observe their almost comical gait, much less to safely do so from two feet away.
With consequences for going near them or staring directly at them it could have instilled a sense that the enemies should be actively avoided, rather than just patiently waiting for them to pass by. It’s baffling that this solution already existed in The Dark Descent but was removed in the sequel, since its absence so drastically diminishes the tension.
Even though Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs loses its sense of horror halfway through, it could have still at least been a creepy and atmospheric first-person narrative. Sadly, in that regard too the pig machine is a letdown.
Mandus, our faithful protagonist, hasn’t lost all of his memories despite the game’s title. He remembers his wife, who died during childbirth, and his twin sons Edwin and Enoch. It is the search for his sons that initially motivates Mandus’s descent into the dank machine, while scattered diary pages provide the backstory by hinting at the machine’s purpose.
Perhaps it is a matter of authenticity, an attempt to make the diary pages read like they were actually written by a madman, but the backstory is practically incomprehensible. Or rather, it is easy enough to discern the literal events that transpired, but little justification is ever offered for why any of it transpired.
The story material is certainly disturbing, providing a gruesome shock value to compensate for the game’s waning physical terror. And the story clearly attempts to say something philosophical about the evils of human nature, but philosophical nonsense is nonsensical all the same. It lost me somewhere between the flimsy character motivations, lofty rhetoric, and an all too literal interpretation of the title.
I pressed on, scouring for every last diary page and hoping the story would take a turn toward something spectacularly horrifying–only to be treated to a reveal that’s painfully obvious despite the game treating it like an 11th hour plot twist.
I find myself returning to the haunted house metaphor as the best way to understand Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. Keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times and you can enjoy the creepy atmosphere knowing that you’re safe from the actors who jump out from the shadows. And like a haunted house, by the time I reached the exit I found myself giggling more than screaming.
When at its best, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is every bit as capable of scaring the pants off of horror-seeking players as its predecessor. But uneven pacing, a nonsensical story, and a general lack of danger or risk breeds a sense of detachment that by the end didn’t give me chills–it just left me cold.
- Oppressively tense atmosphere can be truly terrifying
- Excellent use of sound and lighting to drive home each scare
- Uneven pacing front-loads all tension at the start of the game
- Enemies pose little threat and become more comical that scary by the end
- Puzzles amount to carrying the one object you can interact with until it is needed
- Nonsensical story that isn’t enough to make up for other shortcomings
Final Score: 50/100
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