Being scared by something is about as subjective as finding something funny. That makes producing a game that is actually scary. Even more demanding is making something scary that’s still actually compelling from a gameplay perspective. With this in mind, I was honestly not optimistic going into Amnesia: The Bunker, following the last game in the series being something of a disappointment on all fronts. Suffice it to say I was pleasantly surprised and unpleasantly terrified out of my wits.
While we’ve got you here, you might also be interested in checking out our review of Amnesia: Rebirth to see where we’re coming from in this review.
Amnesia: The Bunker Review
Amnesia: The Bunker is a WW1-era first-person survival horror game from Frictional Games, the people behind Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and Amnesia: Rebirth. Once again, your control a character with a pretty severe bought of amnesia (go figure) and have to piece things together after the fact. You awaken in a dilapidated bunker in the dark, and after a brief conversation with the only other human being available, you discover that you’re locked in here with some kind of monster and will have to get your hands on some explosives to get your way back out again.
Once again, the story is based around the title of the series, surprising no one. I would say that the storyline this time is a little more compelling though. It’s pretty clear from the outset that the officers were the ones who came up with the idea of sealing the entrance with explosives, trapping the rank-and-file into the bunker forever. This does add a bit of a social power dynamic to the backstory and gives you a target for your disdain as you discover just how bad things have been in the bunker since that door was sealed.
No, But It's Actually Scary This Time
I think the most important note to make here after the last game is that this one is definitely scary, and it’s mostly because it lets you scare yourself more than trying to scare you directly. You’re trapped in a bunker with a monster who hates light, but you have limited fuel to power the generator. Eventually, you’re going to need to get out into the bunker to make progress, but the constant tight and claustrophobic hallways and rooms make it so you have no idea when death will come for you around the next corner.
Amnesia: The Bunker has a similar level of tension to games like Five Nights at Freddy's (stick with me reader) but with the added benefit of actually being able to do something when you’re scared other than closing the game. You can run away; you can try and blow your enemy up with a random grenade (FYI, this technique works, but boy, does it get upset with you), or you can crawl under a bed and whimper until it goes away. This philosophy has also extended into pretty much every aspect of the gameplay as well, making this infinitely more playable (and replayable) compared with any previous game in the series.
Amnesia: The Bunker - Non-Linear Gameplay
Much like the story, the gameplay this time around has gone for a non-linear approach. You have a single goal: escape the bunker, and you can accomplish it in pretty much any way that you’d like. Each obstacle will have multiple solutions, and they all have their own drawbacks. If you need to get through a door, you can probably blow it open with explosives, but you can also be sure that the monster will hear that. Similarly, while you can sneak into a certain area, you might find yourself trapped by the monsters if you only have one entrance or exit to use.
Choosing between light and darkness, or silence and speed, is also a big part of The Bunker’s whole shtick. The monster hates the light, and you can pretty much explore freely while the lights are turned on. The issue is that the bunker runs on a gasoline generator, and you need to supply fuel to keep those lights on. Other than that, your main light source is a hand-cranked torch, and since it was made for WW1, you can be sure it’s inefficient and also noisy as hell. So you can use up your fuel if you like, but once it runs out, having light to see by also means making enough noise to attract the monster's attention in many cases.
The "Locked in a Cupboard Wetting Myself" Experience.
And so, for all of these reasons listed above, I found myself locked in a tiny room, cowering and trying to mentally pull myself together enough to step out into the darkness. I had elected to use the tactic of saving up all my fuel so I could have the lights on for an extended period. So here’s the scene: Me sprinting full-tilt to an objective, completing it, then sprinting back to the safe room to save and plan my next move. This might sound mental, but honestly, I’ve not had this much fun with a horror game in a while, and mostly because the game put me in a scary situation, then gave me the tools to scare the crap out of myself.
Amnesia: The Bunker just feels like the creators put so much effort into the details of the game. Everything is made as immersive as possible. One example is your health bar. Your health is represented by how much blood you have on your hands when you open the menu, and UI elements have been minimized across the board. Not only have these changes made the game more immersive, making it scarier, but they also increase tension because you have to work around the lack of a UI whenever you’re completing a particular objective.
Overall, Amnesia: The Bunker feels like a stunning return to form for Frictional Game. The story is intriguing and mysterious, the bunker itself is dark and terrifying, and the non-linear gameplay structure gives it endless replay value. While it does have some reliance on horror-game tropes (light is safe, noise is bad, etc) it has weaved all of these mechanics together into a perfect blend that will likely keep horror gamers happy for a long time. That’s assuming they can stop pissing themselves long enough to actually finish the game.
Amnesia: The Bunker was reviewed on PC with a code provided by the developers over the course of 8 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during process of review.
- Genuinely scary and immersive
- Intriguing storyline to discover
- Non-linear gameplay gives you plenty of freedom
- Rats keep phasing through the cupboards I'm hiding in