I’m a big fan of the Amnesia games for many reasons. The other two entries developed by Frictional Games were scary as hell, with interesting stories and a combination of horror, stealth, and puzzle solving that stand among the best of their genre. The series was never about sneaking from some cheap, crummy monster that one-shotted you constantly like so many similar games were. Well, until now. Amnesia: The Bunker looks and mostly feels like an Amnesia game, but it’s sorely lacking a lot of what I loved from other entries on top of being short and frustrating, with an uninteresting story to boot.
Players are thrust into the role of Henri Clement, a French soldier circa World War I. After finding a mysterious pit while trying to survive a German onslaught, he awakes in the titular bunker, where everything has gone sideways. His mission is simple: gather dynamite and a detonator to blast his way out of the place, all while doing his best to survive against a monster hellbent on slaughtering him.
You’ll still find plenty of notes filling in the backstory, but you don’t end up learning much about Henri, and the notes themselves aren’t particularly interesting. I finished Amnesia: The Bunker without caring much about any of it, which is in stark contrast to the way I felt about Amnesia: Rebirth.
A lacklustre narrative isn’t nearly enough to really waylay a video game, though. The bunker itself is interconnected and made up of several areas. You need to gather items and use them to get the tools you need, which partially involves finding dog tags with locker codes written on them. Of course, Amnesia games are all about rationing light, and Amnesia: The Bunker puts a fascinating spin on this.
“Amnesia: The Bunker looks and mostly feels like an Amnesia game, but it’s sorely lacking a lot of what I loved from other entries…”
The electricity runs off of a generator, and you need to return with fuel cans to keep it stocked. Failing to do so will leave you to fend for yourself in the darkness against your pursuer. Matches are no longer present, and you’ll light your surroundings with a wind-up flashlight. But the flashlight makes noise that will lead the beast right to you, so you’ll need to be careful.
Lots of these ideas are as original as they are creative, but, in practice, they lead to frustration. On normal difficulty, the monster is the epitome of everything I hate about these sorts of games. Frictional Games clearly took inspiration from Alien: Isolation, but the execution here just doesn’t cut it. I constantly died, mostly from the monster silently sneaking up behind me and insta-killing me.
Other times I’d approach a door, only for him to come barreling through it, killing me in the process. But dying is part and parcel of these sorts of games, right? It is, but most games don’t make use of Amnesia: The Bunker’s annoying save system. You can only save at specific lanterns. I found four of these in the entire game.
Combined with the frequency of death, this turns Amnesia: The Bunker into a tedious experience built out of trial and error. At any time, the beast can show up, and you’ll find yourself back at your last save. Granted, the bunker itself isn’t very large, but I felt it necessary to memorize to compensate for this.
Since the monster so frequently kills Henri outright and he shows up so suddenly, I often felt like I had no good way to really fight back other than just figuring out routes to the best of my ability and then hoping the ugly bastard wouldn’t make an appearance. Due to Amnesia: The Bunker’s focus on obtaining codes to progress, this means you can do a death run, get a code, screenshot it, die, and then carry on without redoing the sequence.
One of the more intriguing promises Amnesia: The Bunker makes is that you’ll be able to use logic and common sense to deal with obstacles in creative ways. This is mostly a lie. Obstacles typically come in two varieties — wooden doors and rats. Breaking flimsy wooden doors isn’t that hard. You can just grab a saw and hit the door with it or use any old heavy object to break it down, right?
Wrong. Doors can be destroyed by moving explosive barrels near them and shooting them or by throwing grenades at them. You can also use heavy bricks, but I only saw two of these. Explosions will obviously bring the monster down on you, so I ended up avoiding most of the optional doors.
Taking a big ol’ page out of the A Plague Tale games, you’ll occasionally find rats gathered that you’ll need to deal with. Again, you think you could use some creativity to get rid of the rats. Maybe you throw an object at them, and they’ll scatter. You get lots of empty bottles to toss that would be perfect for that. Nope. You need to use a grenade, gas grenade, flare, or torch to get them to make way. I hated finding a wooden door or pile of rats. It always just boils down to, “I need one of these items in my inventory.”
Speaking of your inventory, it’s extremely limited and becomes even more so if you bring optional items with you. You need bolt cutters to get through chains, a wrench to open vents, a gas mask to get through gas without taking damage etc., but I always found myself with practically no room left. There’s a single storage chest in the game, and that, too, has a limited inventory, but you can just as easily drop things on the floor instead of storing them. It makes no difference.
When you first discover the generator, you’re immediately given a pocket watch that Henri syncs with so that you know if fuel is about to run out. This watch takes up an inventory space. So does your flashlight. I swear that half the design choices made for Amnesia: The Bunker exist solely to inconvenience the player so that the game takes longer.
You’ll also find two guns — a revolver and (very late in the game) a shotgun. There’s very little ammo for the latter, and you’ll mostly use the revolver to blow up barrels or shoot padlocks off of doors. You’ll still open doors and pick up objects with the same holding system from the other games, which is nice to have, even though I wish more of what made the series special were available here.
Once you fulfill your goal, a brief final sequence can be completed in one of two ways — the annoying way or the laughably easy way. Then the game’s over, and it implores you to play it again because a lot of the item placements are randomized, so you should let the monster sneak up and one-shot you some more. The game can be completed in four hours or far less, depending on how lucky you get.
I didn’t care much for Amnesia: The Bunker. I found it horribly disappointing, short, and tedious, but I’d be lying if I said it was all bad. I had some good moments of terror where I wondered if the monster was about to show up or not, but, for me, this game is far behind the others in all the ways that count. Hopefully, the next one will be a return to form and not on par with all the lazy indie “hide from the monster” horror games that come out.