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Amnesia: The Bunker - Review



Survival horror fans have been eating quite well these last few years as we’ve received a plethora of quality survival horror titles. Resident Evil: Village, for a majority because personally I wish I enjoyed it more, was a stellar new entry for the Resident Evil franchise and this year we got the Resident Evil 4 remake which a lot of people consider one of the best of 2023. Not to forget the Dead Space remake which ended up being better than a lot of folks expected and is another one of the hottest titles of 2023. Signalis, made by just two individuals, is a mind bending sci-fi story with lovecraftian elements and room for interpretation. Then there’s the other indie horror games like Dredge, Inscryption, Mundaun, Faith: The Unholy Trinity, World of Horror, etc. I am not a survival horror veteran nor a long running horror fan myself, but it’s nice to get a good scare or two every so often. One game I was pretty anticipated for this year came from a studio who you may recognize for their previous work. This game being Amnesia: The Bunker, the latest piece of work by Frictional and 4th entry in the series.


Amnesia is Frictional’s flagship franchise and while it may not be their first game ever made it’s one they’ve been sticking to for a long time. The first game Amnesia: The Dark Descent should not have been as successful as it was. It stripped the player of any gear and weapons they would normally utilize to defend themselves, had a cold cramped environment, and forced them to run and hide from any terrifying problems that came their way. On paper it didn’t sound like a good video game, but when put into practice people found it really fun. I say titles like Dead Space 2 and Resident Evil 5 started pushing horror towards a more action focus, but The Dark Descent gave people a genuine feeling of horror. A feeling that hasn’t been felt since earlier titles in the genre. Amnesia: The Dark Descent became a success online and even got a handful of famous let’s players to film themselves reacting to the whole thing. The Dark Descent was a great new foundation for Frictional Games, but this is where they started to go off the charts. The formula they had made didn’t age so well and with future entries people started to realize how repetitious something like Amnesia was. A Machine For Pigs was alright from what I’ve heard, Soma has a smartly written story placed alongside somewhat mediocre gameplay, and Rebirth was the final nail in the coffin for people to start hating this form of horror. Not to mention the several other indie horror titles which took inspiration and milked the run ‘n hide formula to death.


That’s why there’s two classifications for survival horror games now, traditional and run ‘n hide, and the latter hasn’t been received as well as before. Explains why when Resident Evil 7 revived the franchise and brought everything back to survival horror roots people rejoiced. In some ways it’s kind of sad, because the people at Frictional Games clearly enjoy their jobs and almost all of the games they have made. They want to craft these intriguing stories with interesting lore, cool set pieces, and characters but they keep creating what is the bell pepper of video games. It may get you to jump if you have really low spice tolerance but after a few bites they stop having their kick. So after the disappointment that was Amnesia: Rebirth, the team decided to take a step back to ask themselves what people would actually want to play. No more run and hide horror games and instead a step towards a new direction. They all eventually came to the conclusion to state “screw you” to the old formula and just put in a gun. Well, it wasn't as simple as that, but the fact that the guys who popularized run ‘n hide horror made a game with a gun made it feel like it. So, they decided to make a more traditional survival horror game and throw in emergent gameplay elements seen in immersive-sim titles like Deus Ex and Prey. Create a game where the player is given a list of goals, tools to experiment with, sandbox-esque freedom, and still feel stressed out like previous Amnesia titles. This is what eventually led to Amnesia: The Bunker and by God was it brilliant. Honestly this game should have been decent enough. It’s reusing the same engine as previous Amnesia games, seems to be using the same physics, same movement, and still trying to connect itself to the Amnesia universe. However, what we got instead is a well-designed survival horror game with plenty of innovations future genre titles can take note from. It does have a fair share of problems, but I am not afraid to say this is the best game Frictional have ever made and they deserve to give themselves a pat on the back for what they’ve accomplished. Today we’re gonna be talking about Amnesia: The Bunker and why it deserves your attention.


Story


The year is 1916 and we are in the midst of World War I. France and Germany are duking it out in the midst of No Man’s Land, bullets are flying, bombs are dropping, corpses are piling by the dozens, and soldiers are getting shellshock. Not knowing when the nightmares will end, whether they’ll have enough food to survive another week, whether God will be forgiving to them, afraid of not being able to give a proper goodbye to their family and forced to sacrifice themselves as disposable pawns of war. Look, we could talk more about the war itself, but we have an actual video game to discuss here so listen up. We play as Henri Clement, a French soldier who’s been serving in the war for quite some time and fights alongside his best friend Augustin Lambert. The two have always been together to fend each other’s backs, and they promised to make sure they get home safely to their families. One night the troopers are bombarded by a German squad and a battle emerges. The earth is shaken by explosives, gas is being thrown where they stand, and Henri goes out in search of Lambert who was on patrol. The two find each other and help the rest of their squadron fight the Germans.


Henri later finds Lambert in a pit. Bleeding from bullet wounds and in the process of dying. Not wanting his friend to die just yet, Henri collects some water nearby and tells Lambert to drink it. He begins carrying Lambert back to where they are stationed, and this is when Henri passes out due to his wounds. The two are eventually rescued and treated, but when Henri awakens, he finds himself in a bunker. One for which he cannot remember. All of his comrades have disappeared and when Henri locates a remaining trooper, he is warned of a being down there with him. One that seems to have brought destruction to the bunker and is the reason why it is desolate now. So, Henri locates a gun to put the dying soldier out of his misery, but a pair of monstrous claws then emerge from the walls and drag him under. Tearing him apart as his shrieks are heard from afar. Henri knows what is down there will kill him and that he must find a way out soon as possible. He locates a safe room with a door strong enough to seal the monster out, and eventually finds a note saying the path that leads out of the bunker has been sealed. The soldiers who fled decided to barricade the tunnels so that the monster would not be able to escape, so Henri now has to go search for the dynamite and detonator to open the way forward. He’ll have to explore four major areas of the bunker and find the tools he needs to survive. He’ll even collect notes and photos of what happened during his coma and why things are the way they are now. Good luck.


Gameplay


In Amnesia: The Bunker you’ll be exploring five different areas of the bunker, looting whatever loot you come across, pick up notes that may give you hints on what to do, and reach your goals. There may be only two goals, find dynamite and detonator handle, but trust me they find a way to stretch this out to five whole areas. The map is quite small, but what makes The Bunker tough to venture through is the monster lurking about. The monster is unkillable, will search for you, and you have to do your best not to enter its sights because once it sees you it charges towards you. If it grabs you it’s instant death as it twists your head towards the opposite direction. There are a lot of things that alert the monster, mainly sound and the smell of blood, but there are also a lot of things that can chase away the monster for a small period of time. Shooting in the head will do the trick, but eventually it will become resistant and may require more shots. Not a good thing especially since you need those bullets for other needs. You can throw an explosive at it, let it walk into poisonous gas, set a surface on fire, and much more. You can even use environmental traps designed to hurt foolish players for walking into them to your own advantage.


Reason why I say to utilize other options, especially environmental ones is because resources are really scarce in The Bunker and at the beginning your inventory space is small. It may be a while until you find another grenade, flare, and so on and bullets aren’t mainly used to fend off against the monster. You can use your gun to shoot locks off doors or trigger explosives from afar. As a matter of fact, if a wooden door can only be opened from the other side and you cannot reach it then just blow it up. Another factor you must consider when roaming around the bunker is light. In the central save room there is a generator, and it requires gasoline to run. If there’s no gas then it won’t, but when the generator is on it powers light throughout the bunker. Light which the big scary monster doesn’t want to roam around in. Good for lighting the way forward, but sometimes there won’t always be light so instead you have to use your pocket flashlight. A device that must be wound up using a pull string, but is loud and can attract the attention of the monster. You will always have to be careful in this game and consider your options. Sure, you could carry around a pocket watch to keep track of how long the generator will run for, but it takes up an entire slot in your inventory which you can use for other items. Gasoline fuels the generator but can also be used to craft molotov cocktails or spilled along the ground to create a lightable surface. Rags can be used to craft medkits or torches to silently light the way. That is if you have a lighter, because tools like it and the bolt cutters will be hidden in the bunker for you to find.


You can also locate dog tags of fallen soldiers which can be used to open lockers containing resources. Most can be found lying in the open, but some are on bodies surrounded by mutated rats. These rats can bite when you are close and potentially kill you if you do not run away fast enough. The central save room also contains a storage box to store collected supplies and a small lantern to save your progress. This is the only location where you can save and if you die before you can save again then all the progress you made is lost. This makes every journey outside of that safe room a treacherous one, so play carefully and learn how to adapt to your surroundings quickly. That’s all I really have to say about the gameplay as it offers fun mechanics and ways to acquire your goals. Hopefully you can brave the bunker and escape.


Thoughts


Amnesia: The Bunker is one of the biggest surprises of the year and Friction absolutely deserves the recognition they’ve been getting. It is a stellar horror experience, a really well designed game at heart, and even though I don’t think everyone is going to enjoy this game I still say it’s worth a look. The first thing Amnesia; The Bunker does right, which any horror game should be getting at this point, is the setting and atmosphere. The dark lit tunnels of the bunker and absence of any sound besides you, objects moving, the monster, and the bombs going off outside are really what make you feel alone. Gmanlives pointed this out, but it’s kind of a good thing that you are once in a while disrupted by outside explosions. A reminder that even if you manage to survive the hell you are in you still have another hell to deal with. The war between the French and Germans, and I’m glad they had that opening sequence where you are getting absolutely swarmed even though it may have set this game up as an action shooter for some. Graphically it uses the same engine as previous Frictional titles, but I never said that was a bad thing. Visually the game is good with a lot of care and detail put into everything around you. The main story is not much, but if you can piece it together using all of the notes you find you’ll discover a pretty narrative. One that unveils a horrifying truth and makes you realize everything you may have done probably wasn’t for the best. In fact, spoiler, some of this may just be your fault.


Gameplay wise this is a very smartly designed game and they really considered every element. I would say it finds a way to evenly blend traditional survival horror, immersive-sim aspects, and even run ‘n hide aspects of the older Amnesia games. The monster being an unkillable beast that stalks the bunker and becomes more active when the lights go out creates this sense of unnerving from start to end. Every journey outside the safe room is a risk because you don’t know if you'll make it back safely to save progress or find the item you need, so that’s why you’ll have to play smartly or know when you found enough supplies to high tail back. The generator which offers you light throughout the bunker is genius in that you have to consider how much time you have, bring back more fuel with each journey, and even consider how to spend that fuel because there are moments you may want to craft an item instead. The revolver you carry is more of a tool than a weapon, and I love that they went with this approach rather than make you a killing machine by the half point of the game. Use it to shoot locks, ignite explosive barrels, or potentially chase back the monster the first few times if you can land enough well placed shots. Ammo is scarce just like every other resource in this game, so it gets you to consider how you spend your bullets because you obviously don’t want to spend them all on rats. The flashlight is also brilliant in that it feels awkward to use and winding it up can alert creatures, so use it only when you really have to. I love the level design and how the bunker is divided into five zones. Each one seems to have their own gimmicks and structure to keep the player on edge. Everything is so wonderfully made that it should make any horror dev gush, but there’s a reason why I said people may a majority of people may not like this game


I love the immersive-sim elements and I love myself a good immersive-sim, but there are a few moments where you need one specific item to progress. For example, you cannot properly do the prison area until you have a wrench, and you can’t venture into one the late areas of the game till you find some bolt cutters. However, I love this approach because when you run up against a big fat wall it signals to the player to come back later when they explore more of the bunker. A few players may find this discouraging, but what may feel more discouraging is how you can only save in the central save room and there are no auto saves. You can be exploring for more than 20 minutes, get killed, and lose all your progress. This game will find numerous ways to punish you and I died a lot during my playthrough. Whether that be from traps, the monster, or being dumb enough to let the rats bite me to death. There doesn't seem to be any way to make the game any easier, so you really just have to work with what you have. Again, people won’t like this, but I absolutely do because it gets you to learn the rules and mechanics of the world. I do have some complaints though. Your inventory space is kind of small and it seems to fill up really quickly. I don’t get why inventory has been a problem for games like this and Signalis, but at least it grows bigger as you find more inventory pouches. Jumping over and moving objects sometimes can feel a bit clunky, but that may just be kind of the point. The game has a lot of buffering mainly when traversing into a new area. Probably because they wanted the bunker to feel like an interconnected space without transitioning, but the game struggles to run well.


I heard the game had a bunch of technical issues at launch, but they managed to patch it up over the last few months. Recently they had a Halloween update which added tons of new content to the game, mainly ways to make the game harder than it already is. Make the save lantern use a bit of fuel now, less inventory space, and the metal door which keeps you safe is made of crappy wood planks now. However, this feels more like dedication from the developers to give the game tons of replay value and it does have that. Each new run will rearrange the items throughout the bunker, the codes for the lockers, and much more, which means you have to plan things out a bit differently each run. This makes Amnesia: The Bunker the most replayable game Frictional has ever made which is something they struggled with in the past. Amnesia; The Bunker is brilliant. The five-hour runtime means it doesn’t overstay its welcome and for twenty-five bucks you are getting a killer game. I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants another good survival horror title. You will be impressed with what they’ve done. In the end I am giving Amnesia: The Bunker a 9/10 for excellence at best.


9/10, Excellence

This critique was written by the single man at Review on. Stay tuned for more content and feel free to check more reviews out over at my site!


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