Amnesia: The Dark Descent will go down into the history books as one of the most genuinely terrifying video games ever created. I fear that the franchise may have peaked too early, as A Machine for Pigs is nothing more than slop when compared to the original. Amnesia traded in its trademark horror for accessibility and a more fleshed out story, and I don’t believe that sacrifice was worth it. Since A Machine for Pigs is such a drastic departure from the original, a part of me wants to review it as anything but a sequel to the game I hold dear to my heart, but the comparisons to A Dark Decent still have to be made. After all, it is an Amnesia title, even if it did forget its name.
In A Machine for Pigs, you play as Oswald Mandus, a man suffering from a bad case of – you guessed it – amnesia. Somehow he remembers he has children and wanders off to look for them, only to find himself in a heap of trouble as more of his memories comes back to haunt him. Oh, those wacky industrialists! Much to my surprise, I found A Machine for Pigs to resemble the somber tale of Dear Esther more than A Dark Decent. Most of the game consists of walking around while a story is told to you, with additional details told through reading journal entries that are scattered about. The journal entries are important to the story, but optional if you don’t want to hunt them down.
Ripe for the slaughter
Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs (PC)
Developer: The Chinese Room
Publisher: Frictional Games
Released: September 10, 2013
The story is as predictable as the aftermath of a teenager’s first drink. As a fan of medical horror, I wanted to enjoy it, but I never once found myself surprised by any direction it took. It’s disturbing, sure, but far from what I would consider the slightest bit frightening or original. I understand that horror games tend to piggyback ride off of the success of existing cliches and scare tactics, but that’s what the original Amnesia did so flawlessly. Despite having a lot of prior influence, it managed to remain fresh, exciting, and truly terrifying. It didn’t need an original story for it to be enjoyable.
While it’s certainly more of a game than Dear Esther was, A Machine for Pigs is far from the level of brilliance of the original Amnesia. There are still some scares and atmospheric horror, but gone are all of the mechanics that made Amnesia such a unique horror experience. Gone is the insanity meter, which punished players for staying in the dark too long by making them hear and see things that weren’t there, forcing them to find light to recover from the trauma of the darkness. Not only was the insanity meter scraped, but so was the reliance on depletable tinderboxes for your lantern. These two features went hand-in-hand, but they were left in the dark for some insane reason. Without them, creeping through the darkness in A Machine for Pigs feels no differently than walking past a brightly lit dinning table. When the majority of a game takes place in the dark or poorly lit areas, you need to make the dark feared and give areas that are lit up some feeling of empowerment. You should want the player to feel fear when they know they have to leave the sanctuary of the light to advance the story, instead A Machine for Pigs decided to neuter the most impactful experience a horror game can have.
Not only were the mechanics neutered, but A Machine for Pigs went one step further and lopped off the balls of the horror experience- enemy encounters! These encounters are few and far between, throwing A Dark Decent’s constant sense of being hunted by terrible monstrosities out the window. Mandus is still defenseless, but sidestepping around the little piggies solves the few encounters with enemies you do engage in. The worst part is that if the enemies do spot you, they hobble at such a slow place you can easily outrun them. They are far from as threatening as ol’ vagina-face.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs stands on its own as a relatively boring experience that few will be able to sit through to completion. If you don’t mind a slow place, few scares, and enjoy throwing money away on games you will never finish, then maybe you will be able to find enough enjoyment out of A Machine for Pigs to justify a purchase. Regardless, A Machine for Pigs is undeserving of the Amnesia namesake. If you want to play a true horror game, download the original, not this swine.