October 16, 2023

Amnesia: The Bunker Review

Topics: Review

The Amnesia series by Frictional Games is a set of first-person survival horror games, starting with Amnesia: The Dark Descent in 2010, and followed by sequels in 2013 and 2020. Distinguished by its atmospheric tension and emphasis on psychological horror, the series forgoes combat in favor of stealth, puzzle-solving, and managing the protagonist’s sanity amidst nightmarish environments, much like the Clock Tower series. Amnesia: The Dark Descent was released during the rise of “Let’s Plays” and became a viral hit.

Amnesia: The Bunker released in June this year. Set during WW1, you take the role of a French soldier trapped in a bunker with a creature that is stalking you. Your only escape is a caved-in exit which requires dynamite and a detonator to open. Unfortunately for you, the dynamite is locked away in the arsenal which you don’t have the access code to, and the plunger is deep in the flooded tunnels.

At first, only a small area of the bunker is accessible. Your “safe room” is where you will save your game, store your items, and run the generator that keeps the lights on. You need gasoline to run the generator, a very finite resource. When the generator runs out of gas, the lights will go off and your main source of light will be your flashlight that you need to wind up. Otherwise you will be exploring in almost pitch darkness, only being able to see right in front of you. The creature will also be much more active in the dark.

Once you explore the initial area, you will open up four more areas. Each is required to progress to the tunnels, but you can explore them in any order. This non-linear level design makes exploring the bunker much more interesting as you find items that allow you to access previously sealed off locations. All the while you are evading the creature and circumventing the ravenous rats that will block your progress.

The Bunker plays like a combination of first person survival horror and immersive sim giving you multiple ways to deal with obstacles. For example, there could be a room with a locked door. You could use a concrete block to break open the door, a grenade, or if there is one, unscrew a vent. The noisier the option, the more likely you are to attract the stalker.

Unlike its predecessors, you are given weapons to actually fend off the creature. You have a revolver with limited ammo, grenades, and other makeshift weapons at your disposal. You can even use gasoline, a precious resource that keeps the generator running, to make a molotov cocktail once you find the lighter. This player choice heightens the sense of desperation.

The story is communicated through notes you find, although oddly, only the notes from the two main characters are the only ones voiced. The rest of the narrative plays out as you explore deeper into the bunker, discovering what happened to the soldiers while you were in a coma. One aspect of the narrative I like is that the player has to piece together what happened. The game never straight out tells you.

The game is brief and I suspect most players will finish it in 4-6 hours. When you complete your first playthrough, the game will make you aware that item locations and codes are randomized, incentivizing you to play again.

Even though Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a much more influential title, I enjoyed playing The Bunker far more. It is one of the tightest horror game experiences I played, and well worth the $25 price tag.

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