Amnesia: Rebirth was provided to us by Frictional Games for the purpose of review. Significant spoilers ahead for Amnesia: Rebirth.
Amnesia: Rebirth was my first proper introduction to the Amnesia franchise. I’m not sure exactly what my expectations were going in.
But as a well-established franchise, I definitely expected to play a well-polished and fun game with plenty of good scares along the way.
But honestly I’m disappointed. I had hoped for an intense and atmospheric experience. Instead, I got a walking simulator with lacklustre story and gameplay.
We begin, as many horror games tend to, with a plane crash. This is where we’re first introduced to the cast of characters, including our husband Salim. This is before they disappear into the depths of your memories until further notice.
Here we meet the main character, Tasi, who may not be completely sane.
After the plane crashes you awake alone in the wreckage and left to wander the desert. The wandering is continuously interrupted by flashbacks explaining who you are. For me, this is one of my biggest problems with the game.
The story does not feel organic. Intrusive flashbacks tell the tale of the entire plot which ruin the moments of intensity and momentum of the game.
Invasive flashbacks, that you can’t even interact with, tell you all the characters motives and personality.
Each loading screen acts as a little titbit of lore which to me seems like even more of an insult. If the developers can fit the lore to a loading screen, was it even significant enough to warrant being there at all?
In the first dungeon, we find that Tasi’s husband Salim is dead. It is at this point where Tasi decides to keep pushing on so she can return to her daughter, Alys. Tasi also remembers that she is pregnant with another child and that she has a device which allows her to travel through rifts that appear in the world.
Both Tasi’s pregnancy and the concept of rifts play together hand in hand.
We can discover fairly early on that travelling through the rifts distorts the passage of time. After every dungeon that takes place in the rift world, Tasi’s pregnancy continues to develop.
The unborn baby, which Tasi names Amari, is essentially an exposition device.
The game continuously prompts you to stroke your belly, which reduces your fear levels and prompts Tasi to say something. It could be about the situation she’s currently in, something about her other daughter Alys, or something about her husband.
In one of the later dungeons, we learn that Alys passed away due to a degenerative sickness. It is in this dungeon where we truly learn the point of the entire game unveiling the mystery behind the unusual goings-on.
After the initial crash, Tasi and the rest of the group travelled to a fortress. There they met a goddess who offered them safety, in return for Tasi’s unborn child. Tasi refuses hence the goddess curses the group to become the same ghouls which follow us throughout most of the game.
As the game comes to its climax, we manage to reunite with some of the remaining group members, Dr. Metzier and Yasmin. Yasmin chases a now in labour Tasi, who is momentarily saved by Dr. Metzier.
Dr Metzier helps her to deliver Amari only to steal the new-born in an attempt to offer her to the same goddess who cursed the group.
In your attempt to stop him you are left with a difficult choice. There are three different endings here but ultimately you either give up or keep your baby.
I actually like the concept of this story. I think that it is ultimately incredibly sad. However the medium used to tell this story takes away a lot of the emotional impact of the loss Tasi experiences. By the time we learn the true circumstances of the pregnancy, the player is no longer inclined to care.
Having the story thrust at us constantly through flashbacks and loading screens does not make for a very interactive experience. It felt like someone was reading a story to me.
Amnesia: Rebirth also has a huge tension problem. In the first dungeon, we see the ghouls for the first time. They are fast, they are ugly and in the first few encounters, they are actually quite scary.
However, this fear wore off very quickly after running into a few of them and “dying”. You don’t die in Amnesia: Rebirth. If an enemy gets ahold of you, you can attempt to struggle.
If this fails you watch as Tasi fights to not become one of the ghouls as she runs back to the spawn point. There are no real consequences for dying. In some situations, it actually seemed to help progress the game.
This is the same for every enemy in the game. If you die, you return nicely back to the moment before you encountered it.
No item loss. No sanity drop. Just a straight reset.
Coupled with the continuous interruptions from the flashbacks, this makes the tension in the game rather weak. There’s no pressure to do well.
Regardless of how good you are you’ll get to the end of the story. There’s no sense of urgency or danger at all.
Perhaps the most frustrating parts of the game for me are the puzzles you have to face in every dungeon. I spent most of the time walking around, picking up matches and lighting torches until I eventually figured out what to do.
During the puzzles, the player has to work out the story for themselves as the game is set on a largely linear path. Whilst in principle this isn’t a bad idea, in practice Amnesia: Rebirth does this very poorly.
It’s one thing being set up to complete a difficult puzzle. It’s another being left entirely alone to figure out something that should be obvious, but isn’t.
For one situation, I thought I had to find a key to unlock a locked door. Instead, I’d be expected to repair an elevator to get to the floor above. Then fix and roll a cannon into the ceiling, allowing you to drop into the room below.
This would have been a satisfying puzzle if there had only been some suggestion that the door was not the answer. Instead, it became a frustrating slog wondering what the hell to do until you start randomly hitting things to see what happens in the hope you get it right.
The puzzles in Amnesia: Rebirth all seem to hold this same idea which made most of the game incredibly frustrating.
You have to solve every puzzle completely alone with not even a nudge from letters, or Tasi thinking out loud. This does not make for a fun or intuitive puzzle. It makes the game unnecessarily frustrating to anyone playing through it for the first time.
Amnesia: Rebirth isn’t a terrible game. It’s visually impressive, the story makes sense and it functions as it should. But I completely understand why long term fans of the Amnesia franchise might be upset.
To me, Amnesia: Rebirth just feels dull.
You walk and the game happens to you and once the game is over, there’s no desire to play again. There’s no satisfaction of finishing a good story because there was no tension building or stakes throughout the entire game.
I’m definitely glad I played the game, but I don’t think I’d be returning to it anytime soon. Amnesia: Rebirth is available now on Steam for £23.79.