Few fears grip human consciousness tenaciously like uncertainty does, where self-assured deep breaths are all that stands between you and a downward spiral. Amnesia: Rebirth instilled in me similar anguishes – either by unceremoniously ripping out sources of light that keep her oppressive darkness at bay, or by demonically revealing the monsters lurking within. This first-person fear festival from developer Frictional Games made me sweat merrily for most of its tense seven-hour campaign, and it’s a nightmare I won’t soon forget. Amnesia: Rebirth opens with a thunderous plane crash in the middle of the Algerian Sahara Desert. You play as Tasi Trianon, a passenger who wakes up alone in the middle of the wreckage. She has no recollection of what happened to her colleagues or why their anthropological expedition went to hell. Worse yet, a mysterious disease runs through her veins, causing intermittent bouts of rampant rage. Eager to make sure that she didn’t end up being an easy meal for the vultures circling above, I headed to a nearby cave entrance thinking it was safe. Although swapping the vast, scorching desert heat for a claustrophobic, shady cave was, in truth, Amnesia: Rebirth cleverly teasing how I was soon going to miss that light. Inside was an abandoned camp, with shadows engulfing the back of the cave. If I tried to walk in it, serpentine tendrils crept into Tasi’s vision, as insect-like crackling noises began to come out of my headphones – a chilling introduction to the fear system. Staying close to light sources is a must as darkness will chip away at your fear level otherwise, eventually leading to a mild state of failure. Casually advancing into the lightless abyss inevitably results in Tasi slowly succumbing to his rage while bouncing off the walls in a fit. Luckily, you’ll regain control soon after, and there are warning signs that you should still pack incandescent products. Flashes of eldritch monoliths and contorted bodies on the screen (thanks to his diminishing courage) usually signaled that I had to quickly overtake and scour an area for supplies before continuing. This first encounter left my arms covered with goosebumps, smiling nervously at how unsettling it all was. Darkness is an oppressive foe on its own in Amnesia: Rebirth, which is familiar territory to anyone who has braved the halls of Brennenburg Castle in Amnesia: The Dark Descent. But this time, there are several ways to light your way. The dark side By scrupulously selecting each makeshift hovel of this first camp, I came across matches. These valuable tools are new to the series and essential for controlling your fear level. After all, it’s much easier to learn about spooky underground tunnels after a sparked match pierces the black veil like a hot knife through butter. It’s quite satisfying to see their stems gnaw back as the flames move towards Tasi’s fingers. A steady hand is essential, however, as any reflex movement will result in a draw. Since they have a unique use, each match is valuable. Armed with these miniature torches, I walked with trepidation in the dark depths. Be careful to light wall keys and bonfires along the way without panicking when a match is burnt out. However, keeping a cool head is easier said than done. The ever-looming threat posed by darkness makes it seem like you’re still in the sights of a disembodied malevolence, eager to pull the trigger when your guard is down. It’s scary but exhilarating. For example, while I was leaning in a low-roofed crypt, water droplets from the ceiling sprayed my last match. Then those dead, cold tendrils crept into the view, making me wince and waddle as fast as I could towards the nearest bonfire. This is the bet posed by matches: you will find them everywhere, but their protection is ephemeral. This fleeting nature is why I was delighted to see a return of a favorite brass tool from the series: the lantern. It’s satisfying to watch matches tie back as the flames shoot up to Tasi’s fingers. “With each reluctant step taken in this underground cave system, I was increasingly afraid that matches would be my only line of defense. Then the lantern rose. This oil burner still works wonders for managing your fear level, but its usefulness is totally different when exploring. The Lantern is a steadfast moving spotlight, where nervous movements or sprints pose no danger to its flame – a perfect complement to the fickle but abundant nature of matches. You will trade between the two despite the need to get some oil. So the lantern is not a replacement, just another option in your toolbox. After dusting off my lantern, the way forward was obvious. As tense as this opening section of the cave is, it ends up overwhelming its welcome. There weren’t any puzzles or beasty run-ins throughout the section, just a lot of walking in and out, which got tedious after almost an hour. However, everything changes when you reach the fort. Fright or Flight Amnesia: Rebirth holds nothing back in the military fort, testing both your noggin and your running shoes in the best way. For example, a massive locked door represents the inevitable exit, the key long thrown away. Plopped in the middle of the courtyard, however, is an abandoned tank with a working cannon – practically begging to knock the door off its hinges. But rather than just finding ammo, you get a note outlining the chemicals and parts needed to assemble the tank shells. The path to Rebirth starts from here, and you can check this list in any order you like. So I carefully began to look for these supplies. The Military Fort is where Amnesia: Rebirth fires all cylinders. The hallways are full of candles, but you have to choose which one to light as match supplies are easy to use if you’re not frugal. It’s not ideal to leave one room glowing and another as black as midnight on a moonless night, especially when the latter contains the solution to a puzzle you desperately need. Of course, the lantern is useful here, but the oil isn’t exactly plentiful. I have always rationed light sources for puzzle rooms once I identified them, as they are grim Rubik’s cubes that should not be rushed. In one there was a trapped door between me and the sulfur I needed for tank shells. Opening it would set off explosives, vaporize Tasi, so I avoided that. The solution, which I will avoid revealing, was quite creative and satisfying to find. My heart almost stopped every time a ghoul slammed a door behind me. “Of course, it wouldn’t be an Amnesia game without something horrible on two legs trying to gut you like a fish.” Ghouls, as they are rightly known, carry on this proud tradition. My heart almost stopped when one of those skinny ugly men slammed a door behind me. You can’t fight them, so hiding is always the best course of action. The problem is, having a glimpse will increase your fear level as matches and the Lantern reveal your location. It’s absolutely terrifying to hide in a dark corner, with every muscle insisting that you run or light a match because the darkness is tearing your mind apart, but acting on those impulses will cause a ghoul to do the same. Every minute of the military fort was a delight. It has a strong Amnesia: The Dark Descent vibe thanks to its branching paths and lovingly crafted puzzles, which is pure nostalgic goodness for a longtime fan like me. In fact, when I finally got out of it, I was actually sad to say goodbye to this wonderful death trap. Turns out I was right to be, as much of what made the gameplay so compelling inside the fort doesn’t spill over into the rest of Rebirth. Instead, it returns to the simple hallway of business hours with little to no variety. Ghouls are so rare that you rarely have to worry about bodily harm besides alleviating your fear level. Puzzles also suffer, as they are either surprisingly short or don’t fit in as carefully with their surroundings as the tank puzzle. What upset me the most is that chances of thinking outside the box rarely happen. Even the Rift Amulet, a magical trinket that rips holes in space-time, is mostly relegated to digging predetermined burrows where a door would have sufficed. However, as I pressed down it was hard to harbor disappointment as the storytelling made up for those shortcomings. Without wading into spoiler territory, especially since there were significant plot reveals early on, the story of Amnesia: Rebirth was utterly compelling. Yes, its amnesia-suffering protagonist is immensely unremarkable (even if that’s right in the name), but the hard-hitting reveals play out a lot differently than you’d expect. It’s a story of trauma that turns people into unrecognizable envelopes as they scatter their cherished memories in the wind. Tasi’s quest to find his colleagues takes unsettling turns, but the beautiful moments shine all the more because of the gloomy story. Where there is darkness, the light will always rise to meet it.