The Amnesia series has carved a name for itself on the wall of the cell in the abandoned prison we like to call the horror genre. The debut title had you exploring a creepy mansion, stalked by monsters that would chase you in the dark and which you had no means of fighting off.
It’s been nearly a decade since Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and developer Frictional Games has announced it’s returning to that world with a radical shake-up of the format.
Developer Frictional Games have announced that the next installment in their psychological horror series, Amnesia: The Bunker, will take a leaf from some of the best horror games – such as The Dark Pictures Anthology – by allowing the player to explore a “semi-open world” of largely unscripted events.
Set in a World War 1 bunker, we’ll be expected to fight our way out with nothing but a single bullet left in our revolver.
Whilst the hint of a combat element in an Amnesia game is interesting, let’s hope that the “randomization and unpredictable behavior” of this unscripted hellhole still gives us a reason to care about our character.
Not your average war game
Set in a dark, dank, desolate WWI bunker, you’ll be playing as lonesome French soldier Henri Clément. He seems to have woken from one nightmare to another; gone are the bullets and mortar shells of all-out war, but something down here definitely wants you dead.
Judging from the sparse details on the Amnesia: The Bunker’s Steam page, we can expect a lot of twists and turns not only to each individual playthrough but to the genetic makeup of an Amnesia game itself.
Gone are the days of being totally helpless to the madness within and without, as you’ll be (partially) armed down in The Bunker. From the trailer we can see that the protagonist has nothing but a solitary bullet in his revolver and a rather noisy dynamo flashlight to illuminate his dismal surroundings, giving you a way to potentially fight off whatever lurks in the dark.
You’ll be stalked by an intelligent presence, watching and learning your every move as you try to escape it. We know that randomization will ensure “multiple solutions to problem-solving in a non-linear world”, so there will be more than one way to make an impressive coup de grâce.
Risk or reward?
Giving us a degree of control over the story and its surroundings is nothing new. This has been the case in the likes of slasher whodunnit The Quarry and the latest addition to The Dark Pictures Anthology, The Devil In Me.
Both held together by a sprawling overarching narrative, you grow to care for the characters in each game because of how they interact with each other. You are invested in their lives and relationships, and that is what gives you a reason to fight on through the horrors and see them through to the end safely.
Scripted elements and cutscenes are crucial to the shaping of their stories by giving you a balanced framework to operate within. Sure, multiple-ending horror games like The Mortuary Assistant operate heavily with randomization, but they still follow distinct narrative pathways that allow you to uncover more about the characters with every unique playthrough.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent managed this brilliantly as the first game in the Amnesia series; the character wakes up with no recollection of who he is or why he is there, but as the game gently guides you through it, you’re able to uncover reasons to keep caring about staying alive.
Amnesia: The Bunker has the potential to be as good as the original, thanks to its doom-laden environment to unpredictable horrors, that should keep us on edge. But right now, it risks sounding more experience than story-driven, and it may lose what I loved about the first game.
Having a life in your hands is only worth the reasons we have to value it. If we’re just shooting bullets in the dark, why bother?