Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at

Right on the heels of playing Amnesia: The Dark Descent I jumped into Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. Despite the fact that it was developed by a different group and has a completely different setting, I was expecting to have a very similar experience. While the beginning was very similar, as the game progressed it diverged in many ways, and not all of them were bad.

Unlike the first game, the player character has a very specific goal from the beginning: find his children. At first I thought that he hadn't lost all of his memories, but as the story progressed it became clear that he didn't know how the machinery around him worked, even though he was clearly the one who had built it.

Lighting is very important, and just like the original you get a lantern to light your way. However, this lantern never runs out of juice, and spending time in the darkness doesn't affect your character's sanity. I found this very odd, because it was one of the main sources of tension and fear in the first game. As it turns out, A Machine for Pigs is much more about the story it has to tell than it is about scaring your pants off.

The story starts off slowly, when the game is still at its scariest. It then builds into an arch that I don't want to say anything about because it would be very easy to spoil and it really is the strong point of the game.

The themes surprisingly focused heavily on the class struggle of the late 1800s, and utilized pigs as the metaphors and imagery for almost everything. In a way it reminds me of the social commentary that Bioshock gave, but a much smaller taste.

The gameplay was a lot simpler than the first game. Most of the tasks that I had to complete wouldn't even count as puzzles, they were that straightforward. It probably helped that most objects that were interactable were puzzle elements. For example, I once found a candle that I could pick up; suspecting that there was a puzzle coming up that required it, I brought it with me. I was right. A lot of the drawers and doors had these huge visible locks on them that clearly meant "You cannot open this, there is nothing useful inside, and the developers don't want you wasting all of your time opening tons of drawers because there isn't any health or sanity for you to worry about. Just move along and continue the story we have crafted for you."

One of the creepiest things in the game were these colorful pigmasks. They would show up in areas that I had already explored, and occasionally disappear again while I wasn't looking. It gave me the sensation that I was being watched. I also suspect that they sometimes changed the map around me, similar to Antichamber but much less obvious. Or maybe I just got myself lost.

Oddly, there were several things in the game that reminded me of Portal 2. In many areas there were large maps of the complex with the area I was in highlighted so I could tell how close to my goal I was.

There was also this one walkway that would have fit right in among the older parts of Aperture Science.

I love it when games acknowledge the silly things they make us do.

A Machine for Pigs was a very well-made narrative, and it moved me deeply. However, it was extremely short at 4.5 hours long. I would price this game at $10, so wait until it goes on sale.