Amnesia: Rebirth is a chic sequel to a horror traditional
When is a society — or a life — previous saving? The reassuring reply is by no means. However Amnesia: Rebirth, the most recent sport from Swedish studio Frictional, isn’t designed to be reassuring.
Rebirth is a successor to Amnesia: The Darkish Descent, a 2010 horror traditional outlined by its shameless bounce scares; grotesque monsters; and chilling story about guilt, cruelty, and reminiscence. Frictional has gone again to Amnesia a few occasions. First with a brief 2011 add-on known as Justine, and once more by publishing Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, a separate sport developed by The Chinese language Room. However Rebirth, which will probably be launched tomorrow, is the primary new, full-length sport within the sequence.
Amnesia: Rebirth has an instantly acquainted cadence. Like The Darkish Descent, it’s a sport that torments gamers by delivering stretches of tense, dread-inducing exploration; frantic chases; and moments of revelation earlier than they’re pushed again into the darkish. For me, it was a nine-hour-long cycle of dread, panic, and restoration, a loop so well-honed that it’s all however explicitly referenced within the plot. However Rebirth tweaks the unique sport’s design and themes in compelling methods.
Rebirth is an indirect sequel to The Darkish Descent. It makes use of the identical first-person design and provides gamers the intentionally awkward point-and-click interface that Frictional has used for over a decade. It additionally has narrative hyperlinks to the primary sport. But it surely’s set in 1937, a number of a long time after the unique, and it’s centered on a distinct protagonist: Anastasie “Tasi” Trianon, a French draftswoman becoming a member of an archaeological expedition to Algeria. After surviving a desert aircraft crash, Tasi wakes among the many wreckage with gaps in her reminiscence, a mysterious amulet round her wrist, and a path of notes that her husband Sahim has left to mark a path.
Like The Darkish Descent, Rebirth sends gamers to retrace a narrative that its protagonist has forgotten at the very least partly to save lots of their very own sanity. The sport is much less lonely and quiet than Frictional’s earlier work, which despatched gamers into virtually totally deserted worlds. But it surely’s nonetheless an emphatically isolating expertise. The setting of Rebirth feels awe-inspiring in a means that The Darkish Descent’s setting didn’t enable — not simply horrifying or hostile, however grand and unusually stunning. Its chapters shift between desert sandscapes, underground ruins, and, in one of many sport’s uncommon nods to its interval setting, a French colonial outpost.
It additionally spends a variety of time in a distinct world altogether, because of Tasi’s amulet. Although Amnesia is usually described as Lovecraftian, Rebirth owes as a lot to the eerie, decaying grandeur evoked by Lovecraft’s bizarre fiction modern William Hope Hodgson, writer of foundational dying Earth novel The Evening Land. It’s a narrative not about a person monster — though you’ll meet loads of them — however about a complete civilization that’s made itself monstrous by accepting ache as the value of normalcy. The sport’s story delves into locations and ideas that the primary sport solely hinted at, and it principally makes them creepier than they initially sounded.
Frictional’s final undertaking Soma downplayed puzzles and different mechanical parts, even providing a function that eliminated its monsters. Rebirth swings again towards an earlier, extra explicitly game-like type. Its puzzles are less complicated and a bit extra natural than these of the primary sport, designed to get gamers poking across the edges of a stage making an attempt to determine what they’re purported to do. However they nonetheless comply with recognizable point-and-click journey conventions. There’s additionally a model of The Darkish Descent’s trademark sanity meter, which drains in darkness and messes with gamers’ notion when it’s low however will be boosted by lighting candles or utilizing a lantern with restricted energy.
Amnesia’s horror has all the time been a fancy sleight of hand, because the video games evoke a palpable menace of failure with out really stalling or irritating gamers too badly. In The Darkish Descent, this meant that sanity slippage was finally beauty — it produced creepy visible results however, besides in a “hardcore mode” that was added after launch, it couldn’t completely harm you.
With out revealing an excessive amount of element, this isn’t true in Rebirth. Its oppressive darkness is tangibly harmful, and rationing matches and oil — a system that felt a little bit perfunctory in The Darkish Descent — is a much more satisfying a part of the sport. In the meantime, as an alternative of giving gamers a game-over display, Rebirth (kind of) enables you to fail ahead when you die however at a delicate narrative price. The entire system is framed round one thing extra unique and fewer reductive than “sanity,” and it’s grow to be extra elegant and attention-grabbing with the change. There’s even a Dying Stranding-esque mechanic that I can’t describe with out spoiling a serious plot aspect, however that works surprisingly properly.
Rebirth’s story doesn’t require figuring out something about The Darkish Descent, and it’d really be extra compelling to find sure parts for the primary time. However — to be considerably obscure — the sequence cleverly recontextualizes its unique protagonist’s best enemy.
Frictional has a long-standing fascination with humanity’s ethical relationship to godlike beings. Its early, deeply underrated Penumbra sequence is about an historic civilization (often known as the Tuurngait) that prizes extraordinary mercy and collective good, and a person who finally chooses to destroy them out of concern. Rebirth inverts the connection: it’s about discovering highly effective, super-intelligent beings with distinctly human motivations for awful atrocities.
Little or no of this, it’s price noting, has a lot to do with the sport’s historic interval or its setting in Algeria. Much like Penumbra, which used a reputation from Inuit mythology for a mainly unrelated entity, Rebirth nods very frivolously to Arabic folklore by the use of H.P. Lovecraft. But it surely’s centered on Tasi’s personal private tragedies and their connection to an odd and historic world, touching solely glancingly on actual occasions just like the violence of French colonialism. There’s a sport to be made about that sort of horror, however its omission right here seems like Frictional understanding the place its pursuits and its limitations lie — and avoiding shallowly exploiting territory that may require a far deeper and extra nuanced exploration.
Amnesia: Rebirth doesn’t reinvent horror video games the best way The Darkish Descent does. But it surely refines one of many style’s best entries into one thing extra awe-inspiring and deftly designed, with out abandoning its highest purpose: making you shiver as you’re taking your first step down a pitch-black tunnel.
Amnesia: Rebirth launches October twentieth on PC and PlayStation 4.
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