Amnesia: The Dark Descent came out at a crucial time for the industry. Big publishers were pulling back from horror after some middling quality releases. Only for a little studio to prove people being scared senseless is timeless entertainment. As someone who’d bailed on Dark Descent in fear, I was excited and a little nervous to give Amnesia: The Bunker a try.
Amnesia: The Bunker is a Survival Horror game by Frictional Games. In it, you play Henri, a French soldier experiencing all the fun of trench warfare. Your brother-in-arms Augustin doesn’t come back from patrol, and you’re introduced to German artillery trying to save him. From there, you’re left in a bunker devoid of human life, not even having your own memories for comfort. You must traverse the bunker, looking for gear to survive and finally escape. Something horrible stalks the same narrow corridors and thrives in the dark.
The Bunker puts heavy emphasis on resource management. I’m used to more generous horror games, where you’re given a steady drip feed of ammo and healing. You’re given those items because fighting your opponents is standard and expected. The Bunker establishes that you’re not here to conquer – just survive. As such, you start thinking of everything in terms of “what do I get using this here instead of elsewhere?”
One of those resources is fuel. There’s a single generator powering the entire bunker’s lights; those lights are the difference between the monster only approaching when alerted and it having free rein. Given it can appear from any hole in the wall, that’s bad news. Yet, that same fuel can be used to drive off the monster and solve other puzzles. You’re juggling your short-term and long-term survival with a limited inventory to boot.
The exploration is very organic. You’re told where to find the exit keys from the start but will run into roadblocks if you beeline for them. As much as you don’t want to enter new areas, you need the supplies and tools to explore further. I will say it got a little predictable that every subsection’s map room was locked. It’s not a huge deal, as you can still see the rough layout through the window.
About a couple hours in, I saw the monster for the first time. I landed 2 headshots in a panic as it stepped into the room. In another survival horror game, that would be a win. Instead, I just felt guilty wasting ammo that’s taken me hours to find. Driving off the monster is only useful as a means to an end; the sooner you understand that, the better.
In true horror style, the story is mostly conveyed through notes left by the previous inhabitants. Even if you don’t find the narrative compelling, they’ll offer useful hints for the puzzles you’re facing. I pieced together the main reveal fairly quickly, but it didn’t damage the story’s emotional weight.
Between Cozy and Claustrophobic
Like its predecessors, The Bunker is a well-realized space. While the game is a shorter run, the scale of the place feels just right. Once you’ve opened all the shortcuts, it’s easy to return to previous areas for leftover supplies. With a little digging, you can even solve your fuel problem nearly permanently. The larger areas also have extra save points on the lower difficulty.
The Bunker works because it is full of different systems, and only a couple are outright explained. Instead, you’re better off following the devs’ advice about experimentation. My first case was dealing with rats swarming a body with a door code. I thought a gas grenade would kill them off, but they just ran away and waited it out. Once I found what worked, I could deal with them whenever they showed up. The codes and supply locations change between runs, but so long as you understand how everything works, you’ll be okay.
There was sometimes a hitch when moving between areas, but always short-lived. Warding off the darkness is still a major theme, and you end up with multiple solutions with their own drawbacks. My only complaint is that Frictional still disrupts your vision to keep the monster mysterious; I personally think they’ve outgrown that trick.
Audio cues are a key part of the game, and they function flawlessly. I even used them to predict where the monster would emerge to spring a trap. There’s also a small amount of voice work of equally good quality. The music tracks perfectly complement that “edge of your seat” feeling as you poke around new areas.
Amnesia: The Bunker is a tense tale of survival. It’s a great survival horror game that tests your brain over your trigger finger. By weaving its mechanics into its story beats, players are better immersed in both.
Amnesia: The Bunker Review
Amnesia: The Bunker is a tense tale of survival. With a contained setting and competent mechanics, players can try, fail, and try again with their new understanding. It’s a fun time, and my first thought on finishing it was, “I wanna go again.”
Amnesia: The Bunker is available on Steam.
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Reviewed on PC.