Terrifying and Brilliant, Amnesia: The Bunker Is a Return to Form
I’ve been a fan of developer Frictional Games since I played Penumbra: Overture. In fact, I heartily recommend their game Soma to anyone who might ask me for game recommendations. But Frictional Games is best known for their Amnesia series. While I thought their previous entry Amnesia: Rebirth might have pulled the curtain back a tad too far, Amnesia: The Bunker is a return to form for Frictional Games, with gameplay that calls back to the Penumbra series. It’s also damn scary.
Amnesia: The Bunker is a first person survival horror game. In it, you play as a World War I soldier who has recently recovered from a wound only to wake up to a horror: trapped alone in an underground bunker with a bloodthirsty creature. The officers escaped, and collapsed the tunnel behind them, so you have to find a way out of the bunker while avoiding the creature. It won’t be easy, however, as you also have to find your way around obstacles, through locked doors, and around traps left by the soldiers who have died before you. You have to do all of this while trying to keep the lights on at all costs, because the creature prefers to hunt in the dark. But the generator loves to gulp down fuel, and you’re either forced to use your noisy wind-up flashlight, improvise a light source, or attempt to survive the bunker by groping around in the dark.
When you first start up Amnesia: The Bunker ( or The Bunker) you’re forced to play through a clumsy beginning that establishes the setting, and works a bit like a tutorial. It’s an unfortunate first impression, but it’s quickly forgotten as the game immediately creates a tense atmosphere that only gets more intense as you continue to play. Once you’re on your own, there’s a message that informs you that “if you think it’s possible, it probably is” in regards to what The Bunker’s physics-driven interactions can be. While there is definitely some possibility for emergent gameplay, I found this mostly means finding creative ways to break down doors, and sometimes clever ways of warding off the creature.
Doors are your main obstacle in The Bunker, and while some can be smashed open (or blown up, shot, etc.) others will require you to find keys or combinations to the locks that impede your way forward. Most of these keys and combinations can be found through careful exploration, but also by reading the various notes left around. This is how the story is told, and gives you an idea of what happened in the bunker leading up to its current state.
There’s always a sense of dread in The Bunker. There’s the constant time pressure of the generator and its fuel consumption, and the pressure of item management: inventory space is limited, so you have to decide what’s important, or what gets left behind in your stash. There’s only one “safe” room in The Bunker, and one save point, meaning you’ll have to explore outward from there. The further out you go, the more intense the pressures can be. And of course, there’s the constant dread of knowing the monster is actively hunting you and may be lurking just around the corner.
The creature itself never quite invoked the same childhood induced trauma levels of fear that the xenomorph in Alien: Isolation caused me—but it comes pretty damn close. While most games developed by Frictional Games have you helpless and unable to fight, you can actually fight back against the monster in The Bunker—but anything you do to it will just slow it down. While the creature is repelled by the light, you aren’t safe just because you’re in a bright room: once he sees you, unless you can fight back you’re dead. While the monster isn’t the only enemy you’ll face in The Bunker— it will be a constant threat through your entire playthrough.
Even after you’ve played through The Bunker the first time, new playthroughs can have their own challenges. Certain elements in The Bunker are randomized. The codes you find in your playthrough are randomly generated, and even sometimes randomly placed. Resources are randomly generated and placed in different locations on each new playthrough. Even traps are randomized by placement and type. There is also Steam Workshop support, which opens up the possibility of being able to play user made content—and I can’t wait to see what the community comes up with.
If you find that The Bunker is too difficult, there’s an “easy” mode that allows you to explore with a little less pressure from the monster. Conversely there’s a “hard” mode for those who want an increased challenge.
Amnesia: The Bunker is a fantastic game. It’s easily the most terrifying game I’ve played since Alien: Isolation. It instills a sense of dread and its intensity ramps up until the very end. If you’re a fan of horror Amnesia: The Bunker is one of the best and scariest games out there. Amnesia: The Bunker is available June 6 for PC via Steam and on the Epic Games Store. A Steam key was given to us for this review