Frictional Games has tried something a little different with its latest horror outing, Amnesia: The Bunker. The setting isn’t all that original – plenty of horror games are set during World World 1, and many trap players in tight, claustrophobic bunkers. But it’s the sandbox nature of the gameplay here that really sets it apart. The areas available to you aren’t particularly vast, but as you creep about, trying to find the resources you need to survive and ultimately escape, all the while being hunted by a terrifyingly grotesque creature, you’ll constantly feel fearful of your next step.
As ever, puzzles lie at the heart of Amnesia: The Bunker. A collapsed tunnel is what stands between you and an escape from this hell you’ve found yourself in. To clear it, you need dynamite and a detonator, but getting both of those is going to prove to be tricky. You need to explore the various areas of the bunker for items critical to your escape, as well as valuable resources. What makes things more interesting here is the choices that you’re forced to make. Encountering a locked wooden door, for example, do you try to find another way into the room that’s silent, or do you break it down with a large concrete block, or perhaps even an explosive barrel?
That question wouldn’t matter much, if it wasn’t for the fact that in this bunker, you’re pursued by something genuinely ghastly. Make too much noise, and it might emerge from any one of numerous holes in the area, attempting to track you down and make you its next meal. You can try to run from it if you like, but you’re probably better off hiding if you can. Fighting it is an option in Amnesia: The Bunker, but that’s not really recommended. The bullets in your pistols are perhaps better used elsewhere. And while throwing a grenade at it may seem like a good idea, you better make sure you don’t get caught in the blast. Also, the creature will just come back after a while, anyway.
Every action in Amnesia: The Bunker needs to be considered, then. Thanks to limited inventory space, you need to agonise over what items you pick up. Then you need to choose when and how you use them. Take fuel, for example: it can be used to power a generator, illuminating the bunker and keeping the creature at bay. Do you use it as soon as you find it, or save it for when you’re venturing into a new area? Chances are you aren’t going to have enough fuel to always keep the bunker lit, and your only other reliable source of light is a wind-up torch that creates a noise when used.
Needless to say, Amnesia: The Bunker is incredibly tense and atmospheric. You truly feel alone and oppressed in its labyrinthine tunnels, putting you under stress at all times. And then when the creature emerges from one of its holes everything gets cranked up to eleven. In fact, the creature might just be a bit too much for some. Never has an Amnesia game felt so uncompromising, especially when also you factor in that many puzzles are randomised, and save files have to be made manually. So, if you get caught by the creature, you might lose considerable progress.
Thankfully there are multiple difficulty levels to choose from, allowing you to tweak the amount of peril you find yourself in. You seemingly can’t change the difficulty level mid-game, however, so if you find yourself at an impasse you might have to start right back from the very beginning, which is troublesome. The most disappointing thing about Amnesia: The Bunker though, at least on PlayStation, is the lack of polish. You might encounter the odd graphical anomaly or crash that draws you out of the action. It’s also a real shame that there’s no native PS5 version.
When it comes to Amnesia: The Bunker, you can tell that Frictional Games really wanted to up the horror. And it’s achieved it. This is true survival horror where resources are limited, and while you can fight, it feels hopeless. It’s not the biggest game in the world, and feeling constantly stalked and preyed upon means this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But those who get a kick out of skulking around in the dark, solving puzzles while evading something grotesque, will absolutely love this.