|Developer||The Chinese Room|
|Genre||Horror survival, puzzle, indie|
|Purchase (PC/Mac/Linux)||Click here to buy from Steam.|
When you have a game that has met unexpected success, you know that you will have a hard time topping that original success. A game such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent not only became so popular in the horror genre of video games, its high replayability easily makes it well worth purchasing. Even fans of the Penumbra series can appreciate this game, even more so when it was actually used as the basis of the fan-made sequel Penumbra: Necrologue.
So sometime in 2013, Frictional Games published a sequel to continue Amnesia. A game we know as Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.
The unusual thing about this game is that Frictional Games is not involved with its development. Instead, an indie developer known as The Chinese Room is responsible for this entry. The other thing that is interesting about this game is that it is not nearly as popular as its predecessor, even to the point of being forgotten rather quickly after its debut.
Does that make it a bad game? Well… let’s just say that it just doesn’t really leave a lasting impression.
So let’s see what helped and held back this game.
On its surface, the game looks promising and looks like it will play just like The Dark Descent. It controls about the same. You can pull drawers open and occasionally find stuff. You wander into dark hallways. Yeah, okay. So far, so good.
This time, you’re in London right before the turn of the new century. Like with The Dark Descent, you solve puzzles to move forward. Okay. Sounds cool.
Thought everything is there, right? Nah. Eventually, you will realize this game has some serious downfalls:
- There is no inventory, meaning item collection and resource management are non-existent.
- Instead of an oil lantern, you receive an electric lantern with unlimited power.
- The puzzles require very little thought, often relying on finding switches and valves to progress forward.
Yeah. So right from the get-go, the “survival” portion of this game has been considerably dumbed down to the point where all you do is occasionally avoid enemies and pull levers to get to the next area. It is really a no-brainer.
There are way too many puzzles like these in this game. You often just stumble upon a solution without first being aware of the puzzle. Bam! There you go. Next part of the game is already open to you.
And because of these changes, A Machine for Pigs feels more like playing a watered down full conversion mod from The Dark Descent rather than being its own separate game. It’s a very linear experience that is only good for one playthrough, and that is just not going to cut it.
Yeah, the game works. You can complete it from beginning to end, no problem. But there is so little to offer. Considering there are superior content that you can download for free, it seems harder to justify putting a price tag on this game.
OH! And speaking of which…
Are you for real?
You can get the entire Penumbra trilogy and the fan-made sequel for about the same price! And keep in mind that since A Machine for Pigs has the easiest “puzzles,” the whole experience only lasts a few hours. And it’s priced the SAME as The Dark Descent?
You can’t even make custom stories for A Machine for Pigs! And its main campaign is not even as fun or terrifying as its predecessor’s.
What are the monsters? Exactly what you expect.
Pft, yeah. Whatever. Wait till you see the ones from Minecraft.
AHHHHHHH! IT’S HIDEOUS!
Oh, but that’s nothing. Wait till you see the crab people.
But yeah… really? Is that all that they have? Your big scare is pig people.
Well, okay. Let’s say I buy into this and I’m scared of these things. How often do you encounter them?
Ehhhh… certain points of the game. I mean, it is kinda chilling to hear them scream when they see you. But let’s face it, they’re just not as scary as the Gatherers from The Dark Descent.
The idea is that staring at one of the Gatherers literally drives you insane. Not only that, but you can always hear them when they’re approaching. Crouching at a corner in a tiny, dark room while one of these monsters is bashing down the door is a very scary moment. You’re only a few feet away and you don’t know if it will see you or not.
And let’s not forget that ever-so-memorable sound that plays when one spots you.
However, the big scare involving the Manpigs is mainly that you don’t see them coming. One can just randomly pop up in a place, quietly. It sees you, makes a weird scream, and chases you. That’s it.
No scary sounds. No suspenseful music. You don’t even get opportunities to shut the door on these guys. The Manpigs are disturbing at best but they are just NOT scary.
However, we do get ONE cool creation.
I don’t know how it gets those giant glowing capacitors on its back. I don’t know why it constantly blinks out of existence for microseconds at a time. But for the short time this Hulk of a Pigman is on, you KNOW shit just got real.
Sadly, it only appears during a couple of segments and never shows up again.
But with all that said, does this game have an atmosphere? Well, it does. Wandering through a dimly lit mansion, the rainy streets of London, and into a giant factory are pretty well done. The sound design certainly makes the eponymous “machine” feel like a giant entity ready to engulf the world.
I do wish the environments are a little more creative though. An area like the transept from The Dark Descent really stands out for its colors and sinister design.
And give it fitting music too.
Despite this area being like part of a church, there are some terribly disturbing secrets concealed within. That is what makes it such a cool map.
But that’s not to say there aren’t cool-looking environments in A Machine for Pigs. There are, but just exactly what you expect to see.
As for the story, I find it linear and rather hammy at some points.
The main character is a business owner and engineer named Oswald Mandus, who has built a massive machine at London. Upon making contact with a mysterious entity known as the Engineer, Mandus searches for his lost children and attempts to investigate the damages done to his machine.
That’s the basic premise of it. I’ll leave the rest up to you.
The campaign frequently hammers in the pig motif, using it as metaphor to human beings.
Ever heard of the term “Sheeple?” Well, this game refers to people as “like pigs” instead. I mean, it is OBSESSED with this metaphor.
Don’t believe me? Oh, you’re asking for it (also, please enjoy the 5th image).
SHUT UP! WE GET IT!
So with that said, I just find it difficult to take the story seriously. It’s hard to immerse yourself when the game keeps screaming, “More pig! More pig!” But if you take that part out, the story is okay for the most part and has a neat little twist ending.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is certainly a mixed bag. It’s not good. Not bad. Just too so-so. With Penumbra: Requiem, I acknowledged how it seemed to pale in comparison to its predecessors. But regardless, I still felt it belonged to the Penumbra series.
A Machine for Pigs just feels incomplete and doesn’t come close to meeting the status quo. I know this game was made by a different developer, but it doesn’t feel like it deserves to be priced the same as its predecessor with its general lack of substance.
Even when you ignore that this is a sequel to another game, there is nothing to come back to. It’s no wonder people forgot about it so quickly. I wouldn’t call it a long and eventful journey. Just a short one to pass the time. And considering the amount of hype this game got previously, it’s just a disappointing experience. Had it captured what made the previous game so engaging and tried to expand upon the game mechanics, I think it would’ve stood a better chance.
But as it is now, I can’t recommend this game unless you really want to play it. And if so, I would definitely wait until it goes on sale instead of buying it for full price. Otherwise, I’d just skip it.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs$19.99
- The plot is okay, if not too predictable. The ending does wrap up nicely though.
- The atmosphere is okay, with some lovely views and good sound design. However, the environments overall could look more unique.
- The lack of an inventory menu prevents you from managing resources or collecting key items, which was a big part of puzzle-solving in The Dark Descent.
- The puzzles are ridiculously simple, almost insultingly so.
- The monster designs lack imagination and don’t really come across as scary.
- I know this game is called A Machine for Pigs, but it hammers in the pig motif way too much to be considered a serious horror story.