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Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs Review
publisher: Frictional Games
developer: Malfador Machinations
|ESRB rating: RP
release date: Sep 11, 13
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The long-awaited spiritual successor to Amnesia: The Dark Descent is finally out and I just spent four and a half hours trudging through its gassy bowels. How scary was it? Scarier than a deflated balloon, but not as scary as a glass of warm beer (Eeeek! Damn you Un! Never give me the image of warm beer again! – Ed. Vader).
A Machine for Pigs was developed by The Chinese Room (better known for the indie game Dear Esther) in collaboration with Frictional Games (the makers of the Amnesia: The Dark Descent), in what seemed to me like a match made in Heaven. But alas, reality has a way of bitch-slapping you when you least expect it and there's no choice but to face the fact that the fruit of the two talented developers' labor is not ripe.
Not as creepy as before, but it'll do.
I insist you turn off all the lights.
At the start of the game you wake up in a washed out blue fog and you have amnesia, naturally. Your bedroom, your bathroom, the great hall and your entire mansion's drowning in blue. Is it supposed to be symbolic? Are you seeing the world through ghost's eyes? I don't know. Perhaps it's a bug or a game developer's terrible idea. All I know is that it looks unrealistic and the lack of contrast puts a strain on my eyes. Shadows aren't dark and everything seems weightless. The places you explore don't look real. And this isn't the night vision effect from Dark Descent. It doesn't kick in only when you're hidden in the shadows. The fog is omnipresent and it looks like the work of someone who tried (and failed) to improve an ordinary photo with photoshop filters. There are four places in the entire game where darkness looks the way it's supposed to and one of them is the menu's background. What the hell happened?
Another big problem is the lack of tension. There's almost nothing to fear or be concerned about. Your lantern never goes out and the one type of enemy instills pity instead of fear. Insanity effects were excised too. And then there are your precious children. You're alone in this huge mansion and you hear their voices calling out to you, laughing, begging you to find them. Tell me, do you doubt even for a second that they're anything but dead? Have you had any prior experience with horror? The game's protagonist clearly hasn't. So, he walks around picking up countless conveniently placed notes and answering phones that ring exactly when he shows up. There's so much reading to be done, I'm not entirely sure this story should have been told through a video game. And the guy on the phone, can he have anything but your best interests in mind? It's not like this is a horror game, right? Do what the mysterious voice tells you and everything will be alright.
As you no doubt guessed from the title, the game makes a comment on our wonderful human nature. The premise is more interesting than that of the first Amnesia, but the execution is nowhere near as convincing. The protagonist is an amnesiac Victorian-era industrialist who wallows in self pity, and since you can guess everything that's going to happen before he does, he comes across as stupid. Far more interesting things happen in the notes you find, than around you while you're actually playing, and I think the game should have shown at least some of these events through flashbacks. Having to stop and read about them every two minutes, eventually becomes frustrating. Especially, when you're lost in a blue fog where nothing happens, except the odd, predictable horror trope.
A Machine for Pigs takes Amnesia's formula and shows us how to screw it up. The idea had huge potential, but it's squandered on what frankly is a cheap and uninvolving game. This was an extremely disappointing experience. It's abundantly clear that the developers' hearts were not in it, so I'd advise you to postpone playing it indefinitely.
3.7 Don't Bother
A couple of good scares (literally a couple), good voice acting;
Visuals are ruined by the blue fog; very short game, you spend nearly a third of it reading, not playing, lots of non-horror games are scarier, the disappointment of the year so far.
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