Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a survival horror adventure video game developed and published by independent Swedish game development studio Frictional Games. It was released in 2010 for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, in 2016 for the PlayStation 4, in 2018 for the Xbox One; and in 2019 for the Nintendo Switch.
The plot of The Dark Descent follows the amnesiac protagonist, Daniel, as he explores the dark and foreboding Brennenburg Castle while trying to solve various puzzles, maintaining his sanity, and avoiding monsters. Throughout the game, more and more of Daniel's past is revealed. Instead of fighting, Daniel's main tools for survival include running and hiding.
The game received an expansion titled Amnesia: Justine on 11 April 2011, created in cooperation with Valve Software as part of an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) to promote the upcoming release of Portal 2. On 17 May 2011, after the ARG ended, this expansion was made available for free for everyone who owned a copy of the game. Alongside this update, a set of five short stories written by Mikael Hedberg taking place in the games' universe, Remember, was also added to the game.
A sequel, developed by The Chinese Room, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, was published by Frictional Games in 2013. The two games, along with the Justine expansion, was released for the PlayStation 4 on 22 November 2016, as part of the Amnesia Collection. The Amnesia Collection was later released for the Xbox One on 28 September 2018, and for the Nintendo Switch on 12 September 2019.
The PS4 release saw Trophies added to the game; and the Xbox One release added a new difficulty setting, Hard Mode, to the game. Both features were later added to all versions of The Dark Descent.
Amnesia is an exploration-based survival-horror adventure game played from a first-person perspective. The player takes control of the amnesiac Daniel, as he regains consciousness in Brennenburg Castle deep in the Prussian woods, with no memory of where he is or what he's doing there. Throughout the game, Daniel explores the various areas of Brennenburg, solves puzzles, avoids enemies, and collects items, notes, and diary entries from his own personal diary which gradually reveals the events that came to put him in the situation he finds himself in. Daniel store these diary entries in his Journal, along with notes, he finds. He will also jot down various hints and reminders - Mementos - in this journal, which can remind the player of their current objectives.
The game has two difficulty settings to choose from - Normal mode; and Hard mode, which removes a large part of the consumable items (such as oil and tinderboxes) that can found in the game, increases enemy damage and vigilance, and forces the player to discard some of the previously mentioned hard-earned items every time they want to save the game. The difficulty setting cannot be changed after the game has begun.
Puzzles & items
Frictional Games proprietary HPL Engine, which The Dark Descent is built upon, allows for objects in the environment to be manipulated in a wide variety of ways - such as by picking up and moving or throwing objects, opening and closing doors, closets, and drawers; and operating valves or levers. Objects are manipulated by using the mouse in a fashion that imitates moving said object in real life. This type of interaction with the world has been retained from Frictional Games' Penumbra series, and allows the player to use the physics of the game to solve puzzles or otherwise interact with the world - such as by throwing a rock to distract an enemy, or stacking boxes to reach otherwise impossible-to-reach places.
Some of the smaller items found in the game can be stored in the inventory menu. These items include consumables used to provide light to the surroundings or heal Daniel. Among these items are tinderboxes, one-time-use items for lighting candles, lanterns, or fireplaces in the environment; Oil canisters, which can be used to refill the fuel of a small lantern Daniel finds early in the game and carries on his person; or laudanum, which heals the player by one health level. Outside of these items, Daniel can also find various items used to solve puzzles - such as keys, canisters, or potion ingredients.
There are no weapons and no combat mechanics in the game, leaving Daniel defenceless if an enemy is encountered. If an enemy spots Daniel they will give chase, and if they catch up they will usually kill him in one or two hits, which puts the game into a "Game Over" state, and forces the player to either load a previous save or restart from near to where the death occurred. This makes the primary methods of avoiding enemies hiding from them - for example by ducking down behind some barrels, or in a nearby cupboard - and waiting until the threat leaves the area.
If an enemy nevertheless spots Daniel, the only alternative is running away, while attempting to break line of sight with the enemy long enough for it to lose track of Daniel. The player can improve their chances of escape by barricading their escape path, for instance by closing doors behind them, or blockade entrances and exits to areas with objects such as boxes or barrels.
If Daniel takes damage, from an enemy or otherwise, his health will decrease and then slowly regenerate over time. The status of his health is displayed by a picture of a heart visible from the inventory menu, the appearance of which changes as Daniel's health changes. If Daniel is completely healthy, the icon glows with a green tint, and the text "All is good" becomes visible if the player hovers the cursor over the icon.
Once Daniel takes damage, the heart will start glowing yellow, become slightly deteriorated, and the text will change to "A few cuts and bruises". If Daniel takes further damage the heart will start deteriorating further, start glowing orange, and display the text "A wound is bleeding quite badly" upon interaction. The final stage shows a severely damaged, glowing red heart, with the text "Barely conscious". Daniel's breathing also becomes a lot heavier at this point, and the screen takes on a red tint. Taking further damage at this point will result in death. However, health can be restored by one level by consuming a bottle of laudanum.
Separate from his health, Daniel's sanity must also be maintained. The status of Daniel's sanity is displayed by an icon of a brain and spine in the inventory menu. Similarly to the health indicator, it has four status levels and changes in appearance as Daniel's sanity changes.
At maximum sanity, the icon will glow green and display the status as "Crystal clear". Being in the darkness for too long, witnessing unsettling events, or staring at monsters will reduce Daniel's sanity, which has effects on gameplay as Daniel's vision becomes increasingly distorted, and the sounds of his breathing and his heart beating become increasingly pronounced.
When sanity decreases, the status changes to "A slight headache", followed by "Head is pounding and hands are shaking", and finally "...". At this point, Daniel may start hallucinating, which can change the environment in unexpected ways - paintings on the walls of Brennenburg may, for instance, appear to become horribly distorted, bugs can appear to be crawling on Daniel's face or in the environment, and dead bodies may appear in areas that were previously empty. Furthermore, any player input will have a significant delay, and movement will cause high levels of motion blur, making navigation challenging.
If sanity decreases further at this point, Daniel will fall down on the floor and be incapable of moving for a short while, before regaining some sanity and getting back up on his feet. The sound of Daniel collapsing onto the floor was originally thought to have alerted nearby enemies, leaving Daniel open for attack, but in a interview, Thomas Grip revealed that Sanity did alert anything, this was just used to scare the player. Sanity dropping to this level in Hard mode results in death, which makes managing Daniel's sanity extra important.
Sanity can be increased by staying out of the darkness, which can be done with the help of the lantern, tinderboxes, or otherwise. It can also be restored by completing certain puzzles, at which point the regaining of sanity is paired with the screen glowing blue for a brief moment, and a sound akin to a sigh of relief can be heard.
Finally, sanity can be restored by the use of a Sanity Potion, which, similarly to Laudanum with Daniel's health, increases Daniel's sanity by one level. However, this item was cut late in development and is therefore not found anywhere in the main campaign, but Sanity Potions can still be integrated into custom stories.
The game, set in 1839, casts the player in the role of Daniel, a young man from London, who awakens in the dark halls of Prussian Brennenburg Castle, near the village of Altstadt, with little to no memory about himself or his past. All he can remember is his name, that he lives in Mayfair, London, and that something is hunting him.
Shortly after waking, Daniel finds a note written by himself that explains how he purposely made himself forget his past, because he couldn't handle losing his innocence, so he wanted to forget it all. The note urges Daniel to descend into the castle's Inner Sanctum and murder a man named "Alexander", the baron of the castle. The note gives a final warning that a "living nightmare" is chasing him, and Daniel must escape it for as long as he can because there is no way to fight back.
Daniel explores the castle. As he does, he occasionally finds a fleshy substance growing on the walls and doors, a sign of the "nightmare" getting closer and closer. Through the diary entries from Daniel's journal, scattered around the rooms, the backstory of the castle and the events that transpired there begin to become clear. Before his arrival at the castle, Daniel had gone on an archaeological expedition to Africa with his friend and colleague, Professor Herbert, in order to research an ancient burial chamber. Whilst there, Daniel had encountered a large underground chamber during a dig, much older than the one they had expected to find based on their research. A sudden collapse of stone had trapped Daniel inside the chamber where he began to suffocate, but also experienced a strange vision of a glowing blue sphere of light. Attempting to grab it, he suddenly blacked out and soon woke up being rescued by Arab diggers with the pieces to an ancient Orb in his hands.
Daniel returned to England at the request of Herbert and attempted to fit the pieces together but was puzzled to find out that they did not fit together. Stranger still, the pieces appeared to be changing shape and texture. To find out more, Daniel visited famed geologist Sir William Smith. The geologist was unsure of what was causing the changes but explained to Daniel that over long periods of time, glass changes shape. Later, Daniel received a letter about the fate of the expedition he left behind and it was revealed that only the empty campsite was found. Herbert and his men had vanished and the lone survivor, who was grievously injured, kept rambling about something hunting down the expedition. Some of Herbert's journals were sent back to England and Daniel picked them up. The majority of the notes were only quick scribblings at most, but Daniel was confused to see that Herbert wrote he was trapped for over an hour, despite beginning to choke almost immediately. Stranger still, Herbert claimed to have descended into the ancient chamber and retrieved the Orb himself, making it impossible for Daniel to have the fragments.
Daniel continues to explore Brennenburg Castle and is soon hunted by disturbing, nightmarishly mutilated creatures as well as the "Shadow". He also begins to experience visions of the events in the castle's past, including what Alexander, his target, had done in many of the chambers. Daniel is shocked to realize Alexander had been performing inhumane experiments on animals in order to extract vitae, a substance he saw as essential for some sort of mystical ritual. He is also shown to be ruthless, even going as far as to poison and kill his own men to prevent them from telling the outside world what he had been doing inside the castle. Daniel also experiences flashback visions of him and Alexander talking to one another, presumably on their way to the Inner Sanctum. Daniel continues his journey down into the depths of the castle through the use of Alexander's elevator, which takes him down into the underground Prison (disambiguation) area of the castle.
Further diary entries show that despite being haunted by nightmares every night, Daniel was able to reassemble the Orb after waking from a nightmare. The object fitted together without any adhesive and sat in Daniel's drawing room in a complete form. Daniel went to Herbert's university to get some answers about the relic, and saw Professor Taylor to find out more. He learned that the Orbs appeared to have left a mark on English culture, even inspiring royal symbology. The Orbs had, supposedly, originally been wielded by priests. On his way out, he overheard a conversation from which he learned that William Smith had been killed only a fortnight after Daniel spoke to him. Through more flashbacks, Daniel learns he went to see Dr. Tate about his nightmares, but was not able to get a diagnosis. Days later, both Professor Taylor and Dr. Tate were killed in horrific ways, and this convinced Daniel that he was somehow to blame for their deaths. Thinking he would be next, Daniel tried contacting many names in Herbert's address book and received a cryptic response from a baron in Prussia who claimed he could protect him from some unknown force. The letter was signed 'Alexander' and urged Daniel to come to Brennenburg Castle immediately.
Once at the castle, Daniel began to assist Alexander in various tasks designed to keep the living nightmare away from him. Revealed to be a Guardian of the Orb, the "Shadow" would not take long to arrive, despite being described as sluggish. During this time, Daniel also allowed Alexander to use his Orb in their attempted rituals to banish the Shadow later on. On a tour of the castle, Alexander revealed not only Brennenburg's function as a prison, but also that the inmates would be used in arcane rituals needed to save Daniel. The Shadow began to draw even closer, until finally, the partial failure of a ritual allowed it into the castle. Panicking, Daniel told Alexander he would do whatever it took to survive and unwittingly played right into the baron's hands.
Back in the current timeline, close to the Inner Sanctum, Daniel meets an old frail man chained to the wall near the castle's laboratory. The man is Agrippa, a friend of Alexander's, who helped him gain knowledge of the Orb's powers many years ago. His consciousness is now trapped in a dead husk so that Alexander may use him as a source of information. Agrippa asks Daniel to create a concoction to set him free from his body and stop Alexander from using the Orbs. Through finding the ingredients and the things needed to carry on, Daniel finds himself in a part of the castle littered with torture rooms and bodily remains. Through flashbacks and more diary entries, it becomes clear why Daniel chose to lose his memories at the beginning of the game.
Alexander began telling Daniel about different methods of extracting vitae from the prisoners down in the castle depths, claiming the process would keep the Shadow away from him. Daniel followed him without question through his increasing desperation and helped to perform gruesome rituals of killing the prisoners through various methods of torture, thinking that he would save himself through the process. Using such items as an Iron Maiden and a brass bull, Daniel ended up becoming the very thing he was killing and even went as far as to kidnap local villagers and children from outside the castle to use for the rituals. Consumed by grief, regret, and disgust at his actions, Daniel drank a memory-destroying Amnesia tonic to have a fresh start and fix what he had done. He realised that Alexander had manipulated him in order to obtain the Orb to achieve his goal and swore that the baron would die for his actions, leading to the events at the start of the game.
As he progresses, Daniel is attacked by a horde of creatures and locked up in one of the castle prison cells. He hears Alexander speaking to him telepathically, thanking him for his role in everything and for keeping the Shadow away from the baron. At this point, it is possible to end the game — Alexander asks Daniel to wait in the cell and let the shadow consume him, and it is possible to do just that. The cell will fill with the fleshy substance, Daniel will hear the voices of the people he's tortured, and then the shadow will kill him. If Daniel manages to escape, he will be able to return to the laboratory and find that the Shadow's influence has grown over absolutely everything. Agrippa asks Daniel for the potion. If the player has found the ingredients, then the potion can be made in the lab and fed to Agrippa. The old man then asks that his head to be cut off and taken with Daniel to stop Alexander and get into a "portal" before he does. If the player did not find the ingredients, then Daniel enters the Inner Sanctum alone. He uses the power of his own Orb to open the way and goes to complete his objective.
Inside the massive chamber, Alexander awaits on a raised platform in front of one of the Orbs, engulfed in a blue glow. Surrounding the Orb are three fragile pillars that are feeding blue-hued energy to it in order to complete the ritual. Alexander thanks Daniel once again and rants about how he can finally return "home" once again. Three possible endings to the game can happen at this point.
- If the player chooses to knock over the pillars, then the ritual fails. Alexander screams as his body disintegrates, and Daniel leaves the chamber. The Shadow's influence is assumed to be gone through his redeeming actions, and he leaves Brennenburg Castle behind with a guilt-free conscience. If the players wishes to achieve this ending, after Alexander finished his speech, they have two and half minutes to do it.
- If the player does nothing at first, the portal Alexander wants to open appears and he begins to float towards it, leaving Daniel to face the Shadow alone. If the player uses Agrippa's head on the portal, then the ritual will be completed before Alexander can get through, resulting in his death. Daniel is seemingly killed by the Shadow but wakes up in darkness with small blue lights visible in the distance. The voice of Agrippa assures him everything is going to be all right and the game ends. Note that if Daniel has Agrippa's head, the player has one minute to decide the outcome, as it can still end in three ways depending on player's action.
- If the player does nothing at all, then the portal opens and Alexander enters into it in a blue flash. With nothing holding the Shadow back, the fleshy substance consumes the Inner Sanctum and kills Daniel slowly, and voices of his victims can be heard begging for mercy. The screen fades to black. The game ends with Alexander thanking Daniel and saying that his sacrifice will not be forgotten.
- The player can achieve a lesser known fourth ending if he remains in the cell after being captured by the servants. Eventually, the shadow reaches his cell and he is killed in the same style, and receives the same thanks from Alexander. The player has to wait about twenty minutes for that to happen, and the Shadow will slowly engulf the cell with its fleshy substance until it kills Daniel, and once he hears the begging from his formerly tortured victims, it will be too late to escape the cell.
|PC Gamer (UK)||88%|
Amnesia: The Dark Descent received very positive critical reception upon release, with most of the praise going towards the atmosphere, story and horror elements. IGN gave the game an 8.5/10, calling it an "unforgettable survival-horror experience", with much of the praise going to the horror, presentation, and sound, though criticizing the low replay value. Adam Biessener of Gameinformer said that "Amnesia shows us by example that gaming has entirely new realms to explore," and gave the game a 9.25/10. John Walker of Rock, Paper, Shotgun went so far as to say "I think it's safe to say that Amnesia is the most successfully frightening game to have ever been made.
PC Gamer gave the game an 88% rating, and said that the game was "(...) rich in atmosphere and big on scares", and that it went "where other survival-horror games (feared) to tread". On Adventure Gamer, the game was given a 4.5/5, with praise going to the gameplay, graphics, and sound design; saying it "all coalesced into a perfectly paced, unforgettably terrifying experience". Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, host of Escapist Magazine's Zero Punctuation, also gave the game a positive review, saying that it had good pacing, and that it "knows that a monster stays more scary the less you see of it". He adds that he "wouldn't call Amnesia a "great game", commenting on the uninspired and repetitive nature of the level design and monster encounters. Croshaw listed Amnesia as number 4 in his Top 5 Games of 2010 list.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent was published by Frictional Games through digital download services such as their own digital store, Steam, Gamer's Gate, Gamefly, Desura and Impulse Driven. The game is also available on the OnLive service, making the game playable on numerous systems including personal computers and the OnLive gaming system. It is also possible to purchase DRM-Free versions of the game from Humble Bundle or GOG.
The Dark Descent also saw a retail release, published by THQ in North America and by 1C Company in Russia and Eastern Europe.
It was also released as part of the Amnesia: Collection, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
The official soundtrack for The Dark Descent was composed by Mikko Tarmia. It features 19 tracks and is available for purchase at Frictional Games' digital store. The soundtrack can be downloaded for free for anyone who pre-ordered the game from the store.
In version 1.2 of The Dark Descent was included a collection of short stories titled Remember - Amnesia The Dark Descent. It is written by Mikael Hedberg and illustrated by Rasmus Gunnarsson and Jonas Steinick. The stories themselves expand upon several parts of the backstory of The Dark Descent.
On April 12, 2011 Frictional Games released a free add-on for owners of the steam version of The Dark Descent, titled Amnesia: Justine. The add-on was later included as an update for all versions of the game, as part of the v1. 2 update.
The game's Locations are organized such that some are organized around Hubs, while others connect linearly. The four Hubs (Entrance Hall, Back Hall, Cistern Entrance, and Nave) feature puzzles that Daniel must solve before he is able to proceed further into the game. The learning curve is gradual, with early rooms safe and hazards introduced gradually as the game proceeds: first Daniel gets sightings of Grunts, then he has deadly encounters with Kaernks, then Grunts, then Brutes.
As far as monsters are concerned, the Locations connecting between Hubs (such as the Cellar Archives, Prison, and Sewer) are the most hazardous. The Hubs and some of the attached rooms (including the main "puzzle rooms" in particular, such as the Laboratory, Machine Room, and Control Room) are entirely free of monsters, although some other rooms attached to Hubs are very dark, scary, and usually hazardous (Wine Cellar, Storage, Morgue, Choir). The Shadow gradually consumes the Hubs (except for the Cistern Entrance) as Daniel comes closer to solving how to proceed.
- Entrance Hall (Hub)
- Back Hall (Hub)
- Cistern Entrance (Hub)
- Nave (Hub)
- The game was initially called Unknown, and was different to the final Amnesia, for example, the player could choose how to progress in the game, and it featured combat, like using bows and arrows, using a rare flint lock gun and throwing alchemy bottles (like grenades but with different effects). Also, the player started in a "Hub" which is a safe haven where you could save the game and protect from the monsters.
- In an early gameplay preview of Unknown, the only shown enemy is the same enemy used Penumbra: Black Plague (Tuurngait Infected). It has a similar appearance, traits and dialog as in Penumbra: however, it was replaced with the Servant Grunts along with the game's official release. The Tuurngait is most likely a placeholder for the Grunt.
- The game's story is heavily influenced by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, as they share similar themes of isolation, cosmicism, insanity, and stellar beings too colossal for comprehension by the human mind.
- August 19, the day the game takes place, is also the birthday of Daniel's voice actor Richard Topping.
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- Frictional Games (@frictionalgames). "Amnesia: Rebirth is a harrowing journey through desolation and despair, exploring the limits of human resilience.
Coming out on October 20th for PS4 and PC.
https://youtu.be/NST1KLFwNnI " 15 Sep. 2020. Retrieved 20 September 2020. Tweet.
- In-game notes, diary entries, and flashbacks
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- Wot I Think: Amnesia – The Dark Descent. Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
- Amnesia: The Dark Descent - Zero Punctuation. Escapist Magazine. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
- AMNESIA: JUSTINE - NOW AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE (Version 1.2)
-  Frictional Games official YouTube channel