Sunday, January 05, 2014

Review: Amnesia - A Machine for Pigs (Game)

Most gamers who have played the original Amnesia: The Dark Descent will agree that it is among one of the best and most respected horror games of modern creation. The series that preludes Amnesia are the Penumbra games that came to life in 2007 under Frictional Games, who both published and developed both titles. The entire starting basis of the Amnesia series is that the player controls a character who has been inflicted with the disorder and are completely alone with no recollection of who or where they are, or how they got there. Gaining such a phenomenal start with The Dark Descent, Frictional Games have decided to pass along development to The Chinese Room, who were responsible for the game Dear Esther previously, for this indirect sequel. How well does A Machine for Pigs stack up to it's original counterpart?

Genre: Horror
Developer: The Chinese Room
Publisher: Frictional Games
Release Date: September 10th, 2013
Play Time: 4 Hours - 6 Hours
Price: $20.00 USD
Platforms: PC

Official Website



                                      











 Rating: 4.5/10









Most gamers who have played the original Amnesia: The Dark Descent will agree that it is among one of the best and most respected horror games of modern creation. The series that preludes Amnesia are the Penumbra games that came to life in 2007 under Frictional Games, who both published and developed both titles. The entire starting basis of the Amnesia series is that the player controls a character who has been inflicted with the disorder and are completely alone with no recollection of who or where they are, or how they got there. Gaining such a phenomenal start with The Dark Descent, Frictional Games have decided to pass along development to The Chinese Room, who were responsible for the game Dear Esther previously, for this indirect sequel. How well does A Machine for Pigs stack up to it's original counterpart?

It would be a grossly inaccurate understatement to say that Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is a bad game, more appropriately it's best to say that it fails at being a horror game. There are very few segments that would allow for the player to become tense and disturbed during their play through and the maps are extremely linear. The chance to deviate from the main story line is literally non-existent for the exception of taking short walks down corridors and hallways, and then it's back to the main path again. Although on the bright side, the story line is extremely intriguing and well written.


The player assumes the role of one Oswald Mandus, an extremely wealthy owner of a meat manufacturing plant during the turn of the century in London, 1899. The story line is placed during the time frame of Christmas and New Years Eve of this year. Mandus's quest begins as he is awakened by childish whispers, having been unconscious for an undisclosed amount of time after returning from an expedition in Mexico where he contracted a horrible fever. Trying to locate his two sons, Enoch and Edwin, Mandus sets out on his endeavor through his vast mansion, a church, and into the churning machine that bellows and hisses under the surface of the cobblestone.

The graphics are on par with the previous Amnesia release, the textures and skins haven't been updated yet they don't feel aged either. In my experience, I found that while the game was set to high graphic detail my FPS (frames per second) varied radically with my ATI Radeon HD 7950 and caused some tearing, which shouldn't be the case for such an advanced card. This could be due to some of the overwhelming blur effects that will be discussed later or the lack of a v-sync option. The artistic style suits the 1800's well, with a heavy steam punk appeal as well as it has a very Bioshock quality to it; the reminiscence of Bioshock goes further than just the aesthetic design of the content and into the audio narrative conducted by the second entity the player will hear through the game play. This entity begins by contacting Mandus via phone and then it progresses into regular voice encounters over the span of the game. The audio quality and soundtrack for this title is decent, the musical score when present is both elegant and horrifying. Many times when the player is left to solve puzzles or roam from one room to the next all that can be heard are the sizzling pipes of the machine, creaks, clangs, screams, grunting pigs and their squeals; all sounds that would convey the atmosphere of a huge machine taken over by swine.


But all of the elements that are previously mentioned make this game sound like it would be incredible, how could it not be? Two main components of the adventure cause the material to falter. For a game that calls itself horror/survival horror, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs sorely lacks anything that is truly terrifying. The player will find themselves face to face with the manpigs maybe a total of five times that require them to interact or escape the beasts, the rest of the scare tactics to the game play is entirely smoke and mirrors. During the first hour or so of play time the gamer will experience abrupt shakes in Mandus's mansion, this can only occur so many times before it becomes old hat; the earthquake-like shaking will continue throughout the rest of the game and the effect becomes tedious after time. To induce horror there is an added slow-motion effect that happens every single time something scary is about to happen, or is happening. This effect is incredibly lack luster and boasts an overbearing blurry quality that hinders the experience rather than enhances it. The only thing you have left after this in terms of scaring the audience are the actual monsters, which you get a good close up view of your second time encountering them, and this causes the scare factor to dip drastically. There are only a handful of instances that may be considered scary, and most of those are when the player is without a light and/or being chased.

The second thing that causes the content to fail are the mind-numbingly easy puzzles scattered throughout the various levels. Rarely, if ever, will the player get stuck or even have to think too hard to get past any certain point. There are no time limits or restrictions, or even any monsters present while any of the puzzles are to be solved. In most cases the solvent will be laying right beside, or extremely near to, the actual puzzle. This causes the game to be easy to breeze through and in my experience, with collecting most of the notes and audio logs, I clocked in at five hours of play time; this was also after having the game glitch on me during one part and causing me to repeat a section. It would also suffice to say that this game has a hard-on for ladders. Every time you turn around there is a ladder, there is an entire section filled with them after the mandatory sewer level. While this does give the feeling of going down into great depths, many other areas of the game counter the feeling of depth; especially in the beginning of the game where the player repeatedly descends and then finds themselves back on the surface not much later, or after descending for so long to simply take a short ride on an elevator, landing themselves back to the fresh outdoors of London and vica versa.


SPOILERS BEGIN:
The entire long and short of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is about a man who wants to see the entire world over run with pig beings. Most of what you may guess at the beginning of the game will be true once you advance through the story; yes Mandus killed his children, yes the machine is his creation and yes he is just talking to himself. Much like the orb in The Dark Descent, A Machine for Pigs has an egg that causes part of Mandus's soul, referred to as The Engineer, to want to prevent this horrifying vision of the 20th century. The machine takes pigs and humans and combines them into the wretched abominations witnessed throughout the game, and at the very center of it are the two beating hearts of Mandus's sons. If the audience reads the collected notes and journal entries the story is fairly easy to put together, especially with a little bit of reading between the lines.
SPOILERS END.

If Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs had a more relevant scare factor to it, as well as more thought provoking puzzles and moments of suspense, it would be considered another amazing horror game much like it's predecessor. While the story is brimming with potential and a unique perspective, the actual game play lacks in comparison to the original Amnesia or any modern horror survival game such as Outlast. The price tag of $20.00 USD will leave the player feeling ripped off for a mere five hours of play time that comes with little to no replayability aspect; it would be best to wait for the game to go on sale on Steam, I picked up my copy for $9.99 USD. If you're looking for something to fill your time on a slow day then pick this one up, otherwise wait for a drastic price reduction or find another horror game.

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