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Amnesia: The Bunker Review

Horror refueled

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The Amnesia series has been stumbling around in the dark recently. After the excellent original release from 2010, there have been two fairly underwhelming entries. A Machine for Pigs stripped away core elements and ended up being short but not sweet. Rebirth offered far more story, but was less appealing due to bad pacing. Fortunately, Rebirth had one truly unforgettable part set inside a fort being defended by French soldiers. Players explored the fort’s dusty interior that contained booby traps and corpses, while a creature stalked them in the dark. It worked so well that a whole game could have been built around it. Amnesia: The Bunker is that game. Its similarities to the fort in Rebirth are uncanny and appreciated. This time the action takes place inside a French WW1 bunker as players avoid a creature that fears light, while they gather items that facilitate their escape. Because the creature reacts to noises, it builds more natural horror and puts the franchise back on track.

Amnesia: The Bunker

You play as Henri Clement and are introduced to the atrocities of WW1’s trench warfare during a brief opening. After a failed rescue attempt and an explosion that knocks him unconscious, Henri wakes up on a hospital bed inside a French bunker. A note from the doctor reveals Henri is suffering amnesia, providing a tenuous link to the previous games. After leaving the infirmary, it does not take long to stumble upon brutalized corpses, blood trails, and strange dog-sized holes in the walls. Nobody seems to be alive and you soon learn why; a creature lurks in the walls, emerging whenever it hears a loud sound. The beast is a mix between a human and a werewolf, with sharp claws and a massive jaw. While Henri gets a revolver early, its limited ammunition cannot kill the beast and only sends it away for a brief time. With the exit sealed, Henri must find dynamite and a detonator to escape before he becomes mince meat.

Notes found around the bunker reveal more about the state of play. Some are written by Henri, to fill the gaps in his memory, but the amnesia part of the narrative is, sadly, forgettable. Other letters are from his fellow soldiers, explaining what happened just before Henri awoke and teasing future encounters. The soldiers heard scratches and moaning, turning some crazy and others into husks of fear. A few died early, causing suspicion and division. Not many characters are humanized in these letters, so true fear rarely jumps off the page. It is hard to grasp them as people in this dark place. Although the notes do an okay job of setting up the basics and providing objectives, they rarely extend beyond the predictable and the story feels like background noise.

The bunker tells a better story thanks to its great atmosphere. Explosions shake the ground above, sending dirt falling from the ceiling to remind players they’re in the middle of a war. Tripwires are placed haphazardly all over, as soldiers tried desperately to kill a beast that hunted them down. One German prisoner is still alive, and he begs for freedom between shrieks of fear as the monster encircles his cell. Sound is minimal (there is no music) but is important to both gameplay and mood. As you slowly explore, by physically pulling open doors and moving objects in typical Frictional fashion, more secrets are uncovered.

Amnesia: The Bunker

Eventually you will find your way to the administration room, which becomes a staging area to launch trips deeper into the loneliest corners of the bunker. The admin room is a safe haven, of sorts, with two lockable steel doors and no holes from which the creature can emerge. It has a lantern to save progress and a storage chest to free up inventory space. On the wall is a map that shows the bunker’s layout, consisting of a central command and four large wings: arsenal, prison, soldier’s quarters, and maintenance.

Next to the admin room is a generator that powers everything, from lights to a water pump and security doors. The generator must be running to complete some objectives and the light also makes it easier to navigate. Some of the power is daisy-chained; players must throw switches manually to bring life to remote equipment. The generator is a thirsty machine, so an ongoing task is bringing back fuel for the next trip. Thankfully, a pocket-watch indicates how long is left before the lights go out, allowing players to time their expeditions.

When the power goes down, the monster comes out to play. The stalking creature has excellent hearing and will follow Henri around like the xenomorph in Alien: Isolation. Sometimes it lingers just inside those holes, grabbing Henri if he gets too close. It is deadly in tight spaces and will give chase for a moderate distance. While it prefers when the lights are off, it will venture out whenever there is a loud noise, searching briefly before diving back into one of its hidey holes. With no power, the creature patrols for much longer, creating tense moments as you scurry under a desk or hide in a wardrobe. Lights flicker when the beast is near, providing a great indication of danger. But without power, it is harder to know when it is safe to move.

Amnesia: The Bunker

Hiding is somewhat imprecise. It is not binary like in Outlast and there is no indication of visibility. Stealth works better if you drag something in front of the desk you are hiding under, like a chair. This can be awkward but creates tangible panic as you fumble heavy objects. But strangely, crouching behind a large barrel with objects stacked on top did not work. The beast can break open doors and destroy tables, exposing your location. When it does, there might be a chance to flee, but death is likely. Given there is only one save location (easy difficulty has more), losing 15 minutes of progress will be common on your first playthrough. This seems like a waste of horror, having to redo the same tense section again and again, but the punishment for death puts it in a good spot to maintain fear.

While the creature’s movements are occasionally scripted, it mostly reacts to sound, and noises are often unavoidable. Wooden doors have to be forced open, which can be done several ways: shoot the hinges, place an explosive barrel, toss a grenade, or throw a heavy brick. Running and jumping makes a sound. Even the portable flashlight will squeal while it is being recharged. Rats make noise when they follow you, which happens if you are injured. The rodents also feast on dead bodies, nipping at your heels if you try to jump over, but you can burn corpses or scare them away. And there are loads of booby traps to avoid. Accidental triggering of traps will send the beast on a search and destroy mission. Fortunately this can be used to your advantage. You can create audible distractions with bottles, or just toss a noisy flare down one corner while you get busy flipping switches elsewhere.

In conjunction with the beast’s movements, the generator creates fantastic moments of natural terror. You might glance at the pocket-watch and notice the power is about to fail and you are nowhere near done exploring this corner of the bunker. Do you make a dash for the admin room or finish the task at hand? Or, worse, you hear the generator grind to a halt while searching the beast’s grotesque lair. With the power on, it encourages brisk exploration that might create more noise. When it’s off, the risk is greater but there is no rush and silence is golden. Players can tempt fate and explore without power, preserving fuel and relying on the hand-wound flashlight to see traps. While there is no insanity mechanic like in previous Amnesia games, it is not needed because the darkness has intrinsic cruelty. Ultimately, the player is rewarded for preparation and a steady pace, but with a steely resolve, crawling through the black abyss is viable.

Amnesia: The Bunker

While you navigate around this monster threat, you also must complete basic tasks. The game takes a simple metroidvania approach and mixes it with light adventure gameplay. Sadly, there are no interesting puzzles or complex physical interactions like in Frictional’s previous games. A wrench and bolt cutters are needed to open vents and chains, but the wrench is inside a coded locker and the bolt cutters are somewhere more dangerous. The early forays can be frustrating because progress is hindered by a lack of equipment, but this is part of the design. You will regularly stumble upon dead bodies, and these have codes to lockers containing fuel, health, and more items that lead to progress, or some mental reassurance thanks to a few extra bullets.

Locker codes, item placement, and even traps are randomized to encourage multiple playthroughs. The best way forward might change when tripwires shift around. The game allows a few different approaches, but many are similar in that they create a loud noise and use a limited resource. On hard mode, fuel, ammo, and health supplies are greatly limited, so expect to spend eons crawling in the dark. The beast is also far more persistent on hard difficulty and even fakes out the player by wandering away briefly before returning. The first playthrough might take five hours, but with intricate knowledge of the bunker, subsequent attempts can be completed in half that time. Given the randomization and extra challenge, it is worth playing a few times but there is not much reason to go beyond that.

Unfortunately the more you play, the easier it becomes to spot flaws with the beast’s movements. Its animations are rudimentary and not always natural, like when it slides down stairs. But the big issue is that the creature often clips through wooden doors and furniture, as though its collision mesh is too small or missing. Even when it moves through open doorways, its arms sloppily cut through adjacent walls. This collision issue actually affects gameplay too because the beast can grab players through solid objects, like metal bars or bunk beds, if they are within attack range. One time the beast’s grab animation propelled me outside the bunker’s tunnels, leaving me trapped in no man’s land while deep below the real no man’s land.

Amnesia: The Bunker

Although it has a few issues, Amnesia: The Bunker is the shakeup that the franchise needed. It takes a tiny portion from Amnesia: Rebirth, where you explored a fort, and extrapolates it out into a full game. With a creature that reacts naturally to sounds, and a wonderful dynamic involving power and lights, the game makes its own terror based on the player’s actions. Randomization ensures the game has decent replay value, although it is unlikely to tempt players beyond a few additional tries. While the story is too predictable and there is a disappointing lack of puzzles, the core horror gameplay and tentative exploration feels exactly like a Frictional game should. Amnesia: The Bunker may not be as good as The Dark Descent or SOMA, but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.

Our ratings for Amnesia: The Bunker on PC out of 100 (Ratings FAQ)
Presentation
75
The bunker’s interior has great atmosphere thanks to a careful use of minimal sound and precise lighting. Some visual blemishes, like with the monster’s animations, mean it can look a bit dated.
Gameplay
80
Keeping the generator fueled so the lights stay on is a great dynamic, and the creature’s reaction to sound provides varied but fair encounters. Sadly there are no decent puzzles and progression stalls early.
Single Player
60
Notes and letters from the bunker’s previous inhabitants are rarely interesting and too conventional. Even the amnesia connection feels like an afterthought.
Multiplayer
NR
None
Performance
(Show PC Specs)
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600
GPU: ASUS 6700 XT DUAL OC 12GB
RAM: 16GB DDR4
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
PC Specs

70
Frequent clipping issues with the monster lead to sloppy moments that diminish the fear. The game runs fairly well although it is limited to 60 frames-per-second.
Overall
76
Amnesia: The Bunker has a fantastic dynamic involving light and power management, as you explore an atmospheric WW1 bunker and avoid a monster with a keen sense of hearing. Despite a lack of puzzles, a bland story, and a few monster quirks, it packs enough good horror to keep players on edge.
Comments
Amnesia: The Bunker
Amnesia: The Bunker box art Platform:
PC
Our Review of Amnesia: The Bunker
76%
Good
The Verdict:
Game Ranking
Amnesia: The Bunker is ranked #800 out of 1980 total reviewed games. It is ranked #28 out of 101 games reviewed in 2023.
800. Amnesia: The Bunker
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Screenshots

Amnesia: The Bunker
12 images added 352 days ago
Videos
Amnesia: The Bunker - Announcement Tr...
Posted: Dec 2, 2022 00:54
Amnesia: The Bunker | 10 min of Gameplay
Posted: May 5, 2023 18:20
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