Amnesia: The Bunker Review | Trying to Forget the Horrors of War

Amnesia: The Bunker Review - Trying to Forget the Horrors of War

When it comes to narrative devices, amnesia is one that’s been played out to the point where it makes stale bread look fresh. However, Frictional Games managed to master it with the Amnesia series, and has just released its very latest, Amnesia: The Bunker. As with previous entries in the series, the game is a 3D affair from a first-person perspective. Using navigation and know-how, you need to guide your delicate character through a dark area filled with twists, turns, and terrors lying in the dark. Do your best to solve the problem at hand and may remember what you forgot… if you managed to get out alive.

What is Amnesia: The Bunker?

Amnesia: The Bunker review - screenshot 01

The Amnesia series is prolific enough to have established its own narrative formula. In Amnesia: The Bunker, this formula returns with a vengeance. You play as Henri Clement, a private in the French Army during World War 1. While running for cover through the trenches with his friend Lambert, the two get separated by a blast.

Henri awakens in an ally bunker recovering from his injuries and appears to be the only one in the area. He learns from notes that he has a certain degree of amnesia, but seems to be aware of a horrible act he has committed. Scared and alone, Henri needs to escape the bunker, which is plagued by rats and a monstrous creature stalking him. This is a situation where this soldier is encouraged to run and hide as much as possible.

Hunkered down in The Bunker

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Though Amnesia has a reputation to rely on, it doesn’t mean there’s no effort put into the setup and experience. Amnesia: The Bunker has all the feel of an Amnesia game while standing perfectly on its own as a horror game.

First, I want to give credit to the setting, as there aren’t many non-action games set during one of the most devastating conflicts in history. This works to emphasize the elements of fear and horror that hand-in-hand with war. From the very start, you know that Henri isn’t brave, he is just one of many soldiers who is just doing his duty for his country. His goal never wavers from escape, from both the bunker and the role he had in the horrors that unfolded before all of this happened.

Then there’s the trademark physics as well as the gameplay that still holds up. The game allows you to interact with almost every object that isn’t nailed down, from pencils to barrels. Depending on the size, you will either be able to pick it up or push it around which adds a layer to puzzle-solving when it comes to space and navigation.

As a novelty, it’s fun to throw chairs and buckets around, but it also highlights another main mechanic that’s not common in horror games: Freedom. The genre tends to be pretty strict with each puzzle having only one solution, but this one isn’t like that. There are multiple objects and items that can be used separately and in tandem with each other to create the same effects. You’re actually encouraged to try whatever ideas you think may work, and therefore there’s no pressure to continuously run around in the dark looking for that one item that will allow you to continue.

Next, comes the horror. First off, a bunker is a great setting for such an experience. Even if there wasn’t a world war happening outside, the environment is not one you’d ever want to be in. Even though it’s a place meant to be safe, you never feel safe. Regardless of the giant monster roaming around, the bunker is a desolate place filled with death in destruction.

Honestly, you eventually start to prefer the dark, because at least then you can try to picture a place in much better condition. You’ve got the classic decor of blood, remains, debris and tattered clothing to flesh out the horror feels, but it’s all about briefness. You’ll wander around and something will move or you’ll hear something haunting and wonder just how far or close away it is to your position.

To sum up how this game makes you feel: You are given a revolver with bullets scattered around the bunker, but you’d rather it were empty. Because, if it’s full, you’ll be tempted to fire it, and if you fire it, you’ll make noise, and if you make noise… you get the point.

Bashing the Bunker

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Even those most experienced in their craft will make mistakes sometimes, for one reason or another, and the problem is that a splotch will stand out more against the most pristine canvas. Amnesia: The Bunker does its best to carry its weights, but drops a few pieces here and there.

One of these little problems is the premise of the monster. Ideally, you never want to run into it, but new players are likely going to slip up as they get a feel for the game. So, they’ll anger the monster, it will chase them, kill them, and kick them back to the previous save. Actually, it makes sense to do it intentionally just so that you can desensitize yourself to it, offering a way to think more clearly as you try multiple solutions.

We can’t ignore the reading, either. The Amnesia series has always been known for its documents and notes, even those from the main character, but they kind of went overboard with this one. You can’t walk two feet without running into a glowing piece of paper.

Of all the documents that you’ll pick up, maybe a third of them are actually helpful. The rest are effective at establishing the lore and adding weight to the world and situation, but they’re also extremely long. Your log does a good job of making mission-related notes, but even those are long, and maybe only have a couple of sentences that are relevant to what you’re doing.

As a small comment, it is humorous that all these years later, the Amnesia hero is a low-level telekinetic. This means that you can pick things up and look down to see the character’s arms hanging calmly at his sides.

Recalling The Bunker

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Amnesia: The Bunker is a harrowing game about a soldier in WW1 trying to escape a bunker with his horrible secrets while avoiding a monstrous creature. It does exactly what an Amnesia game is meant to do while still having smooth physics and an overall faster pace when it comes to puzzle gameplay and exploration.

There’s also the appeal of the freedom that comes with trying as many solutions as you can think of to break locks, open doors, and mess with other devices. The game succeeds in creating a scenario that never once makes you feel that you’re in a good place, feeding your desire to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Though the monster makes for a creepy stalker that you never want to run into, running into it frequently will eventually take away its power. There’s also just a bit too much reading in a game where you really don’t want to linger anywhere for more than a few seconds (pause mechanics aside). This is small potatoes considering the severe lack of bunk in this Bunker.

Amnesia: The Bunker Trailer

Amnesia: The Bunker was played through PC Game Pass. It is available for download on PlayStation and Xbox.