Amnesia: The Dark Descent’s horror relied on a bit of cheating
My review of Amnesia: Rebirth, as someone who has multiple hundreds of hours in The Dark Descent and who loves horror media:
[SPOILER WARNINGS] Minor spoilers ahead.
I am a long time fan of Frictional Games, and it's no secret that Amnesia: The Dark Descent has always been their crown jewel. It doesn't pain me at all to say that The Dark Descent still is the crown jewel, even after the release of Rebirth.
Through out many times in the game I needed to remind myself that Amnesia: The Dark Descent had more to it than just a castle setting, and that Rebirth carried many of the aspects that made The Dark Descent the grandfather of modern horror. The different types of lighting resources, the sanity mechanic (which is now called 'fear' rather than sanity), the pacing, the feeling of being powerless against the dreadful monsters... This game still armed with all of those things.
If this game dropped it's story and title I would still sense that this was an Amnesia game and I'm happy about that. I wouidn't be able to say the same about Amnesia: Machine for Pigs. Just like The Dark Descent, Rebirth draws a lot of inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft, and in the latter half of the game there is a lot of H.R. Geiger inspired level design to be found too. I was in absolute awe of the enviroments I was scouring through, so much so that I stood still to take screenshots for my desktop background. I never felt that need with any other game.
As you may tell, I draw a lot of parralels to Amnesia: The Dark Descent (which is kind of hard to avoid seeing that the two games are so incredibly intertwined on both mechanical and lore aspects), but I also see some contrast, like the level design - which I eagerly praised earlier - feels very claustrophobic, and at times a tad too linear even. luckily later in the game this became less apparent,
The monster design is absolutely stellar, but I found the encounters too few, and when I did get put under pressure by a monster threat, it was too shortlived. Later in the game these encounters become more frequent, but in a way that makes it kind of repetitive. Ofcourse, this is all written in hindsight, and the fear that a monster may appear is equally frightening as a monster actually appearing. It isn't unlike an Amnesia game to rely on the level design and immersion to instill fear in the player.
Then there are the more controversial parts, mainly the jumpscares. I have always commended Amnesia: The Dark Descent for avoiding these, and relying on creating a good atmosphere in the game to keep the players in fear. Amnesia: Rebirth however doesn't shy away from using "cheap" scares to scare players. For example, in the old fort where you have to reach the radio, the little monster monkey man is no actual threat, but only servers to startle you when interacting with certain parts of the level.
Ofcourse the most controversial jumpscares, are the ones that you get when dealing with low sanity levels (or rather, high fear levels as it's reffered to in this game). I myself don't mind these and even see them as an important part to the game. The intial reaction of a fustrated player is to call these scares cheap when they're first introduced to them, but the purpose they serve make it anything but cheap. The low sanity jumpscares really conditioned me to be afraid of traversing in low light conditions, just like our protagonist, Tasi. The difference I see in classic jumpscares and jumpscares that the low sanity grant you, is that you are in control of them, and you know what to do to prevent them. In the end, I was no longer scared of the jumpscares because I knew what the exact conditions for them were, but it is scary enough to make me burn through my light source supplies. making this game even harder and more stressful. This game would not be scary if you could cloak yourself in darkness to creep to the end of the level, and this specific jumpscare mechanic prevents just that, way better than the arbitrary sanity meter from The Dark Descent.
That brings me to the next point: Light sources. A common point when the discussion of which of the Frictional Games title is better (Penumbra or Amnesia) arises, is that Penumbra did a better job offering light options with the flashlight, the glowstick, and flare. Amnesia: Rebirth seemed to take note from this, and replaced tinderboxes with matches, which serve as a source of light but also light up candles and lamps.
The frequency in which these light sources are provided is scarce. Match packs usually contain 2-3 matches in a pack, and you have a maximum of 10, which I personally never managed to fill up. Then there are oil cannisters for your lamp, which are half as frequently found as matches, but also burn out rather quick. Your lamp holds 10 oil units, which is about 2,5 minutes of light. I also never managed to rack up 10 oil units.
Now for the last big plus before I move on to the negatives of this game: The story. I loved the story so much. I didin't care for Tasi's adventure much at all if I'm honest (she is very unlikeable due to everyone's stellar voice acting performance and her character arc) but it serves a nice addition to the game. It's just hard to care for a story in which the objective is simple to achieve, but 10 major mishaps get in the way to achieve that simple goal. This also gave the game the feel as if it dragged on for too long but the interesting level designs you got to explore because of it makes up for it. The lore this game expands on however is what really got me hooked. It scratched many itches that The Dark Descent left, and this game itself left a nice itch too so it can keep floating around in my brain.
Now for the negatives:
The game runs like dogshit. my specs clear the recommended specs just fine, and upon start up I found the game's graphics turned to the highest settings. The game however kept jumping from 60 to 30 everytime something graphically demanding appeared on screen, which is always. Turning down settings only barely increased my performance, making 38fps my usual low dips (a dip meaning it last throughout most of the game). Turning the graphics to medium and turning off fancier settings, made this game look like Skyrim on the Xbox 360. And mind you, this was all on the second highest settings.
Now to something more mundane, the monsters have a really quick reflex. In the older days you could sometimes run past them, but in Rebirth, no cigar. Sometimes, an enemy would grab me, I would have to shake the mouse and WASD buttons to break free, but that would massively disorient me, and by the time I picked a random direction to run in I was once again at the mercy of a hideous monster, leading to my demise,
Speaking of demise, if you "die" in some places, your reset spot can disorient you to the point where you wander in the wrong direction and land in the grasp of the enemy once more. At two seperate occasions I died by a combination of this, and the manner described in the previous paragraph leading to the monster just despawning and removing the tension from the scene while I stumbled about trying to figure out where to go.
My conclusion is that Amnesia: Rebirth is the worthy successor to the series we had been waiting for for a decade, and I am glad to have experienced it all the way through. I hope everyone had an equal appreciation to this game the same way I did.
Thank you Frictional Games
submitted by Yungsleepboat