Frictional’s Amnesia The Bunker is not the game you think. Yes, like previous entries, it’s a slow-paced survival horror game with a heavy emphasis on lighting, but there’s so much more to this experience. I had the opportunity to play the new episode of the Amnesia series at the GDC in San Francisco and chat with creative lead Fredrik Olsson. Part Amnesia, part Alien Isolation, part Resident Evil and part immersive sim, if you’re already excited for Amnesia The Bunker’s upcoming release date, then buckle up because it’s one hell of a ride.
The latest entry in the horror saga still oozes that famous (or infamous?) Amnesia DNA. The focus is on lighting, with a hand-crank lamp and generator powering all the lights in the bunker, and the heavy controls and physics remain central to the experience.
This time, however, you are not guided by a specific narrative; they give you gear and lock you in a bunker with a loud, fast, petrifying monster, leaving you with one goal: to escape.
By the time my hour-long preview ended in that dark hotel room, with Olosson watching my game in the other room, I had a sore neck and was extremely tense, but all I wanted to do was play Amnesia The Bunker again. And another time. And another time.
Everything in Amnesia The Bunker is slow. It takes an era of loud whirring to make your infinitely reusable lamp work, you have to manually check the barrel of the revolver for ammo (of which you’ll rarely have a full supply) and move any object in the world, by especially the doors, you feel like moving a mountain. It might sound frustrating, but believe me, it makes Amnesia The Bunker a truly immersive experience.
You are immediately immersed in the WW1 era bunker and all the tools at your disposal, from generator fuel to cloth, can be used in unique ways if you think outside the box. Instead of powering up the generator, you can pour it on the ground and shoot it to make a fire. Instead of using fabric for bandages, you can find more tools and craft a torch. You’re constantly in this cat-and-mouse game not only with the ever-present monster, but also with your knowledge of the game’s systems and the map itself. If it sounds very much like an immersive simulation, it’s a deliberate decision.
As for the bunker map, I was surprised when I asked Olosson if there were more safe rooms, save points, generators, and wall maps in Amnesia The Bunker. There are not any.
At first I thought it was weird, but I quickly realized that Olosson wants you to know the bunker map like the back of your hand: remember which doors you blocked, which signs lead where, where find traps and resources, and most importantly, how to get around the monster.
The vault, smaller but open map, and limited inventory space immediately made me think of Resident Evil, and Olosson doesn’t stand up to comparison. Frictional Games deliberately made Amnesia The Bunker a more player-oriented experience, relying on systems that allow the player to create their own stories during gameplay. It’s very similar to Capcom’s flagship horror series. .
So why did I also compare Amnesia The Bunker to Alien Isolation? It’s simple: the monster is also a wrecking ball with some of the most terrifying sound design to ever hit your ears. The rhythm of his colossal footsteps, the scratching as he smashes through walls, and the heavy breathing when he’s right in front of a door are so well done that I had to stop to breathe, just to pull myself together.
The monster is ubiquitous and its threat hangs heavy over you even when you can only hear it, but what about when it actually appears? Well, you’ll be happy to know that even if you make the worst decision possible (hide in a one-door room with the monster right outside), you can still escape if you’re smart enough. Turn off your lamp, load your three bullets into your revolver and slowly open the door. You may be able to do enough damage to scare the monster away. For a time.
Olosson says that while Frictional Games wants to provide the tools to deal with times like this (and when you’re going up against giant rats, oh no), you might be able to use the environment, craft different items, or maybe even you sneak the monster. old-fashioned, if you’re smart enough.
Amnesia The Bunker is a game with a very oppressive atmosphere. It channels elements of classic fixed-camera survival horror and immersive simulations while mixing them with staples from the series to leave you in constant danger. This, in turn, helps you understand its interactive systems, map layout, and horror dynamics to such an extent that you might see it again blindfolded.
Once you reach the end, you’ll be able to increase the difficulty to a hard mode where resources are more scarce, and you’ll even unlock custom hard swaps to really tailor the experience to your liking.
You don’t have to wait long either, as Amnesia The Bunker is coming to PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store on May 16, when Frictional Games will also be moving onto whatever their next project may be. In the meantime, we have the best war games and the best stealth games to keep you busy.