Amnesia: Rebirth Review – An Identity-Less New Direction
In 2010 developers Frictional Games released the indie horror title Amnesia: The Dark Descent which went on to become both a critical and commercial success. This success caused fans of the series to eagerly await a new entry to the series. 10 years later Frictional Games released a not-quite-a-sequel in the form of Amnesia: Rebirth. This 2020 title takes the Amnesia formula and attempted to iterate on it for the modern gaming landscape. Does this new entry in the Amnesia series work? Here’s our Amnesia: Rebirth review.
A Story that Failed to Deliver
In Amnesia: Rebirth players take on the role of Tasi Trianon who wakes up in the harsh desert of Algeria after her plane crashes. Following the crash Tasi is separated from other members of her expedition including her husband. This journey to reunite is the major motivating factor for Tasi as she travels across desolate landscapes full of terrifying monsters and even more terrifying visions.
I’ve attempted to keep my description of the Amnesia: Rebirth story as vague as possible as this is largely the main selling point of the game. As you travel across the different locales in the game you encounter threads of story in the form of collectibles such as notes and photos scattered throughout each area. Each interaction with these items triggers some sort of dialogue or flashback out of Tasi who is far more vocal than the main protagonist of Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
This constant flow of exposition, specifically through how vocal Tasi is, may work for some, but did little for me as I played the game. Every quip or comment from Tasi lessened the horror/suspense elements of the game and made me feel like a passive observer more than being in her shoes as it were. This constant stream of chatter becomes even more prevalent as you advance the story and encounter a certain in-game revelation and mechanic.
Story building and chatter aside I found the game’s ending to be underwhelming. Everything is built around the main character of Tasi and discovering more about her story. Many of the side characters feel shallow and uninteresting making their inclusion in the game feel shallow. If you don’t get attached or find Tasi’s story uninteresting, as I did, the ending falls flat even across all available ending options.
Walking, Running, and Puzzling
In each area of the game your goal is to get from the entrance to the exit. As walk through each level you will search for light sources to avoid going insane from being in the dark for too long. If you do go insane images flash on the screen in an effort to illicit a jump-scare out of you. This insanity mechanic while promising, came off as slightly gimmicky and simplistic. Besides seeing these flashing images there was little to no-other noticeable impacts of going insane on other aspects of gameplay.
When not dealing with insanity you will encounter a handful of monsters throughout the course of your playthrough. The appearance of these monsters offer a brief little infusion of fear, but that quickly fades when your realize they pose no potential threat to you besides sending you back a room or two if they catch you. There are a few chase sequences with these monsters that are fun to complete, but that’s about the only impact they have on gameplay.
Besides walking/running through levels you will spend some time solving various progress-halting puzzles. These puzzles are easily my favorite aspect of the game as they are both complex and simple at the same time. I never felt mentally stretched of frustrated as I attempted to figure out a puzzles solution, but never spent a huge chunk of time getting to the solution either. This balance worked really well for me and is a credit to Frictional Games ability to craft good puzzles.
The final aspect of gameplay I want to bring up is pacing. Like the story there is a strange pacing to how gameplay is designed. You will find rather quickly levels are broken up into scary and peaceful. Each time you complete a peaceful level it is guaranteed you will have a scary level next and vice versa. This design choice lowers the horror-building of the game as you basically know when you are safe or not.
Ambiance, Graphics, and Other Thoughts
Before rendering judgement I want to touch on a few things. First the game’s ambiance is very good. There are creepy-sounds and a haunting soundtrack that underscores much of the game. This is to be expected from Frictional Games and is delivered in spades here.
The second aspect is graphics. Design wise much of the areas look really good, but the graphics themselves look slightly muddy on closer inspection of assets. This dated style is especially apparent when character models are on screen or in Tasi’s shadows. There are a few graphical options to adjust, but not nearly enough especially on PC.
The final aspect I want to touch on is bugs. Overall the game ran and performed well for me. With that said there are a few in-game issues specifically with terrain traversal that led to getting stuck and needing to reload. There are also reports of soft-locks and other issues being experienced so keep that in mind if you are planning to pick this up.
Amnesia: Rebirth is an interesting title to review as it appears to suffer from a sort of identity crisis. From an experience perspective it falls closer to the design ethos of more recent titles made by Frictional Games like Soma. This is not a bad thing, but it fails to deliver what I would call a classic Amnesia experience. During my playthrough I found everything from the story to even the gameplay feels like it would have benefited from being its own IP instead of trying to loosely tie back to a 10-year old, cult- classic, indie-darling.