Amnesia: The Bunker Review
Amnesia: The Bunker is a first-person survival horror adventure game. Although it’s the fourth game in the series, it doesn’t require knowledge of any of the previous games to understand the plot.
The Bunker’s plot is very narrow in scope. I won’t spoil the plot and I’ll only give a brief synopsis to give you an idea on what to expect. You’re a French soldier fighting in World War 1 against Germany. Similar to real-life events, you’re fighting and defending using trenches and bunkers. While fighting in the trenches, you and one of your friends are shot, and you wake up some time later in a bunker. The problem is that you need to escape, but the route out is blocked with rubble and there’s a strange monster chasing you.
This game takes place entirely in a large bunker and the plot is definitely not on a grand scale at all. It’s not a bad thing, and the developers certainly got the atmosphere of the game right. I played this game at night with headphones and it was definitely a fun and horrifying experience. I played the other Amnesia games when they were released and I thought I couldn’t be surprised again, but I was dead wrong.
The bunker is very mysterious and eerie, and you need to be careful as you collect resources. The game has a simple crafting system that I’ll get into later. In general stealth is the way to go and often you’ll be trying to avoid the monster as well as other threats you encounter.
One key feature of this title is that some of the main story key items is random each playthrough, which was a very interesting decision. You often need to find dog-tags of your fellow soldiers in the bunker and they’ll have their locker codes on them, which you need to use to unlock their locker and get items. Some items are optional, but some of these are required for story progress. The locker codes themselves are not just in random spots, but the codes are also random for each playthrough, meaning unlike old Amnesia games you actually cannot just google what the codes are, you’ll have to find them yourself.
I did two playthroughs and the game’s progression was definitely different, but still similar in the sense that you’re probably going to explore most of each area anyway though the non-key items I found were definitely very different. Some of the mandatory key items are always in the same location, so you can still consult online guides for steps on how to find the locker codes.
If you’re not confident about your skill in horror or stealth games, there are many difficulties ranging from easy to hard. I played through this on normal difficulty and it was pretty challenging, and I’d recommend only playing this on hard if you already played through this game. It’s worth noting that this Amnesia game does play differently than its predecessors.
The gameplay involves you finding the administration area of the bunker, which is your safe room where you save your game and storage items. There is no autosave function, so you do need to make sure you’re saving manually otherwise you’ll have the restart the entire game. There are also save points in few locations as well. In the administration area there is a generator. You need to keep the generator running with fuel canisters you find because a lot of areas in the bunker require power to open. In my playthrough gasoline cans were extremely plentiful.
There are many interesting subareas within the bunker to explore including the soldiers’ quarters, maintenance areas, and the arsenal area (where the munitions are stored) just to name a few. In general you explore each subarea to find a key item, such as a wrench you can use to undo bolts on vents or a chain-cutter to cut any chains on doors.
Doors can vary between metal doors which may require either a key or finding another way around the door, or wooden doors which you can throw bricks to destroy, go around, or even let the monster destroy. I noticed that there are usually multiple ways to get around, meaning you can’t get locked and if you’re observant enough you’ll actually get rewarded with an easier route.
Although the bunker as a whole is admittedly small and cramped, there are always multiple routes that the developers meticulously planned for and the level design in this title really is top notch. I really like how you can collect photos, and the photos themselves would have hints on how to progress such as showing a broken grating behind soldiers posing in a picture, meaning you could just enter that room by undoing the grating rather than having to smash the door and make noise that would attract the monster.
There are also many written notes in the game that have very useful information to progress and are usually concise and to the point. The lore such as written notes within this game really does feel like what actual soldiers would write about in a World War 1 setting and the developers did a lot of research in ensuring historical accuracy.
The monster really makes the game fun to play, which I’ve purposely not shown screenshots of because I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you. It’s probably the most aggressive creature in any of the Amnesia games and you really need to be careful playing this game. Every action you do in the game makes noise, and you need to do your best to minimize your noise as you progress. Sometimes it’ll be out of your control, such as rats making noise or possibly even other survivors, adding more complexity and forcing you to think quickly on your feet what to do if someone or something else made a racket.
Worst case you can always get a game over, which returns to when you last saved, and you’ll know what to do the next time. I’ve definitely had many game overs from many tripwires that were tricky to spot. You need to be fast and efficient when you play, but you also need to play careful too, making it a tricky but fun balance when playing.
I found myself dying a surprising amount of times to the monster, but often it was because I made a mistake because I landed too hard when falling or even stepping on planks of wood. If you’re spotted you need to choose whether to fight or flight. For example, were you able to find guns and ammo and smoke grenades, or do you think you can hide and sneak away until it goes away? I found ammo to be tricky to find in this title, so I tried to stay still if I saw the creature roaming close by. If you’re hurt you’ll spill blood as you walk, making you extremely easy to spot so I often found myself carrying some bandages to be safe. The creature would generally always instantly kill me, but sometimes you’ll find environmental obstacles that would damage you without outright killing you where healing items are useful.
When I say you have to be still you really need to stay still, just one move will alert it and in general it will instantly kill you. It’s tough sometimes, but it makes sense for this kind of game. I’d recommend playing this title with headphones so that you can hear the monster’s movement better.
The sound effects were especially well done in this title and it really added to the experience. I found myself constantly getting scared with any little sound I heard because I was scared that the creature was going to find me and kill me. It doesn’t help that a war is going on, so you’ll randomly hear artillery fire hitting you from above adding to the tension. The atmosphere is one of the things the developers got right with this game. At first I was a little disappointed since this game has a much smaller scope than the previous Amnesia title, Amnesia: Rebirth, but this title actually has significantly better gameplay and not as many scripted cutscenes.
My only major criticism with this title is that it’s too short. Depending on how much you explore for collectibles and how often you die and redo segments, I’d estimate this game would only take you about 5 hours to complete. If you’re really skilled at these kinds of games and do everything right, completing this within 2-3 hours isn’t outside the realm of possibility. The key is that there’s a lot of replay value since a lot of the playthrough is random. At the same time, there isn’t much meat to the plot, to the point where this can even feel like a spin-off title. The gameplay is definitely a return to form to old Amnesia games and the game really does capture feelings of dread and uneasiness. It reminds me of Alien: Isolation which had similarities with a protagonist escaping from a monster. I’ll certainly say it again, it is worth playing this just to escape from the monster, it’s definitely the most terrifying out of any creature in Amnesia and definitely ranks as one of the scariest monsters in the horror video game genre.
Amnesia: The Bunker
- The monster you encounter in this title is genuinely the most frightening of any of the other creatures in Amnesia, both in terms of design and with its AI.
- The random items and random key items add replay value to the game and no two playthroughs are the same.
- The atmosphere and level design is great. It feels very eerie and scary exploring the bunker.
- The sound effects are extremely well done and really add to the experience.
- The game is very short, taking 2-5 hours for a playthrough depending on how much you explore, if you’re getting all collectibles, and depending on how much you game over.
- The plot is very narrow in scope, especially considering how large and how many cutscenes the previous game, Amnesia: Rebirth, had.
– Brandon Harris
Reviewed on the PC