Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs

September 20, 2013

Adam: If there’s one game aside from Slender which is most responsible for the current slew of idiots recording themselves shrieking for our ‘entertainment’ all over YouTube, then it’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent. And, aside from that rather unfortunate side-effect, it was one of the most truly terrifying and memorable horror experiences of the last decade. The Amnesia brand has now become an anthology, with DLC Justine showing an unrelated-yet-equally-pants-upsetting storyline, and now Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs as a separate release. Developed by The Chinese Room, it’s not quite a sequel, either in terms of story or gameplay – in fact, how well it adheres to the previous formula is up for debate. It has the same aim, however, which is to build a gothic horror capable of keeping you from walking normally with the lights out in your home for weeks. Both Bev and myself played through this surprisingly short story – so what did you think?


Bev: Describing it as a ‘gothic horror’ is spot-on, Adam. Much like the first Amnesia, A Machine For Pigs sees your character, Mandus, waking up in a gloomy and seemingly deserted mansion. Through the halls, his young children beckon and call, though it’s soon apparent their playfulness is marked by something more sinister. Mandus begins his journey to rescue his children, making his way through secret passages, factory rooms and down below the streets of London. The the late 19th century setting lends itself perfectly to the industrial terrors of most of the game. But while tacking the Amnesia name onto this game certainly heightens expectations, but it soon becomes apparent that A Machine for Pigs is a different beast. It’s much more story-driven, with only a few of the gameplay elements present in the original game making it over. Adam, how did you feel about this?

Adam: For better or worse, the game is a different deformed beast to its predecessor. The atmosphere is still dripping with foreboding fear and seems perpetually on the edge of madness, but this is all done through the game’s audio-visual presentation. The gameplay side of things is where things fall down a bit. The game is more interactive than Dear Esther, but it lacks most of the features of The Dark Descent. Largely centered around exploration and some mild puzzle solving, there are only a handful of monster encounters throughout the game, and you’ll never have to worry about your insanity meter running out, or your lamp running out of fuel. The monsters, while more than able to spot you from a fair distance, can always be outrun easily, and once you realise this, the horror aspect of the game does start to diminish.


Bev: As Adam said, the ‘puzzles’ you need to solve are very basic and often involve simply looking around the area to see what can be interacted with and then flicking a switch or two. While the set pieces are nice and inspire exploration, they are very constrained to a set path. Players may be thankful for this however as despite the lack of resource management and inability to outrun enemies that made the original Amnesia so terrifying, A Machine For Pigs does a damn good job of building suspense. Regenerating health or not, you’ll still be extra careful while sneaking through rooms and think twice before opening doors and fiddling with buttons. The first half of the game is especially nerve-wracking as the enemies make very brief and inexplicit appearances, causing you to question how horrifying they may be. Likewise, the notes and flashbacks that punctuate the experience are poetic, disturbing and leave a lingering sense of foreboding. If anything, what A Machine For Pigs sets in stone is that The Chinese Room are excellent at writing and building rich worlds. Despite this, the core narrative is more than a little cliche; players get no prizes for guessing the twist considering this is a game titled Amnesia.


Adam: A Machine for Pigs really does what it says on the tin. You will see A Machine, and it is for Pigs. Most of the game takes place in and around this Machine for Pigs. Of course, in the narrative this is also a metaphor of great importance, but Bev is right in saying there just aren’t really any surprises to this game. Even the monsters aren’t really that terrifying visually, and no prizes for guessing what shape they take in this title, either. It feels like a reasonably good Lovecraftian short story. Nothing groundbreaking, nothing incredibly memorable, but creepy and interesting while it lasts.

Bev: A Machine For Pigs is a solid effort from The Chinese Room. Although its shallow gameplay will draw unfavourable comparisons with The Dark Descent, its deeper narrative differences make it well worth the short playthrough. Overall, I quite enjoyed Mandus’ adventure into the London underbelly – not a bad little adventure and a worthy one to pick up if you’re up for a bit of industrial terror.


Terrifying atmosphere | Masterfully crafted world


Cliche core story | Game mechanics diminish horror aspects

Overall Score: