Last year I decided to take a step into the horror genre, checking out games like Madison, Last Days of Lazarus, and Charon’s Staircase. I guess I was lured into a false sense of security because I thought, “Why not do another one?” I’ve had the horrifying pleasure recently of playing Amnesia: The Bunker, the latest installment in the Amnesia horror series. What I experienced playing this game gives those other games a real run for their money because this game truly had me on the edge of my seat… and my sanity.
The Amnesia series was created by Frictional Games, starting with Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It’s a first-person survival horror anthology featuring horror elements influenced by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Amnesia: The Bunker is the fourth installment in the series, being an indirect sequel, just like its predecessors. In The Bunker, you play as Henri Clement, a French soldier who is trying to escape the horrors of a bunker along the Western Front during WWI.
You don’t know much when going into the game. Henri is a silent protagonist, aside from his grunts and heavy breathing, so you’ll uncover the secrets, and horrors, of the bunker by finding journals, letters, and various bits of paraphernalia that paint a harrowing picture that will haunt Henri for the rest of his life. What you do know after waking up from a coma is that something terrible has happened, and you’re the last person alive. Everyone else has been brutally killed and the exit has been blasted shut, leaving you trapped with whatever is lurking in the dark.
There are a couple of key differences between The Bunker and previous entries: the crafting system and the player’s ability to defend themselves. The crafting system allows players to make items for healing as well as things like molotovs to hopefully protect them from the creature that hunts them. You have limited inventory space, however there’s a chest in a safe room where you can store extra supplies and you’ll find bags throughout the bunker that increase how much you can actually carry. There are also other places you can leave stuff for later, including a locker room and little medicine cabinets. Hopefully you remember how to find them again before the beast finds you.
The molotovs aren’t the only way to defend yourself as you’ll also be equipped with a revolver. You’ll have to choose your shots wisely as ammunition is scarce. I’d say your best application of the weapon is to make a distraction to lure the beast away from an area you’re trying to get to. Using it on the beast itself should only be a last resort option, because shooting it won’t kill it, just make it angrier. Eventually, you’ll also find a shotgun to use as well, but, again, save your ammo if you can.
You’re fairly free to explore the bunker, unlocking new areas as you progress. Gameplay primarily consists of exploring the bunker, figuring out how to access the different areas, getting all the supplies you can, and keeping the lights on, all while trying to find what you need to blast open the exit. The beast can always hear you moving around and will emerge from the walls at times to investigate the source of any sounds it hears, particularly anything loud like explosions and gunshots. When it’s not roaming the halls, you can hear it clawing its way through the walls and ceiling, snarling along the way.
Light is your greatest ally as the beast will shy away from it and is less likely to come out of hiding when the lights are on. Hiding in the dark isn’t an option as it appears the beast can actually see you better without light. A generator located in a room next to a safe room you discover early in the game can be turned on to power lights throughout the bunker. However, you need fuel to keep it running. Fuel canisters can be found throughout the bunker, but another way to maximize the generator’s efficiency is to make sure you’re only keeping lights on where they are needed. If the generator runs out of fuel, you’ll have to rely on a mechanically powered flashlight, like the German dynamo flashlight, however it makes a lot of noise when pulling the pull-chain.
I like when games include mechanics like these. Games like this and Alan Wake use light in unique ways, letting the player use it as a tool or a weapon rather than it just being a static feature in a grotesque game of cat and mouse. I also like how the beast seems to learn from what the player is doing. It doesn’t just follow a set patrol path. Instead it explores the bunker just as much as you do. Something doesn’t have to happen to trigger the beast’s sudden appearance either. Sure, making a huge noise by blowing up an explosive barrel will certainly get its attention, but if you’ve been shuffling about, it will go investigate where it last heard you. It may not necessarily be genre-redefining, but it certainly puts the ‘survival’ in survival horror.
If you just so happen to be unlucky enough to find yourself in the dark, there are a number of rooms that you can duck into to try to hide from the beast when it’s on the prowl. Many of the rooms will have doors that can lock behind you, but just because it looks safe doesn’t mean that it is. I thought I was perfectly safe in the Mission Storage room, having locked both of the doors when I heard the beast in the halls. However, I’d first entered that room via a ventilation shaft in the wall. I’m sure you can fill in the details of what followed on your own. It was the single most terrifying moment in the whole game for me. I had to take a break after that little encounter.
The level of horror throughout the game was truly petrifying. My first face-to-face encounter with the beast ended just as well as you’d expect, with me suddenly developing fear paralysis as it slowly came towards me. I dreaded every time I had to venture into the halls, especially when I was running low on fuel for the generator, rounds for the revolver, and wits to keep myself in the game.
This is definitely not my ideal version of a horror game, but that’s really just because I hate being chased. It’s like something from my nightmares, but even more vivid and it’s not something I can wake up from. The only comfort I have is knowing that it’s not real. That being said, it is a thrilling experience and I am intrigued. Dare I say, I want more?
I played the game primarily on the Series X, however I played a little on PC as well. I definitely prefer using a controller as my input method, though it was easy to get used to using mouse and keyboard once I switched up the keybinds to something that made a little more sense. (Seriously, why do we keep binding crouch to CTRL and sprint to SHIFT?) Sometimes crafting and using items feels a little tedious as it’s not as simple as just hitting a single button to perform an action. Instead, everything is typically a two-button process. This was especially annoying when reloading the revolver as you have to hold one button to open the cylinder, and then each bullet is loaded with individual button presses for each round. If you’re in a time crunch (you know, because a beast is bearing down on you), it gets very nerve racking.
For the most part, the game performs perfectly on both platforms. The only hiccups I had on Xbox were a small freeze that would happen as I crossed the threshold into certain areas of the map and some things would take a few extra seconds to finish rendering when loading into the game. It is surprising that these issues would still exist given the game has been out since June. Hopefully they can get these little bits patched up. Other than that, I had no issues playing the game other than my own fear sometimes holding me back.
Cassie Peterson is an Editor for Gaming Trend but also a sporadic content creator and exceedingly average Rainbow Six Siege player. She goes by MzPanik on Twitter and Twitch and all of the gaming platforms.
Amnesia: The Bunker
Amnesia: The Bunker is a truly terrifying experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat and your sanity. The overall experience is thrilling amidst all the horror, leaving me (almost) craving more. Almost.