Amnesia is an exploration-based adventure game played from a first-person perspective. The player is able to interact with the environment in a wide variety of ways, such as picking up and moving objects, opening doors, closets and drawers, operating valves and levers and lighting up areas. There are no weapons and no combat mechanics in the game, making the player unable to fight the different monsters that he encounters. Thus the only way to get past the creatures is by running away and hiding from them until they lose interest. The player can hide from monsters in a variety of ways, such as staying in the shadows, hiding in closets, barricading doors, etc.
Separate from the player's health bar is an indication of the character's sanity. Being in darkness too long, witnessing unsettling events, or staring at monsters will reduce Daniel's sanity, causing visual and auditory hallucinations and drawing the attention of monsters, as Daniel begins to whimper. Light sources help restore sanity, and if none are available Daniel may use tinderboxes to ignite candles in wall sconces and candelabra, or deploy an oil-burning lantern found near the beginning of the game. However, the number of tinderboxes and the amount of oil available are both limited, and standing in a light source also makes the player more noticeable to monsters. Sanity is fully restored once Daniel completes an objective or progresses the game's story. It may also be restored by staying in the shadows until Daniel passes out, but this leaves him extremely vulnerable to any nearby monsters.
The game, set in 1839, casts the player in the role of Daniel, a young man from London, who awakens in the dark halls of Prussian Brennenburg Castle with little to no memory about himself or his past. All he can remember is his name, that he lives in Mayfair and that something is hunting him. Shortly after waking, Daniel finds a note written by himself that explains how he purposely made himself forget his past, because he couldn't handle losing his innocence, so he wanted to forget it all. The note urges Daniel to descend into the castle's Inner Sanctum and murder a man named Alexander, the baron of the castle. The note gives a final warning that a "living nightmare" is chasing him, and Daniel must escape it for as long as he can because there is no way to fight back.
Daniel explores the castle. As he does, he occasionally finds a fleshy substance growing on the walls and doors, a sign of the "nightmare" getting closer and closer. Through the diary entries from Daniel's journal, scattered around the rooms, the backstory of the castle and the events that transpired there begin to become clear. Before his arrival at the castle, Daniel had gone on an archaeological expedition to Africa with his friend and colleague, Professor Herbert in order to research an ancient burial chamber. Whilst there, Daniel had encountered a large underground chamber during a dig, much older than the one they had expected to find based on their research. A sudden collapse of stone had trapped Daniel inside the chamber where he began to suffocate, but also experienced a strange vision of a glowing blue sphere of light. Attempting to grab it, he suddenly blacked out and soon woke up being rescued by Arab diggers with the pieces to an ancient Orb in his hands.
Daniel returned to England at the request of Herbert and attempted to fit the pieces together but was puzzled to find out that they did not fit together. Stranger still, the pieces appeared to be changing shape and texture. To find out more, Daniel visited famed geologist Sir William Smith. The geologist was unsure of what was causing the changes, but explained to Daniel that over long periods of time, glass changes shape. Later, Daniel received a letter about the fate of the expedition he left behind and it was revealed that only the empty campsite was found. Herbert and his men had vanished and the lone survivor, who was grievously injured, kept rambling about something hunting down the expedition. Some of Herbert's journals were sent back to England and Daniel picked them up. The majority of the notes were only quick scribblings at most, but Daniel was confused to see that Herbert wrote he was trapped for over an hour, despite beginning to choke almost immediately. Stranger still, Herbert claimed to have descended into the ancient chamber and retrieved the Orb himself, making it impossible for Daniel to have the fragments.
Daniel continues to explore Brennenburg Castle and is soon hunted by disturbing, nightmarishly mutilated creatures as well as the "Shadow". He also begins to experience visions of the events in the castle's past, including what Alexander, his target, had done in many of the chambers. Daniel is shocked to realize Alexander had been performing inhumane experiments on animals in order to find vitae, a substance he saw as essential for some sort of mystical ritual. He is also shown to be ruthless, even going as far as to poison and kill his own men to prevent them from telling the outside world what he had been doing inside the castle. Daniel also experiences flashback visions of him and Alexander talking to one another, presumably on their way to the Inner Sanctum. Daniel continues his journey down into the depths of the castle through the use of Alexander's elevator, which takes him down into the underground prison area of the castle.
Further diary entries show that despite being haunted by nightmares every night, Daniel was able to reassemble the Orb after waking from a nightmare. The object fitted together without any adhesive and sat in Daniel's drawing room in a complete form. Daniel went to Herbert's university to get some answers about the relic, and saw Professor Taylor to find out more. He learned that the Orbs appeared to have left a mark on English culture, even inspiring royal symbology. The Orbs had, supposedly, originally been wielded by priests. On his way out, he overheard a conversation from which he learned that William Smith had been killed only a fortnight after Daniel spoke to him. Through more flashbacks, Daniel learns he went to see Dr. Tate about his nightmares, but was not able to get a diagnosis. Days later, both Professor Taylor and Dr. Tate were killed in horrific ways, and this convinced Daniel that he was somehow to blame for their deaths. Thinking he would be next, Daniel tried contacting many names in Herbert's address book and received a cryptic response from a baron in Prussia who claimed he could protect him from some unknown force. The letter was signed 'Alexander' and urged Daniel to come to Brennenburg Castle immediately.
Once at the castle, Daniel began to assist Alexander in various tasks designed to keep the living nightmare away from him. Revealed to be a Guardian of the Orb, the "Shadow" would not take long to arrive, despite being described as sluggish. During this time, Daniel also allowed Alexander to use his Orb in their attempted rituals to banish the Shadow later on. On a tour of the castle, Alexander revealed not only Brennenburg's function as a prison, but also that the inmates would be used in arcane rituals needed to save Daniel. The Shadow began to draw even closer, until finally the partial failure of a ritual allowed it into the castle. Panicking, Daniel told Alexander he would do whatever it took to survive and unwittingly played right into the baron's hands.
Back in the current timeline, close to the Inner Sanctum, Daniel meets an old frail man chained to the wall near the castle's laboratory. The man is Agrippa, a friend of Alexander's, who helped him gain knowledge of the Orb's powers many years ago. His consciousness is now trapped in a dead husk so that Alexander may use him as a source of information. Agrippa asks Daniel to create a concoction to set him free from his body and stop Alexander from using the Orbs. Through finding the ingredients and the things needed to carry on, Daniel finds himself in a part of the castle littered with torture rooms and bodily remains. Through flashbacks and more diary entries, it becomes clear why Daniel chose to lose his memories at the beginning of the game.
Alexander began telling Daniel about different methods of extracting vitae from the prisoners down in the castle depths, claiming the process would keep the Shadow away from him. Daniel followed him without question through his increasing desperation and helped to perform gruesome rituals of killing the prisoners through various methods of torture, thinking that he would save himself through the process. Using such items as an Iron Maiden and a brass bull, Daniel ended up becoming the very thing he was killing and even went as far as to kidnap local villagers and children from outside the castle to use for the rituals. Consumed by grief, regret and disgust at his actions, Daniel drank a memory-destroying Amnesia tonic to have a fresh start and fix what he had done. He realised that Alexander had manipulated him in order to obtain the Orb to achieve his goal and swore that the baron would die for his actions, leading to the events at the start of the game.
As he progresses, Daniel is attacked by a horde of creatures and locked up in one of the castle prison cells. He hears Alexander speaking to him telepathically, thanking him for his role in everything and for keeping the Shadow away from the baron. At this point, it is possible to end the game — Alexander asks Daniel to wait in the cell and let the shadow consume him, and it is possible to do just that. The cell will fill with the fleshy substance, Daniel will hear the voices of the people he's tortured, and then the shadow will kill him. If Daniel manages to escape, he will be able to return to the laboratory and find that the Shadow's influence has grown over absolutely everything. Agrippa asks Daniel for the potion. If the player has found the ingredients, then the potion can be made in the lab and fed to Agrippa. The old man then asks that his head be cut off and taken with Daniel to stop Alexander and get into a "portal" before he does. If the player did not find the ingredients, then Daniel enters the Inner Sanctum alone. He uses the power of his own Orb to open the way and goes to complete his objective.
Inside the massive chamber, Alexander awaits on a raised platform in front of one of the Orbs, engulfed in a blue glow. Surrounding the Orb are three fragile pillars that are feeding blue-hued energy to it in order to complete the ritual. Alexander thanks Daniel once again and rants about how he can finally return "home" once again. Three possible endings to the game can happen at this point.
- If the player chooses to knock over the pillars, then the ritual fails. Alexander screams as his body disintegrates, and Daniel leaves the chamber. The Shadow's influence is assumed to be gone through his redeeming actions, and he leaves Brennenburg Castle behind with a guilt-free conscience.
- If the player does nothing at first, the portal Alexander wants to open appears and he begins to float towards it, leaving Daniel to face the Shadow alone. If the player uses Agrippa's head on the portal, then the ritual will be completed before Alexander can get through, resulting in his death. Daniel is seemingly killed by the Shadow but wakes up in darkness with small blue lights visible in the distance. The voice of Agrippa assures him everything is going to be all right and the game ends.
- If the player does nothing at all, then the portal opens and Alexander enters into it in a blue flash. With nothing holding the Shadow back, the fleshy substance consumes the Inner Sanctum and kills Daniel slowly, and voices of his victims can be heard begging for mercy. The screen fades to black. The game ends with Alexander thanking Daniel and saying that his sacrifice will not be forgotten.
- The player can achieve a lesser known fourth ending, if he remains in the cell after being captured by the servants. Eventually the shadow reaches his cell and he is killed in the same style, and receives the same thanks from Alexander.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent received positive critical reception, with praise going towards the atmosphere, story and horror elements. IGN gave the game an 8.5/10, calling it an "unforgettable survival-horror experience", with much of the praise going to the horror, presentation, and sound, though criticizing the low replay value. Gameinformer has said that "Amnesia shows us by example that gaming has entirely new realms to explore," and gave the game a 9.25/10. John Walker of Rock, Paper, Shotgun has gone as far to say "I think it's safe to say that Amnesia is the most successfully frightening game to have ever been made. PC Gamer has said that it "is rich in atmosphere and big on scares. Amnesia goes where other survival-horror games fear to tread." and gave the game an 88% Adventure Gamer says that "the gameplay, graphics, and sound all coalesce into a perfectly paced, unforgettably terrifying experience. The game was given a 4.5/5.
Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw of "Zero Punctuation", has even given the game a positive review, saying that the game has good pacing and knows that "a monster stays more scary the less you see of it". Though he adds that he "wouldn't call Amnesia a "great game", commenting on the uninspired and repetitive nature of the level design and monster encounters. Croshaw listed Amnesia as number 4 in his Top 5 Games of 2010 list.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent was published by Frictional Games through digital download services such as their own digital store, Steam, Gamer's Gate, Gamefly, Desura and Impulse Driven. The game is also available on the OnLive service, making the game playable on numerous systems including personal computers and the OnLive gaming system.
The Dark Descent also saw a retail release, published by THQ in North America and by 1C Company in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Other Materials Edit
The official soundtrack for The Dark Descent was composed by Mikko Tarmia. It features 19 tracks and is available for purchase at Frictional Games' digital store.
In version 1.2 of The Dark Descent was included a collection of short stories titled Remember - Amnesia The Dark Descent. It is written by Mikael Hedberg and illustrated by Rasmus Gunnarsson and Jonas Steinick.
The stories themselves expand upon several parts of the backstory of The Dark Descent.
- See: Amnesia: Justine
On April 12, 2011 Frictional Games released a free add-on for owners of the steam version of The Dark Descent, titled Amnesia: Justine. The add-on was later included as an update for all versions of the game, as part of the v1. 2 update.
|Characters (The Dark Descent)|
|Main characters||Daniel • Agrippa • Alexander|
|Monsters||The Shadow • Kaernk • Grunt • Brute|
|Supporting characters||Herbert • Hazel • Johann Weyer|
| Brennenburg Castle:|
Rainy Hall - Old Archives - Entrance Hall - Archives - Wine Cellar - Laboratory - Refinery - Cellar Archives - Archive Tunnels - Back Hall - Study - Guest Room - Storage - Machine Room - Elevator - Prison: Southern Block - Prison: Northern Block - Cistern Entrance - Cistern - Morgue - Control Room - Sewer - Nave - Cells - Choir Entrance - Choir Main Hall - Transept - Chancel - Inner Sanctum - Orb Chamber
- The game was initially called Unknown, and was different to the final Amnesia, for example, the player could choose how to progress in the game, and it featured combat, like using bows and arrows, using a rare flint lock gun and throwing alchemy bottles (like grenades but with different effects). Also, the player started in a "Hub" which is a safe haven where you could save the game and protect from the monsters, along with chatting with the NPC characters, and the game was divided into 6 Hubs.
- In an early gameplay preview of Unknown, the only shown enemy is the same enemy used Penumbra: Black Plague (Tuurngrait Infected). It has a similar appearance, traits and dialog as in Penumbra however it was replaced with the Amnesia monsters along with the game's official release.
- The game's story is heavily influenced by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, as they share similar themes of isolation, cosmicism, insanity, and stellar beings too colossal for comprehension by the human mind.