Thursday, September 12, 2013

Amnesia - a Machine for Pigs review

Image and video hosting by TinyPicAmnesia - a Machine for Pigs, unfortunately and ultimately, is a disappointment if you are harsh, or, if you are very very generous, then at the least a relative disappointment. As I will attempt to solidify my claim, saved for a great story, the game is a vastly inferior experience to its polished predecessor Amnesia - the Dark Descent in almost all aspects, and as mentioned, it's merely the textual narrative that I personally find at least that IF not more interesting than that of the Lovecraft Lovetter story backdrop of the first Amnesia game. (If someone says "ImPOSSible Geometry!" - then you know that the joke is on Cthulhu.)

Amnesia - a Machine for Pigs, while ambitious in its scope of portraying the layered ordeals of a (highly.) radical industrialist who is intent to cleanse the scenery of all humans Mayan style, if you are looking to immerse yourself into the obscene amount of gore and creative methodologies of digital death intricacies the mere premise promises - the developer urged citizens of the Earth to send in WAV files of death growls and torture sounds, you could imagine the terrified "anticipation" - then you are in for a rude - awakening?
NOT really. Read more, or don't.

If you'd be outright hurtful in assessing your gameplay experience in this title, which I have no intention to be, you would have little problem calling this game a yawnfest, and you could burst out a healthy amount of valid arguments to solidify this claim, unfortunately. The level design in this game is sub-par eloquence pretty much all the way through. The world of Amnesia - a Machine for Pigs is not a real life place like that of the much more skillfully-, hell, even masterfully - in this regard - realized Outlast, or the acceptable - in this regard - first Amnesia. You will spend no vast amount of time before realizing that a Machine for Pigs offers its environments to scatter rudimentary puzzle elements amidts the respective components/regions of a given setting, - house/cellar/cellar/cellar/cellar/cellar/cellar/:/ and the essential gameplay mechanics revolve around you collecting various items at various extremes of the level, so you can finally assemble the means of your progression at the functional peak locale of the given area. This pretty much equates with all the gameplay satisfaction this title has in store. Nothing more, nothing else. The pig people - the only kind of enemy you will encounter - are not too insistent at chasing you down once you are serious about evading them, there will be no occasions like in Outlast, when the game turns into a twisted kind of burlesque, in which though you can not afford to laugh without that laugh being your last one. So there is almost nothing to be afraid of in this game - the first pigman and his squeel is efficient enough - but the title most often seeks to utilize SOUND BASED jump scares, which I personally find very unethical towards your hardware - I was playing using headphones, and I can tell that some of those sounds pushed the capacity of the headphones well beyond the extremes, even though I deliberately set the volume to 8 out of 10, because I was anticipating such nonsense. It is perfectly all right to scare the player - but do that in the confines of the comfortzone of the hardware! The sound designer made an unacceptable decision when she/he deliberate overdriven some sounds in an attempt to soulkill your subwoofer.

DON'T do that, game designers.

As suggested, the gameplay mechanics are pretty predictable, and frankly, are super-obsolete now, that the first Amnesia already has delivered these elements, though the Penumbra games did an even greater job than these two Amnesia games altogether, at offering intuitive puzzles. The Surface Station level of Penumbra  - Requiem for example? What a great narrative and unfolding! It REALLY gives you a sense that the gameworld reflects your actions. Keeps you occupied and thinking all the while, and forces you to make CREATIVE USE of your environment, which actually forces you to reach beyond the usual conduct of get this item "there", then come back, and use the item "here". Intimacy/Involvement/Immersion is delivered and maintained on multiple layers in said Penumbra - Requiem level, and the almost complete lack of these true subtleties herein are definitely not optimal. A Machine for Pigs is a vastly less successful accomplishment in each respect, despite being an alleged member of the current generation. Oh well. I dare say it is an inferior game to the Penumbra series, and it's not like I wanted this game to be like that. Not at all.

There is no thinking or intuitive problem solving in Machine for Pigs. Why? Is thinking a think king? I'm sorry to report that the game considers the gamer to be challenged in many regards, and even the puzzles you afraid that will be difficult, prove to be quite - to be honest - laughable pseudo-riddles, and each can be solved with the "let's try all variations then, shall we??" "approach". Like a tablet with 9 toggle switches on it, - essentially 18 factorials - show me JUST three buttons and I scream a one note song of cosmic horror until you kill me - and you can interact with all these switches. How disconnected from your true gameplay awareness it is, isn't it? Let me clarify what I'm talking about : according to the conduct of this title, it does not matter that the game does not give you ANY information/backstory at ALL of what this machinery is supposed to BE at the first place, and it does not matter either that pushing rows and rows of random buttons around on an essentially alien - to you - intricate machinery normally would be the last thing you'd want to do in real life -  weeell, it's just a gaaaame innit!!, so just go ahead, Beavis, and do it, because you simply can't give in an improper combo, see?? Sounds incredible? Indeed. But, in the GAME!world of Amnesia - a Machine for Pigs, - in its nightmare-TOYworld - it also happens to be true, unfortunately.

Having completed the game, I can inform you that the pathetic idea in Amnesia - a Machine for Pigs unfortunately is to pull every lever you can pull and turn every valve you can turn and push every button you can push, and then you can pad yourself on the back. I'm not kidding, nor I am being cynical. I despise cynicism. I write this review out of love, and with discontent, that the game does not REALLY takes ITSELF-, and, as such, nor its PLAYER seriously, like Outlast or the Penumbra games do.

When compared to its spiritual originator, Amnesia - the Dark Descent, a Machine for Pigs tells a decent, if somewhat self-congratulatory and ultra-insistent story via a yawm-inspiringly prolonged stroll-around sequence in a bleak, semi-acceptably realized steampunk/Lovecraftian environment. (Why self-congratulatory? Well, the protagonist refers to the act of turning two valves and reaching an ensuing Exit as a series of "Herculean tasks" - it certainly is Herculean to put up with this amount of narrative egotism.)

The premiere reason I have written this review, is the frankly, ridiculous stance of numerous mainstream mediums that claim that the game looks awesome/very impressive or outright incredible - what a loud of troglodytefesces with trollcancer remnants and sausage chunks in it. These statements could not be farer from the truth, and you can handle this statement as FACT. The recent horror title "Outlast" outlasts - pummel the pun - Amnesia - a Machine for Pigs by a galactic mile in every visual stimuli department you can think of, and I do not at all mind if I have to be the first to voice the seemingly perfectly defendable opinion that Amnesia - a Machine for Pigs looks pretty post generation, I dare say : outright OBSOLETE, actually. And it is vastly less efficiently optimized than "The Dark Descent", don't even start ourselves on that. The overall graphical appeals and the majority of the environment unfortunately reek a tint of low budget-, altoguh doubtless enthusiastic amateurism, almost to the point that you feel you are playing an exceptionally ambitious and well made - when witnessed as such - mod by the Amnesia community.

But the game ultimately just drowns in its strategy - more precisely, in its excuse for one - of putting you through one deliberately convoluted environment after the another with the plot - both narrative and environmental - exhibiting minimal to mild psychological pressure on you, - if you are a Penumbra vet, you'll hardly raise an eyebrow per level - and, what I feel as unacceptable, is that numerous are the times, when the game outright fails to cultivate a level of intimacy/involvement/immersion with the player. By these frequent and highly tedious segments, the title arrogantly/incompetently assumes that it is jolly good if you have no other method/means at playing the piece than to wonder around practically aimlessly, until you find the intentionally hidden, obscure means of progression after 15 minutes of stale passive fuckaroundery, - you know exactly what I'm talking about, YES, THAT one, which YOU despise, too - and don't forget that you gain NO prior information in the gameworld about this sleazy tricks that the piece impertinently seeks to outlive its actual longevity and full face value by. "Here, we have built it, so you are expected to walk around in it for a while all right, after all, we've put effort into it, and, because it lets you." These malicious decisions always are the hallmarks of sub-par production appeals seeking to conceal the wrinkles deep enough to forecast a soul with a sorrowfully hollow true sound to it. I do not want to see SUCH diabolic machinations in a game wearing the Amnesia title. I want to see TRUE DIABOLIC MACHINATIONS in an Amnesia title. Instead, you can read about them, here.

The map layouts, while efficient for what they want to do - inviting you for a thorough exploration to collect the items you will need to get through - are far from impressive as far as their well roundedness are concerned. Just take a look at the balcony above the front door when you first have your eagerly anticipated "outdoor experience" in this game. You could not park a body on that balcony, let alone two with a lady's involved. Such nonsense breaks the illusion mercilessly and tremendously, - no architect builds that and lives - and it is beyond me how it could be a part of the final product. Same goes with the doors opening to the outdoor areas. They are the same, nice, comfy Sherlock Holmes doors you find at the interiors. Superunlikely. No one believes you.

These outdoor sequences are deeply constrained, almost 99% vacant - the only moments you'll be interacting with someone is when you'll get chased by hostilities, briefly. This is a premiere problem with this game : it wants to depict so much, and all you get, is the mere afterthought/remnants of what the story is about. A "fake"-, a "toy" representation of the narrative, unfortunately. I know : it is a game. But I want a game that is NOT a game. You know that you are at a horrific place, but its prime horror lies in its tremendous loneliness and in the disconnectedness which you ACTUALLY "have" with the setting almost all the while - no intimacy and true being there-ness is achieved, the environment does NOT really reflect the narrative in a way that you believe it. Harsh words, but legitimate ones, I'm afraid. The layouts too routine-like, their function to make you run around, painfully/annoyingly obvious. Oh, and you are not even pressured to find a moment of peace out of the dark, like in Amnesia. You can stop for a coffee no problem. I would never do that in the first Amnesia.

To further illustrate my point of how I consider the gameworld of Amnesia - a Machine for Pigs a mere and almost casual toy-representation of its textual story, let me give you another example that utterly convinced me that the game's stature, much to my sorrow, is a disappointment. At a peak moment, you can hear London being ravaged by the beasts you have invented, but the way all this is expressed towards the player, is the odd-, perplexing combination of the sound of fireworks and the rabid shouting of people - first you go "WOW, there is a wild, wild party in town! Let's arm then throw a oneliner at a real lady or at least at a plastic transvestite!" - and then you find a note, informing you that naaah, this is not a party, actually, what you hear in the background, it is London being ravaged, "aiaight??" (GTA SA's CJ style). Uuuuh. OK. Not a single soul around, saved for one or two scripted sequences triggered and showcased at the proper location and time of people being abducted and/or slaughtered by pigmen, - with about 5 animation frames per "horrific" scene - since the developers themselves must have felt that it is super-pathetic and kind of unacceptable - I'm sorry to say this - that they simply had no means/resources/ to realize this great narrative idea of Victorian London being ravaged by pigmen with the due immersion and realism it demands and deserves in the context of gameplay. You have a visual storyboard, on which you can walk around. This is something of a hallmark of the whole game, unfortunately. You get a very scarce and mild representation of the horrors the game dwells on in the text. Or watch the human meat grinder texture in the environment - you wanted to see this machine IN ACTION, in  the new AMNESIA GAME. This was the pinnacle of the upcoming title, in your mind. I know that, you know that. Yet, the title does not feature that human meat grinder, which is unacceptable.

Don't believe your delusion, and stop convincing yourself that Amnesia - a Machine for Pigs is the fresh and hot horror stuff on the scenery. Nope, it is a plain and evident disappointment. Amnesia - a Machine for Pigs is the game of missed golden opportunities, and the game of semi-acceptable excuses presented as solace for each and every of these missed golden opportunities. Not a bad game. Worse : mediocre.

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