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.

Pros:

  • Oppressively tense atmosphere can be truly terrifying
  • Excellent use of sound and lighting to drive home each scare

Cons:

  • 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


Game Front employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.

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8 Comments on Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs Review – Not Kosher

SweetPea

On September 11, 2013 at 11:22 am

Ah, what a disappointment. I really believed they could pull it off.

Removing things that already worked perfectly in The Dark Descent makes no sense.

monotoy

On September 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm

interesting … I sort of felt the opposite.
first third I liked a lot, middle third I thought was so-so due to boring/slightly buggy puzzles, last third I found quite cool due to story actually. or, not necessarily the story as such but the feelings of dread and despair and no good way out of the mess.
Music I thought was awesome, storytelling too; but not scary enough sadly.

monotoy

On September 11, 2013 at 1:25 pm

and tbh, even though the sanity meter is gone, while I thought it was an amazing feature in dark descent, even there it stopped working effectively maybe 2/3rds into the game, so it’s a bit unfair for me to totally hold it against chinese room.

JC

On September 11, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I almost completely agree with the review and feel it’s final score of 50/100 is accurate, due to the disappointment.

Though I have to take issue with saying it’s as capable of scaring the user as the original, A Machine for Pigs simply doesn’t compare. Also saying that it can be as scary contradicts pretty much the rest of the review. No moment in A Machine for Pigs compares even with the top 10 in the original Amnesia, it’s just not possible, some of the reasons why were mentioned in the review (sanity meter, light source etc).

The quality as a game was also lacking, getting stuck on steps, being able to get behind a chair easily but then spending 2 minutes jumping to get back out, being able to tell when you’re safe simply because of the level design nevermind the lighting. As far as game quality goes only the audio seems up to par.

The Chinese Room doesn’t seem to have a good distinction between horror and things like gore, suspense and atmosphere. All the gore and suspense in the world doesn’t mean it’s going to scare someone and they aren’t required for that matter The Chinese Room seems to be a poor choice for an Amnesia game especially without tight reigns, they’ve pretty much made one of their usual games.

quicktooth

On September 12, 2013 at 12:02 am

You forgot the baffling inclusion of utterly blatant pornography. I guess they knew they had a stinker on their hands and thought they’d try their hand for a moment at simply manipulating their customers. I wonder if there was more than one spot in the game it occurred- I stopped at the secret peeping tom room adjoining the bathroom. Looks like my intuition about the game’s character (low, rubbish, dark descent was better in every way) was on the mark, in spite of my short time with the game…

Xcalibur

On September 12, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Well, A Machine for Pigs is disappointing, But I don’t agree with that score. Nonsensical story? I don’t think so, the story is pretty well written and interesting.

I think, the game is so close, yet so far from great. If it had the same heart as The Dark Descent has, it would be a 80/100, maybe 90/100.

I liked the story, I liked the atmosphere, I liked the sounds (voice acting inclueded), and the music was also good. Graphically, it improved a little bit, still it has low system requirements. Sounds pretty good!

But it’s really not scary. Making the lamp that was is just a huge mistake. The enemies are really funny instead of dangerous and scary. You can easily run away from them. Also, however, the music was good, it wasn’t that unsettling, scary like in The Dark Descent. I wonder if Mikko Tarmia could do it better. Basically I agree most of the cons (except the story part), but not the final score. It could get a 65-70 in my opinion. Still, not good enough. :(

Also, it’s very short. It had so much potential (because, lots of things were really done right in this game), but they get rid of the good things that worked before, and the game failed…

lol

On September 13, 2013 at 8:49 am

The game’s overrated anyway. Poor platforming and dodgy physics combined with an awkward camera and pretty boring backstory. People were blinded by how ‘scary’ it was.

BryanH83

On September 21, 2013 at 10:40 am

Just started the game and the first thing I noticed was that the cabinets were locked. This is an Amnesia game… The cabinets are the safe zone! This is bull!!!!1! *curls into a corner* ><,