One of the most famous horror games from the past decade is surely Amnesia: The Dark Descent. I’m not certain if it was the first game of its type, but it kicked off a prevalent trend of walking simulator-style horror games that were all about atmosphere and story.
I don’t feel that Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs lived up to the reputation of its predecessor. But what about the newer Amnesia: Rebirth?
That’s what I’ll be talking about in my Amnesia: Rebirth review. I’ll take a little dive (spoiler-free, since the game is still somewhat new) into the game and my thoughts on it.
Intro to Amnesia: Rebirth
What is Amnesia: Rebirth about? I’ll describe it briefly here and in more detail later so you know what to expect.
In Amnesia: Rebirth, you are playing as Tasi Trianon, a pregnant woman who wakes up in a crashed plane in the middle of the desert. Everyone else on the plane is seemingly gone, and she doesn’t remember how she got there or what happened to everyone else.
You emerge from the plane and begin exploring your surroundings, discovering creepy ruins, snarling monsters, and an alien other dimension along the way. It borrows many concepts from the original Amnesia game, including a lighting device that you must replenish occasionally and monsters that you need to avoid looking at when possible.
Amnesia: Rebirth Review
I know there are a lot of people who were unimpressed with AR’s story, but I personally felt it was fine. It wasn’t anything that would blow my mind like Soma, for example, but it also lacked the utter pretentiousness that A Machine for Pigs had.
It’s a fairly simple premise. As I mentioned above, you’re Tasi, a pregnant woman stranded in a desert filled with mysterious ruins and portals to another alien dimension. You encounter monsters and apparitions while you search for your missing colleagues. Journal entries and documents are scattered about that fill you in on the identities of your colleagues and what type of civilization lives in the other dimension.
The story does fall prey to some typical Amnesia cliches. The first one I can think of is the amnesia Tasi originally starts with, which essentially just puts her at the same level as the player at the beginning of the game. There is also, of course, the underlying feeling that the reason Tasi doesn’t remember what happened is because she personally did something horrible.
There are three possible endings to the game. Without going into detail about them, I will say that I got what I think is considered the “bad” ending, and after watching the other two on YouTube, I feel it’s significantly more rushed than the other endings. My ending feels like it was an afterthought, something the developers added just to cover all their bases. It seems like you’re supposed to make a decision different from the one I made.
Amnesia: Rebirth makes a much-needed improvement after the disappointment of A Machine for Pigs: it adds some more lantern-related gameplay back into the mix. In a Machine for Pigs, you have an electric lantern that lasts for the entire game, taking much of the tension out of the equation.
In Rebirth, on the other hand, you have an oil lantern again that regularly needs to be refilled. Most of the time, you won’t even be able to use it because it runs out of oil so quickly. You usually end up frantically lighting sconces with crazily flickering matches along the way.
There’s also the sanity element again, although it’s less about sanity and more about fear. If you sit in the dark or stare directly at monsters too long, you’ll start to see black tendrils on the edges of the screen and eventually lose control of yourself. Thus, you need to do what you can to keep Tasi’s fear levels as low as possible by avoiding confrontations and staying in the light as much as you can.
Beyond that, there are a few puzzles scattered throughout the game, too. I think there are even more puzzles if you play in Adventure mode, which protects you from harm in the dark or from monsters, but I didn’t play in this mode so I can’t say that with certainty. The puzzles aren’t particularly hard, and you can usually bumble your way through them even if you don’t know what’s going on.
Like with other horror games in this vein, it’s basically just a walking simulator. The focus is more on exploration, stealth, and story than it is on intense gameplay. Don’t expect in-depth things like character customization, dialogue choices, combat, and the like, but if you don’t mind simplistic gameplay/visual novels, then it’s not a bad time.
The soundtrack and general sound design of Rebirth were, in my opinion, both very effective. I liked the music so much that I ended it up putting it on a horror-based playlist I maintain on YouTube.
The ambient noises in this game were particularly good. There were quite a few points in the game where I legitimately felt as if something was in the room with me, so I would sit there staring into the dark, waiting for something to pop out.
One tiny nitpick I have is that there were some sounds I couldn’t pinpoint the direction of. Harvesters, a type of monster in the game, make this gentle scrabbling noise that sounds like rocks scraping together. I would often hear this noise, then turn in a slow circle to attempt to pinpoint where it was coming from, only to find that it seemed to be coming from multiple directions. I don’t know if this was on purpose or if it was more of an issue with my headset.
I feel like one of Rebirth’s greatest strengths when compared to other games in the Amnesia franchise is its cast of characters. As I’ve said before, I felt that that the protagonist in The Dark Descent was utterly bland, and A Machine for Pigs was just boring.
Tasi, on the other hand, is a much more dynamic character to empathize with. She is resourceful, emotional, and of course, vulnerable. Plus, as she is carrying a child, there’s a greater degree of urgency with her than I’ve experienced in the Amnesia games before.
Secondary characters, although we mostly only experience them in flashbacks, are also generally likeable. If anything, I wish we got to see more of them to make their disappearances more impactful.
I made the mistake of watching one review before I finished writing this one in which the reviewer lamented how “dated” the graphics in Rebirth look. Maybe I just have really low standards, but I thought that it looked fantastic.
Granted, I also played it on a fairly high-end computer at the time of writing this review. Graphics aren’t really an issue for me, and I can play virtually anything in the highest-quality settings.
Or maybe the game just looks worse on a console, if the reviewer I mentioned was playing on one. Regardless of the reason for the complaint, I was impressed with the detail and textures most of the time.
There were a few notable exceptions. For example, flames in sconces and torches look really choppy and have a low frame rate. It almost looks like they copy/pasted a gif of actual fire into the game. I would say that some of the character models and animations kind of look as if they belong squarely in the uncanny valley. The harvesters also look unimpressive, but you’re generally not supposed to look at them, anyway, so this didn’t really bother me.
Please note: I would have provided my own pictures, but for some reason, the game bar didn’t work for me when I tried to take screenshots. The pictures I’ve included throughout this article are from the Steam store.
Is Amnesia: Rebirth Worth Playing?
Unlike with Transient, it’s much easier for me to deliver a verdict on Rebirth in playability. This is not a game without flaws, to be sure, but I legitimately feel that it’s still worth playing for any horror fan.
Sure, the story falls into many of Amnesia’s past cliches and some graphical aspects are underwhelming, but it’s an enjoyable experience. I don’t think I’ll be replaying it anytime soon even though it has multiple endings. However, the first playthrough was worth it for me.
I’ve played a lot of crappy games recently. And if I expand my search to every game I’ve ever played, the list of crappy games I’ve played gets exponentially higher.
I would not, however, define Amnesia: Rebirth as a crappy game. I truly looked forward to playing it often and actually began to dread when I suspected the end was coming up because I liked it so much. While I can’t say for certain I will ever play it again, I can definitely say that I’m glad I played through it once.