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I actually like Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs a little more than Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Content of the article: "I actually like Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs a little more than Amnesia: The Dark Descent."

In excitement for Amnesia: Rebirth, I've just replayed both of these games, and while I still had an affecting time with The Dark Descent, I want to round out the conversation and the consensus that AMFP is not as scary or all-in-all 'good' as TDD.

While the games have a near-identical narrative structure, they are clearly different in game design, and for an obvious reason: Different developers who focus on different genres.


TDD is a true-to-form survival horror developed by Frictional. There is an inventory from which you use healing items and refill your oil lantern with corresponding resources, use or combine key items, and check your current health and mental state. Your character is so afraid of the dark that his teeth audibly grind not long after you're out of the light, and before much longer his breaths get shallower, his vision blurs and pulsates, eventually his movement becomes swayed and sluggish, his sanity very slowly faltering towards a failstate. Your eyes adjust to the darkness well enough to conserve your tinder and lamp oil and soldier through environments in this state for awhile, but certainly not for too long.

But even if you have tinder enough to light every candle and torch in the area, staying in the light and keeping your environment well-lit is not always a good idea; should the game's monster make a sudden appearance, under lamp- or torch-light is the last place you want to be. Combat is not an option – you must get to where it probably won't spot you and wait. And even as you find a place where the creature is barely visible in the darkness, keeping a watchful eye on it as it stalks the room will drive you to madness even more quickly than the darkness; better to turn your back to it from your hiding place and hope it is not coming closer (until it de-spawns and the danger music fades away).

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It is a *tense* game. All this compounded with the moments where you are actively being chased (or perhaps when you simply have to walk away from it quickly enough to avoid being seen but slowly enough to avoid being heard) makes understandable the claims that it is one of the scariest games out there. It covers dread and terror quite well, and is no slouch in the actual horror/disgust department either.


Meanwhile, AMFP, developed by The Chinese Room (the makers of Dear Esther), is more of a walking simulator with a handful of deadly situations. Your lamp never runs out, you aren't afraid of the dark, there are no resources or health or sanity to manage, or even an inventory. Just like TDD, diary entries and audio clips and the like tell the story environmentally and out of chronology, using the titular condition as the main tool of withholding and drip-feeding information. As a *game*, there's really almost nothing to even say about it – figure out how to get to the next area, maybe carry an object from here to there, maybe sneak past a monster, etc. etc.


But as a story, AMFP is put head-and-shoulders above TDD for me by way of its strong voice-acting (especially by comparison) and *incredibly* evocative writing. I may only have been actually *scared* a handful of times (which you could argue only makes those moments even more impactful), but it's thanks to the strewn-about journal entries that fill out the story piece by piece – and even the load screen texts – that I was hardly ever not unsettled. Plenty of other eerie environmental touches (and a slightly more excellent score in my opinion) pepper the experience with unease, and nearly every step of the descent feels in a much more lived-in and deeply-disturbed place than the Brennenburg Manor of TDD.

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Some smaller issues about TDD that add up for me are its pretty campy and even sometimes out-of-mood voicework, a minor sensation of annoyance at the whole teeth-grinding thing, and the game-ified use of music to cue when you're safe to come out of hiding (which is very welcome from a game standpoint but diminishes the immersion somewhat).

So, while I of course still highly recommend Amnesia: The Dark Descent, if you haven't played Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs because of dismissive "not scary, not as good" remarks, I'm here to also recommend it to you heartily, provided only that you know ahead of time it's just a different kind of game.


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