Review – Amnesia: The Bunker

Wish I Could Forget It

Overview

Developer Frictional Games
Publisher Frictional Games
Genre Horror
Platforms PC
Release Date 6/8/2023

It’s been a while since I last reviewed a horror game. After the lackluster Amnesia: Rebirth, I hoped The Bunker would bring the series back to horror. The Law of Equivalent Exchange is alive and well; I got what I wanted, but it came at a price.

Ought to keep this close

Content Guide

Language: In both speech and written notes, you will come across g**d**n, s**t, b*****d, and f***.

Violence: There is strong violence throughout the game. Throughout the bunker, you will find severed heads, pools of blood, charred remains, and several other gruesome ways characters have died. Inside the creature’s lair, you find mutilated remains impaled and/or hanging from all manner of grotesque contraptions. It’s implied a captured German soldier was actively being tortured when the monster first appeared.

Spiritual Content: The monster is referred to as a demon, and its lair is in the bunker’s chapel, where it has mutilated many people and uses their corpses as decorations. Some characters talk about Heaven and having Christian burials. There are crosses in various places.

Review

In Amnesia: The Bunker, you play as a French soldier named Henri Clement. The game starts with you in the trenches in World War One, trying to escape from German soldiers. You run through the trenches as gunfire and bombs go off all around you. It’s an gripping way to start the game, and it runs you through the basics of reloading your revolver and making health kits.

There are certain things the game does that are nice, immersive touches. For example, firing the revolver deafens Henri and causes his ears to ring for a bit, as he doesn’t have ear protection. Explosions from grenades and traps do the same. Additionally, if you are injured, you leave a trail of blood for the monster to follow, so you need to heal yourself as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, that’s about the extent of the game’s positives.

There are no checkpoints in the game. Instead, there are lanterns that, when you light them, save the game. If you make any sort of progress, you must find your way back to one of only a few scattered throughout the bunker. If you can’t make it, all of that progress dies with Henri. It’s easy to lose upwards of an hour to one dumb mistake.

Speaking of dying, if the monster sees you in the open, you’re toast unless you have a round in your gun. Ammo is spare, to put it mildly, and I only had one bullet for a majority of the time I played. You really need to think hard and decide whether it would be better to use it on the monster —which only delays it for a short time— or let him get you and start over from the most recent save.

If the demon doesn’t kill you, the rats will. In many places throughout the bunker, rats with glowing eyes gather together to eat corpses and food that had spilled onto the floor. They’re aggressive pests, and if you disturb them, it’s difficult to get away.

I dare not disturb them eating their cheese

For the first hour or so, the atmosphere is quite creepy. It’s dark, and the flashlight that you need for almost everywhere is loud. Every time you get the flashlight going, you can hear the monster react from somewhere in the walls. After a while, it loses its charm. It stops being creepy, and ultimately just gets annoying. You can’t go without your flashlight—unless, of course, you like stumbling around blindly in the dark—but using it causes the demon to follow you. There’s no getting away.

I understand that’s the point, since it’s difficult to keep tension high when you know you’re safe. But it’s tiresome. Never having a respite doesn’t make me scared; it makes me bored. I would much rather be free to be loud, knowing I’m safe, and then accidentally wander into the place where the monster actually is and realize too late my error. Instead, what I get is constant knowledge that the monster is around no matter where I go, at which point I have to wonder why it doesn’t just end me and be done with it. I can’t use the flashlight, but I can’t not use it. It’s an aggravating lose-lose situation.

I’m not scared of the dark; you are.

Down some stairs connected to the room with the first save point, you find a generator. In various places throughout the bunker, you can find gas cans. If you have enough room in your inventory, you can pick them up and use them to fill the generator. As long as the generator has gas, you have light. Granted, you have to use the light switches in each area to turn them on, but still. The lights allow you to navigate the hallways without using your flashlight overly much. They don’t stop the monster from coming, and I’m certain it turned off the lights several times. And, to make matters worse for no reason, tripping one light shuts off all the lights in that sector.

In the room with the generator, you can pick up a stopwatch. The game automatically syncs it to the generator’s fuel gauge. That way, you can keep an eye on how long you’ve got until the lights go out. Unfortunately, it does not correspond to real-time, so there’s no point paying attention where the needle is pointing. As long as it’s not almost straight up, you’re fine to keep exploring.

There were two moments in particular that sealed my opinion of this game. One was in the chapel, which is also the demon’s lair. I hid in the confessional with the door closed as the monster kicked down the door. After making a mess, it walked over to the confessional, opened the door, and killed me. Plus, this was after I had already successfully hidden inside other cabinets. So, I knew the method of hiding should work.

The final straw for me was losing forty-five minutes or so of progress. The generator ran out of gas, so I was stuck wandering in the dark. But I found a key that I needed, so it was all right. I managed to escape the monster at least once —this time, hiding in the confessional worked— but then I ran into a tripwire that activated a fire trap, and I couldn’t get away. I lost the key and everything else I’d picked up since my last save. All of that time spent playing, and nothing to show for it.

Monster’s not a vampire. It doesn’t care about crosses.

There are plenty of small things, too. When you move from one area to another, the game freezes for a few seconds as it loads that area. Occasionally the load time when coming back to a file is absurdly long. A lot of the controls are also clunky, and using a controller is terrible. The buttons are mapped to the most incoherent actions, and you can’t re-map them. The game also encourages you to experiment, saying that if you think something is possible, then it probably is. I thought several things were possible that turned out not to be. Lastly, most of the graphics, even on a high setting, are subpar compared to other recent games.

With all of these issues, I I should note that I played this game on easy mode. The appeal —or so it should have been— was to enjoy the atmosphere without dying as much. Well, I still died a ton. Frustration with almost everything in the game hindered me from enjoying the atmosphere.

At least there’s a beautiful sky.

Conclusion

Amnesia seems to be going downhill with every entry. I really enjoyed what I played of the first two games. Then Rebirth abandoned horror, but was still a decent puzzle game. The Bunker brings back the horror, but at the expense of anything else that could make it good. It is easily the worst one yet. It’s incredibly disappointing, and I am not sure I’ll come back for the next entry.

The Bottom Line

 

Amnesia: The Bunker is the series' lowest point, and doesn't give an indication for a hopeful future.

 

4

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David Koury

I'm a writer and aspiring fashion designer residing in the wasteland called Nevada. Also, I'm trying to juggle learning both Korean and Japanese.

1 Comments

  1. Nickel on August 26, 2023 at 10:35 pm

    So the game being a difficult survival horror makes it bad? It’s actually good and much better than all the other Amnesia games. It’s actually the first game in the franchise that I thought was actually good. The others are just boring snorefest walking simulators…

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