Amnesia: Rebirth Review – The Fine Line Between Fear and Frustration

After archaeologist Tasi Trianon’s plane crashes in the Algerian desert, she sets out on a journey through the sweltering sands in search of help. However, Tasi quickly discovers that there are holes in his memory. As she slowly uncovers the remains of her party mate, she reassembles pieces of her fragmented past. Tasi’s repressed memories are almost as gruesome as the grisly creatures that now stalk her from the shadows. Tasi’s journey is one of the most intense experiences I have had in a long time. Unfortunately, the puzzle design of Amnesia: Rebirth is just as terrifying. Just like in Amnesia: The Dark Descent, light is your best tool. As you help Tasi find safety, you walk through desert caves, ancient burial graves, and mysterious archaeological sites. Light bounces around disturbingly bizarre rock formations and strange creatures crawl inside the walls, which never fails to make my spine shiver. Almost all of the surroundings are dimly lit, so your little lantern and any amount of matches you collect from the surroundings are a constant comfort. As you move through the darkness, Tasi’s fear level increases. As they build, she begins to hear whispers in the dark. These voices are entirely fabricated, but it’s still hard not to run into the light. When Tasi’s fear gets out of hand, she begins to see flashes of grotesque images, which resemble cheap jump panics. Even so, they are incredibly effective in making the heart beat faster. Whether I’m exploring an abandoned oasis town or sneaking past a group of sleeping monsters, Amnesia: Rebirth continually produces one thrilling streak after the next. It doesn’t help that Tasi has no way to fight back; when you see an enemy, your two choices are run or hide. This helplessness sent my own levels of fear through the roof. Praise to Amnesia: Rebirth as a horror experience is easy. As a game, however, it fails in many areas. One of the biggest problems is its puzzles, which shake up the beat and reset the tension, though they falter as standalone diversions. As I explored the world of Amnesia: Rebirth, the game was often not clear on my goals or what steps to take to progress. For example, a puzzle asks you to attach the wheels to a cannon, then push it up a ramp to break through rotten ground. The game never clearly communicated that goal, so I spent almost an hour exploring a completely different floor of the building. The environments are also so dark and maze-like that you can easily miss your mark, even when you know what you are looking for. I regularly walked through environments four or five times before finding everything I needed to progress. Feeling trapped and wondering if the game had bothered me filled me with almost as much anxiety as the creatures chasing me. Amnesia: Rebirth’s frustrating puzzles undermined his horror, but strangely, his encounters with monsters, too. Amnesia: Rebirth features several otherworldly creatures stalking Tasi through a series of damp caverns, and these creatures creep through the shadows in increasingly baffling ways. But the more I progressed in the story, the more I felt that these monstrosities were firing their shots. Enemies often turn away from your position at the last moment, are incredibly easy to outrun, and quickly lose interest in you. Even when you get caught, the repercussions are not strong; Tasi does battle with the creatures, then you see a cutscene of her coming back to a safe space, which is usually a few rooms away. There are no game screens, and Tasi apparently cannot die. It’s good from a convenience standpoint, but it takes some teeth out of the horror. Even after feeling like I was seeing behind the curtain and knowing how the machinery worked, I continued to timidly walk through the world of Amnesia: Rebirth, which is a testament to the superb environmental design and sound work of Frictional Games. The Tasi Trianon journey is a surprisingly emotional roller coaster, and I’m glad I saw this story until the end. The cave full of horrible monsters that I could deal with, but I never want to see these maddening puzzles again.

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