Embark on a journey with plenty of scares that expands on the first game while introducing a brand-new chapter in the Amnesia franchise. Read on for the full review of Amnesia: Rebirth!
The desert heat is sweltering. I stumble across the sand, keeping to the shadows cast by the towering rocks on my left. Rest is not an option; I must track down other survivors. My husband. I wish I had water, but the brief respite from the burning sunlight will have to do for now. I ceaselessly scan the landscape for more shadows, darting from one to the other. As I approach a cave, passing signs of those who came before me, I breathe a sigh of relief. Surely, I will find the others – and some help – within…right?
Amnesia: Rebirth builds on Frictional Games’ past experiences with SOMA (still my favourite Frictional title) and their famed Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The UI – especially the interaction icons in-game – brings to mind a certain sense of familiarity. The oppressive darkness feels achingly routine. Puzzles take centre-stage, but not at the cost of narrative. Rebirth does not make the switch to cutscenes, choosing to present the story through (extremely brief) flashbacks and notes scattered around the world.
Rebirth prioritizes both story and atmosphere. A message flashes at the start, entreating the player not to ‘play to win’ this game, rather treat it as an experience and soak in the atmosphere. Without delving into any spoilers: you are Tasi Trianon, who awakens after a plane crash with no survivors nearby. Traces of her companions – including her husband – and faint memories of what followed the crash linger on. As she follows the survivors’ trail in the hopes of being reunited with her husband, she also learns that she is pregnant. Stopping at times to check in on the baby and holding down ‘X’ to calm it invariably took me back to similar moments in Death Stranding.
Though it is not necessary to be familiar with the previous Amnesia titles to enjoy this one, Rebirth expands on the lore by incorporating elements from The Dark Descent. This came as a pleasant surprise, and I eagerly hunted down any notes that would give me more information on harvesting the mysterious vitae or sprinted for the exit as the ominous Shadow pulsed out of the ground, knowing all too well how dangerous it could be.
One of my few complaints with the game is the way supporting characters are handled – there is little effort put into fleshing them out. Exploring their stories is eschewed in favour of advancing the plot. Their only purpose is to serve as catalysts to Tasi’s story, by filling in the important roles (husband or daughter) or posing as obstacles to overcome.
Fans of Amnesia will instantly remember their struggles with limited resources and choosing to expend the ones in hand very wisely. Rebirth brings back the tradition, and along with it a heightened sense of unease. Should I use my last remaining match to light the torches here and drive away the stifling fear? Maybe I should wait a bit and head further – you never know what’s around the corner. These questions swirled through my mind for a large part of the game, my actions driven by the crackling sounds of rising fear invading my senses every time I stepped out of the light. Laudanum is on hand – albeit sparingly – to drive away the sense of despair and provide some breathing room.
Rebirth introduces matches besides bringing back the lamp. These come at a price. Move too fast, run around with a lit match – and much like real life, it will extinguish. Crouch and move slowly to let the match burn bright – and you can only get so far before it runs out. This leads to an interesting trade-off between speed and light. I found myself walking a few paces, pausing just for a second to ensure the flame didn’t falter, and resuming movement, desperately looking to light an unlit torch on the walls before being plunged into total darkness.
Painless – Albeit Unintuitive – Puzzles
Puzzles are an integral part of Rebirth, and often put on the brakes when rapidly progressing through the story. Which is why they can be frustrating when there’s little direction available as to what you’re supposed to do next. To compensate for this lack of handholding, the complexity of the puzzles is quite easy (barring an optional one, completing which didn’t seem to affect the storyline). When I got stuck, I took a break from the game and returned to it the next day, only to find that the solution required just a bit more careful exploration and educated guesses. That eureka moment upon solving the puzzle, no matter how complex, (without the aid of a walkthrough) is certainly very rewarding – and Rebirth provides plenty of those.
Certain sections of the map have multiple rooms, and it is easy to get lost in the large maze-like areas when there is no clear indicator of your destination or a map. Patience and exploration worked best for me, but this was made tricky later in the game when dodging ghouls became commonplace as I hunted for the right path. That said, it might be handy to have a walkthrough on hand in case you’re planning on speed-running.
Combining the head-scratching puzzles of the first Amnesia and the impactful, thought-provoking narrative of SOMA, Amnesia: Rebirth is in its resulting entirety an exciting – and diluted – hybrid, evocative of its ancestors. With enhanced visuals, plenty of scares and a brand-new story that doesn’t disappoint, Rebirth breathes fresh life into the franchise, leaving players hoping for future instalments.
Amnesia: Rebirth is out now on PC and PS4.
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Looking for something different? Why not take a look at this article on the science of Death Stranding?
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