How can one describe the horror that is Amnesia? It’s not all that simple, you know. There aren’t many jump scares here. The game is much more focused on invoking the feeling of dread and helplessness – two factors that, when combined, create a very specific kind of tension. Outlast does the same thing, too. However, in Outlast the player can resort to parkour in a pinch. A Machine For Pigs has no such gimmick. The player can move at two paces: sluggish and gallop. Whereas gallop will alert every single enemy within the 100-meter radius of your presence. This way, we’re forced to go along stealthily. Fine, we say. Bring it.
This game isn’t a direct sequel to The Dark Descent, but it does continue the given storyline. It’s set sixty years after the events from the first game, and tells the story of an amnesiac (thank you, Captain Obvious), Oswald Mandus. He wakes up in his bedroom and hears the voices of his children calling for help.
This makes all the sense in the world.
After receiving several calls from a mysterious caller, Oswald is told that his kids are trapped somewhere beneath the ground, in a huge machine, and that, to rescue them, he needs to start it up. On the way, the protagonist meets some new pals in the form of lovable and cute humanoid piglets, who help him to save his children. Or do they? We’re not spoiling anything because the storyline is actually pretty good and tense. Better than the last game, at the very least. All we’re giving you is a fact that there will be some serious twists taking place at the streets of London, where the story plays out.
Anyhow, this is a classical Amnesia game. The player controlls the protagonist from the first person perspective. Most of the gameplay elements have returned, such as the physical manipulation of world objects. Stealth is back, too. However, some of the features have been thrown out of the window. There’s no inventory, for example. Alas, there’s no picking up objects and combining them. But the most jarring thing the devs have ditched are the environmental puzzles. Puzzles of any kind, actually! Also, pulling switches and turning valves isn’t much of a puzzle. Even though there’s a much better focus on the atmosphere and story this time around, there is also no real initiative to explore the surroundings since there won’t be any items tucked away. Sanity and health meters have been disabled, too. One good thing, though; the light source is unlimited this time around.
In all fairness, a taxidermied pushable bear can theoretically count as a puzzle.
The graphics are… fine. Our opinion is that this game should run much faster on older computers, if we’re discussing the visual presentation. The optimisation is a bit off and should be improved in the upcoming patches. The textures and effects don’t really justify the regular frame drops and stutters. That’s not to say that the game is ugly, just that it’s not too pretty. Fortunately, the atmosphere doesn’t suffer greatly from this, since most of the levels are dark and moody.
World interaction and character movement are definitely better than they were in The Dark Descent. Walking stopped feeling like floating and physical communication with the environments feels much more appropriate. There’s no obvious reason as to why these features seem better. They just do.
Well, this looks promising. Totally safe, too.
The sounds effect encountered in the game are great. This is (besides from the atmosphere) the only aspect that this game has absolutely perfected. It isn’t enough to say that it’s creepy, because it’s actually quite terrifying. There are creaks, squeals and screams echoing through the dimly lit hallways. There are also things going bump in the darkness. Make no mistake, this game will make you feel uneasy and jumpy. And when you finally encounter an enemy, you will panic.
The AI is erratic and unpredictable, just as it should be. The pigmen will appear out of nowhere, and once they see you, no amount of galloping will save your ass. Sadly, the said monsters feel very uninspired and simplistic. Whereas the first game had terrifying monstrosities that defy common sense, A Machine For Pigs has… pigs. Hooved, humanoid, stitched pigs. Sure, their backstory is interesting and unnervingly sad, but come on. More imagination next time, please.
See? They aren’t even scary!
In the end, despite getting rid of a number of systems that made The Dark Descent a monumental horror that it was, this is a great and utterly scary game that can carry the series towards new victories. The players will get to experience the sad story of Oswald Mandus. A real treat to the gamers who love their games cryptic and smart. There might be some aspects that aren’t too good, quality-wise, but most of it is nitpicking anyway. Sadly, after a five hour playtrough there will be no more reason to play again. Except if you like to replay your favourite games after a while. There are hints and connections to the big story arc behind the Amnesia games, and there is surely more to come soon. For every horror lover, this game is a must.
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This article was first posted on September 15, 2013