Amnesia: The Bunker review – Dug into a trench of disappointment
Frictional Games enters war mode as Amnesia: The Bunker is set to conquer the indie horror space once again. But is the game a worthy follow-up to the series’ twisted legacy, or does it risk fading into obscurity?
There’s no genre from the last decade that has gone the distance quite like the indie horror scene. It seems like we’re getting a brand new spine-chilling experience released on Steam every week. Looking back over the last ten years, you’d be silly to overlook the Amnesia series’ seismic impact on horror gaming.
While Amnesia’s previous sequels – A Machine for Pigs and Rebirth didn’t surpass the 2010 original in popularity or impact, Amnesia: The Bunker sets itself up for a radical change that may give it a fighting chance at a longer-lasting legacy.
Amnesia: The Bunker – Key Details
- Price: $24.99 (USD)
- Developer: Frictional Games
- Release Date: June 6, 2023
- Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Amnesia: The Bunker trailer
There is a monster among us
Amnesia: The Bunker is set during World War 1, where you play as French soldier Henri Clement who is trapped inside an underground bunker with very few resources. Your ultimate goal is to escape, finding all the necessary tools to blow up the blocked exit and making your way to the surface, while also avoiding a deadly monster that’s constantly stalking you.
If that premise sounds familiar, it’s because dynamic pursuer enemies have become a popular feature for horror games in the last generation. Advanced AI means these monsters will follow you around, investigate areas you’ve visited, and react to every noise you make on the fly. They don’t just follow a set path pre-determined by the developers. Some famous examples include Resident Evil 2’s Mr. X and Alien: Isolation’s titular Xenomorph.
The appeal of this mechanic is to ensure tension stays consistent throughout the whole game. The monster will react in real-time to new information, and will continuously switch up its behavior to try and stay one step ahead of you. It really requires you to think outside of the box to survive, predicting how this enemy figure will react to the next move you plan to take.
Spooks but no thrills
Unfortunately, Amnesia: The Bunker’s interpretation of constant threat is just a bit dull and not scary. For starters, the monster doesn’t get the introduction it truly deserves. You witness it kill a soldier at the very beginning of the game, but other than that you don’t really get a sense of its full capabilities. It doesn’t appear in the tutorial, and you never get to learn how it behaves until you reach the main area of the bunker.
Even throughout the rest of the game, the beast spends very little time actually patrolling the floor searching for you. It’ll be inside the small crawlspaces for a while, and when you make a noise it’ll emerge from one of the nearby wall holes to investigate. But I want more random encounters.
Look at how Alien: Isolation did it. I want the monster to explore on its own accord. Knowing that I could bump into it at any given moment, hearing its footsteps a few rooms away, and doing everything as carefully as possible to flank it is the feeling I want from this type of game. Instead, it feels incredibly predictable when it’ll show up, and will frequently result in death because of how few options you have to escape it.
This is a character you’ll spend the next 5-10 hours trying to avoid, but it feels so detached from the rest of the game like an obstacle you want to avoid rather than a threat you need to fear. It’s probably the most disappointing feature of Amnesia: The Bunker, which is awkward when that’s your main selling point.
Despite this, there are other aspects of Amnesia: The Bunker that are enjoyable on their own. The game adds more immersive sim elements to the formula, with multiple ways to achieve objectives that come with their own pros and cons. Your main task to blow up the exit to the bunker requires collecting various different items, each of which can be acquired in a non-linear order, and there are plenty of ways to get around certain obstacles.
It makes exploring the bunker fun when you find a secret entrance to a room you thought you’d have to break into, or by removing an infestation of rats you inadvertently open up a new route. You’ll be constantly looping through these same areas with new tools to help you explore, and for a game world that is so small, it’s tightly dense with plenty of detail baked into the environment.
From an accessibility point of view, this also makes The Bunker’s puzzles a lot more approachable than previous entries. Since there are multiple ways to achieve some of your objectives, it’s less likely that you’ll be stuck trying to figure out what to do next. And even if that happens, there’s a Hints toggle option in the menu that will assist you in determining your next move.
I don’t even mind the crafting and resource management systems in place here either. Usually, these types of features can be hit or miss depending on how frustrating it is to rummage around for items you need. But here, there are enough tools with multiple uses that it doesn’t become much of an annoyance. There will always be something you can craft that will come in handy for the moment you need it.
Verdict – 3/5
Amnesia: The Bunker has all these little pieces that work well, but doesn’t fully deliver on its main hook. Fans of the series may be set up for a No Man’s Land of disappointment, where just a few tweaks here and there might make it a much more enjoyable experience. With it also launching on Xbox Game Pass, that might be the best place for it to gain an audience.
Reviewed on PC.