Life has been hard on Tasi Trianon, and now she finds herself stranded in the desert of Algeria. Alone.
Straight away though, something seems off. She can’t have just woken up from the plane crash you’ve just witnessed, as the rest of her expedition crew are nowhere to be found. And what’s the strange contraption on her arm? But she can’t worry about that for now. First she must search for other survivors, and then seek out help. Ultimately, the safety of Tasi Trianon is in your hands, and by the end of Amnesia: Rebirth you’ll have both been through an ordeal.
Like any good horror game, Amnesia: Rebirth eases you in gently. You spend the first hour or so of your troubled journey making your way from the searing heat of the desert to a cave system, hopeful that you’ll find some friends there. But things just go from bad to worse. In these early stages, fear is Tasi’s biggest enemy, kicking in whenever she spends too much time wandering around in the dark. And of course, underground cave systems are very dark indeed. To manage her fear, careful use of matches found in the environment is required – lighting torches, candles and other longer-term sources of light with them is a must.
It’s not long, though, until things take a further turn for the worse, and despair really sets in. On top of that, the strange contraption on your arm kicks into life, seemingly resonating with strange phenomena in the environment to open up mysterious portals. As you play on, you find yourself flitting between the world you know and a hellish alien environment; mystery, intrigue, death and unease piling upon you with each step. And it doesn’t let up until the credits roll, some five or so hours later. But with multiple endings to discover, chances are you might go back for more.
Amnesia: Rebirth combines the best elements of Frictional Games’ previous works. It’s not one note; it blends together multiple sub-genres of horror to create an experience that’s thought-provoking and foreboding in its quieter moments, and absolutely terrifying when you’re placed in direct danger. It throws body horror at you, as well as numerous stalkers, gore, philosophical turmoil, and the general feel of hopelessness and isolation. It perhaps makes you feel too hopeless at times. Throughout what is overall a six to eight-hour marathon of horror, there were numerous times where I thought I was at the end – I was ready for the end – only for Tasi to experience another setback placing me in yet another hair-raising situation.
But chances are you’ll be gripped by Amnesia: Rebirth from beginning to end. It’s a game that nicely pushes you forward – you never feel like you’re doing busywork to extend the playtime. And there’s such variety on offer. One minute you’ll simply be exploring, making your way though an intricately detailed environment. The next, a ghastly creature might appear, forcing you to either hide and wait for an opportune moment to sneak by, or simply run for your life. And every so often your brain is put to use; Amnesia: Rebirth is full of rewarding puzzles. Some simply require you to use common sense – if a door is blocked, maybe throwing a huge rock at it multiple time might break it open, for example – and others will really need you to put your thinking cap on.
The biggest credit I can give to Amnesia: Rebirth, however, is that it feels organic. It is indeed a videogame, and many aspects of it are otherworldly, but it’s so easy to place yourself in Tasi’s shoes while playing. Her struggle becomes yours. There are story elements I could go into that strengthen the bond between you and your digital avatar, but to do so would do you, the reader, a disservice. This is a game that’s best to go into knowing as little about it as possible other than it’s a horror game; if you’re easily scared, this certainly won’t be for you.
All you need to know as a horror fan, or simply a brave gamer, is that Amnesia: Rebirth is a masterfully-crafted experience. There are no next-gen graphical features such as ray-tracing to fawn over, but its visuals are still top-notch and performance is solid. Just as important, its audio and sound design is simply outstanding. They come together to immerse you in one of the most terrifying experiences ever to be put into video game form, but one that also makes you think. And that’s perhaps the best thing a game can do, regardless of its genre.