This is one of the best horror games ever made - until, suddenly, it isn't.
By Adrian Forest on September 16, 2013 at 10:17 am
Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs has a lot to live up to, however you look at it, bringing together two indie success stories.
This is a game that lives up to those high expectations… until it doesn’t.
Stephen King once wrote that there are three types of horror: terror, horror and revulsion. According to King, revulsion is the simple gross-out, the cheap jump scare. Horror is being confronted with the unnatural, seeing the monster and being afraid. Terror, on the other hand, is the feeling you get before you see the monster, when you’re not sure if it’s there or not, and you’re afraid to find out. Terror is the sense that something is horribly, unspeakably wrong. It’s when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you’re sure somebody is behind you, watching you… but when you turn around, there’s nothing there.
Terror is the kind of horror Stephen King prizes above all others, and it’s the sensation that A Machine For Pigs evokes more than anything else.
The Chinese Room have brought to Amnesia the same wonderful blending of environments and narrative that defined Dear Esther. While The Dark Descent certainly had moments of dread, A Machine For Pigs puts much more emphasis on this aspect of the genre. It goes the whole hog, if you’ll pardon the pun. If you wanted the same old thing The Dark Descent already did, this is not the game for you. The resource-management and physics puzzles are gone, as are most of the jump scares.
A Machine For Pigs is about exploring deeply unsettling environments, and uncovering the horrifying truth behind and beneath them, all the while terrified of what you’ll find, or what will find you. Because this is a game that’s all about what you, the protagonist, Oswald Mundus, have done, and what you’ve unleashed on the world. It’s a brilliantly terrifying ride, all the way down, into the bowels of the hellish machinery you’ve constructed.
Unfortunately, the pacing of A Machine For Pigs is a disappointment. There’s a clear point where you feel like you’ve hit bottom and are coming to the end of this journey, about to face the final horror and suffer the consequences. And then the game keeps going. And keeps going.
And keeps going.
It takes you back to the surface and down again, along the way losing any sense of terror, or story, or purpose, and at times becoming downright silly. It’s not so much an abrupt tonal shift as it is a seeming unawareness of when to stop escalating, when to stop dragging things out. By the time I reached the game’s actual conclusion I’d entirely lost track of what it was all for, and I’d been ready for it to end for a good hour or so.
A Machine For Pigs is absolutely fantastic, one of the best horror games I’ve ever played, and an unmissable experience… until it suddenly isn’t. You must play this game. But you must also know when to stop.
- Lovingly-crafted environments
- Wonderful storytelling
- Profound and beautiful sense of dread
- Doesn’t know when to quit
- Heavy reliance on journal entries to tell the story in the late game
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is available for $19.99 on Steam. This review copy purchased by the reviewer at their own expense.
Screenshots used in this review supplied by the publisher.