“Stressed out” doesn’t begin to cover it. You have probably heard of the Amnesia series of games. They are famous for turning our spines into ice and making us jump at every turn. Now, almost 15 years after the first Amnesia title, Frictional Games have done it again. This instalment takes place almost exclusively in a World War 1 bunker. You have absolutely no idea how you got there and the exit was blown shut by the last group of people to escape, subsequently trapping you. As you explore, you quickly learn that you need to get out of there sooner rather than later. This is because there is something literally lurking in the walls, and there might just not be a “later”. Welcome to our Amnesia: The Bunker review!
Straight into war
You are thrust into the action with your protagonist, Henri, a soldier who is literally running for his life. He leaps into a bunker and gradually makes his way through, being taught some basic controls along the way. You are being egged on by your friend Lambert who is outside of the trench, running just ahead of you in an attempt to cover you on your journey until you reach safety. Fast forward a few minutes and you eventually come to a dead end only to hear several gas canisters landing just behind you. Before you can retreat, the gas gets the better of you and, as expected, you black out for a short time.
When you come to, you are above ground and Lambert is nowhere to be found. You soon discover that he is at the bottom of a small pit in a very bad way. After that you make your way in to help him, dodging gunfire and grenades as you go. You give him some water, haul him up onto your shoulder and manage to extract him, despite his objections, insisting that you instead leave him behind. Unfortunately, not all goes to plan as an explosion lifts you both off of your feet. A moment later, Lambert’s lifeless body lands next to you, clearly no longer alive, and moments later you black out once again.
You’re in for a tough ride from the onset!
The next time you wake up, you find yourself in an incredibly dark, near-silent bunker. The bunker is intimate in size but open enough to allow you to explore wherever and however you choose to do so. You discover early on that your inventory is meager at best, granting you just six slots. To put this into perspective, you need around seven or eight bare essential items at all times to survive. One of these items is your crank torch and this is counted against your inventory. Without it, you will literally be travelling in darkness.
Items are few and far between. They are even fewer and further between for essential items like grenades, bandages and bullet packs, which grant you one bullet (not a typo). This adds to the immersion further because it causes you deeper stress as you are only able to fire a single shot. You can shoot the monster, but it can’t be killed. It will run off briefly before returning angrier and stronger than before. You would probably make better use of the bullet by using it to ignite an explosive barrel or start a fuel-based fire.
Your safe room grants you the ability to put items into a large trunk which acts as storage. However, this is only accessible from the safe room. As such, placing essential items such as your torch, gun and bandages in there isn’t an option as you need to carry such items with you.
Piecing it all together
As you continue exploring, you will find numerous tidbits which all go some way to explaining what happened. These will be in the form of notes from friends and associates, doctors’ notes and letters detailing specific events. They all form the smaller parts of a much bigger puzzle which you are slowly working towards solving.
The monster in Amnesia: The Bunker dislikes light, meaning that it’s essential for you to keep your surroundings as illuminated as possible. Aside from using your torch, there is one other way to illuminate your surroundings. There is a generator in your safe room which requires fuel to function. You collect fuel from various areas and then return them to the generator to use them. Once fuelled, the generator provides power for a short time, enabling you to go and activate a number of lever-activated lights.
Crank it up
You could play without the generator-supplied light and simply use your wind-up torch, but the experience will be very complex if you choose to do this. This is because to wind your torch up, you have to pull a cord to crank it. Each crank is alarmingly loud. Given the environment that you are in requires as little noise as possible, this essential action is one of the most unnerving parts of the entire game. Do you risk luring the monster to your location in order to be able to see where you are going? Or do you walk around in darkness for the entire time, using memory alone to guess where you are?
Either way, the choice isn’t a good one. Further to this, the monster isn’t scared of the weak light that your torch emits. Therefore, it could be roaming one of the numerous corridors that you choose to turn down. If the lights were already on in that corridor, however, then the monster would have been deterred.
As you travel around, you become acutely aware of how silent your surroundings are. In fact, the silence is almost deafening. One of the few sounds that you are able to hear is a guttural growl nearby. You quickly notice that the more noise you make, the louder and closer the growl becomes. You will sometimes hear something truly immense suddenly galloping overhead, powerful and very heavy. When this happens, debris from the ceiling rains down on you. If you accidentally knock something over or trigger a tripwire, causing an explosion, the monster will immediately start to make its way over to your location to investigate. It’s possible to hide and remain silent whilst the monster investigates, but it isn’t easy because of the claustrophobic environment. If successful, the monster will head off somewhere after its investigation resulted in nothing of interest.
You are able to save the game whenever you wish, but only from your safe room. You do this by lighting the lantern in your safe room. The lantern serves as a firm nod to the first Amnesia game in the series (Dark Descent) because the lantern was your primary tool.
The monster is AI-driven, meaning that it reacts and responds to your actions. It roams around in the walls at random, meaning that you can never predict where it will be. If you make noise, it will come closer to you and emerge from one of several holes that it has dug into the walls. When you remain silent, the monster carries on doing its own thing. If you are in your safe room and have locked the door, the monster can’t get in. You are safe…at least for the moment. The monster will then make its way around to the other door. If you haven’t locked it, then the monster will open it, let itself in and have you for lunch.
Amnesia: The Bunker features three possible endings and has procedurally-generated levels. This means that items and codes found in one playthrough will be elsewhere and different in another playthrough respectively. This creates a new experience each time, meaning that you can be as creative as you wish with each playthrough.
The game can literally be approached in multiple ways. For example, wooden doors in the bunker which are locked can in fact be broken in multiple ways. These include throwing bricks or grenades at it, or even dragging an explosive barrel up to it and then triggering an explosion. In addition to that, how you interact with the monster is entirely up to you. It is impossible to kill the monster – you can only stun or scare it away, but it will always return, even stronger and angrier. As such, you can creep around in the dark and remain silent for the entire game, but this is incredibly hard to do.
Traps are a key strategy
Another approach might be to set traps for the monster to literally run into. I wanted to enter a room protected by a rigged live grenade. Rather than open the door myself and trigger an explosion, I opted to let the monster do it for me. I stood opposite it and began throwing loud, heavy objects at the door. Moments later, I slunk away into the darkness, hiding, and watched the monster appear. The monster then opened the door to look inside the room (as it thought the noise came from within). This triggered the grenade, resulting in an explosion in the face of the monster. It ran away, granting me momentary safety and access to a room that was otherwise shrouded in risk to enter.
You may also wish to put some boxes in front of one of the many boreholes that the monster has created in the walls. This means that the monster will be delayed in emerging from the hole as it will have to first move the boxes out of the way. Or perhaps you may prefer to place an explosive barrel in a particular corridor and have the monster chase you. As you run along the corridor, you dodge the barrel but the monster will plough into it, causing an explosion and subsequently causing it to retreat.
The walls are sparsely decorated and bare. The environment is shrouded in darkness. But it all looks so damned good because it looks authentic! The environment looks grim and miserable because that’s precisely how it’s supposed to feel. At no point did I ever feel comfortable whilst playing Amnesia: The Bunker. When there is light from your wind-up torch, for example, the way it illuminates certain areas creates a brilliant effect because what you see may sometimes surprise you. You might see a random pool of fresh blood, or even a corpse looking right back at you from the ground a few feet away, or just an empty room. You may even see the monster galloping at you from the other end of the room!
Sound plays a very important part in this game, and I recommend that you wear headphones for the best possible experience. You often hear distant growls in the distance, giving you an idea of how far from danger you might be at any point. If you are ever unfortunate enough to enter a room and hear an immense, bellowing roar, then you should prepare to die as you have just walked into the same room as the monster.
The torch sounds rickety and old and weak, but loud too. Your footsteps echo repeatedly down the corridors as you try to carefully walk along them. The environment is full of items and debris that can all make noise should you bump into them in passing. You have to close doors carefully because it is extremely easy to accidentally slam them shut and hear that slam echo through the corridors.
Amnesia: The Bunker is an incredible experience that will put you on edge from the very first moment and keep you there. The visuals and audio are spectacular and the atmosphere is thick and heavy throughout. Encounters with the AI-driven monster are always genuinely terrifying, despite not actually being able to see it most of the time. Your actions also literally determine your ultimate fate. This is an incredible touch because you are essentially driving the behaviour of the monster. The forced anticipation is masterfully constructed and the open-world setting actually amplifies this effect as you could literally encounter danger at any moment. This is because you are not forced to head in a particular direction but instead have free will.
I often found myself frequently getting lost in the maze of passageways, however, which pulled me out of the immersion. Despite it not being very large, I still struggled often to get back to where I was and found this to be slightly frustrating. Despite that, Amnesia: The Bunker is a horror game that has been done really well.
- Minimalist sound design creates the best possible atmosphere.
- Procedurally-generated environments guarantee a new experience each time.
- The bunker looks and feels amazingly authentic.
- The monster is something to behold.
- New features provide a fresh new experience in the Amnesia series.
- Genuinely terrifying.
- Easy to get lost in the labyrinth-like bunker (especially when being hunted).
Amnesia: The Bunker is currently available through GeForce Now. This review was made by Mus from PapaBear Gaming. You can check out his channel right here. You can follow him on Twitter by going here. That was it for our Amnesia: The Bunker review.