In this horror adventure, the player is cast as Daniel, who, as suggested by the game's title, awakens with amnesia. He finds himself in a castle in 1840s Brennenburg, and all that he seems to be able to remember is his name, the fact that he lives in London and that something called a shadow is hunting him down. The game has three different endings that are largely chosen by the player in the final moments of the game.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a first-person survival horror game which focuses the player on exploring a centuries-old Prussian castle whilst avoiding elements of danger and being careful of the supernatural.
The game has a health system that includes Daniel's psychological health (sanity) as well as his physical health. Seeing and being involved in disturbing events in the game will drain his sanity, eventually leaving him with hallucinations and impaired movement and vision. Dips in Daniel's sanity allow the supernatural to spot him quickly. Sanity stops draining when in lit areas, and it regenerates to a healthy state if Daniel solves a puzzle. The sanity system can be considered similar to the one found in Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. However sanity cannot explicitly lead to killing the player, unlike physical health.
The game utilizes a lighting system which affects the sanity of a character (darkness being detrimental to Daniel's sanity). The player collects and refills their lantern, which helps light the way, but also collects tinderboxes to light torches or candles. The lighting system creates a balance between maintaining your sanity and hiding from elements of danger.
Additionally, the lighting ties heavily into the stealth aspect of the game. Daniel has no means of defence, so the game explicitly states to the player at the start of the game that they should use their wits instead. This can include staying in the dark and moving carefully at the cost of his sanity, or using the environment to create distractions (such as by throwing a bottle to make a noise), and running away when spotted. This is the style typical of the developer Frictional Games' Penumbra franchise.
Along the journey, the player can collect notes that offer insight into the story but also help solve puzzles. Puzzles in the game can involve the span of numerous rooms, manipulating contraptions and the like. They can also be simpler: for example, combining two items in your inventory to open a door.
In an effort to recover his lost memory, Daniel proceeds through the halls of Castle Brennenburg. He finds a page from his own journal that explains that he must find and kill the Baron Alexander of Brennenburg. The note also explains that Daniel is being pursued by what can only be described as a sentient nightmare that cannot be harmed in any meaningful way.
As Daniel makes progress into the Castle's entrance hall, he is greeted with a flashback that details a tidbit of a conversation between what appears to be himself and another individual. It becomes clear that Daniel is to follow the red rose petals that litter the ground. Just as he begins to do so, a large fleshy wall impedes his progress.
Daniel then decides to explore the laboratory. Once there, he discovers a note that explains that someone has locked a party of men in the wine cellar. Daniel decides that this is to be his next stop. After obtaining the key to enter the cellar from the archive room, he enters the incredibly gloomy wine cellar. The aforementioned party of men has, as expected, long since expired, and their remains litter the floor. Among them, a note is found explaining that they delivered hundreds of innocent men, women, and children to the Baron in exchange for political advancement.
Daniel returns to the laboratory to create a chemical compound using the components he discovered in the cellar. With this acidic compound in hand, he returns to the entrance hall to splash it on the flesh wall. Sure enough, he evaporates the wall opening a path.
This path takes Daniel to the refinery where he encounters his first monster. After it passes, he proceeds through a trap door into the cellar archives where he discovers that a water demon now inhabits the flooded area. After leaping from box to box in an effort to confuse the monster, he narrowly escapes through the door to the back hall where he is greeted with a calming fountain and a brightly lit room.
Daniel continues to follow his flashbacks to an elevator lever that no longer functions. Upon learning this, Daniel explores Baron Alexander's study. Daniel makes a grizzly discovery upon arriving in the Baron's office. He has been attempting to harness some primal breed of energy from animals. In a note left on his desk, he explains that the energy is only released when the creature is about to experience death so being able to harness it with any sort of regularity will prove difficult.
The next stop is the guest bedroom where Daniel is quick to recall that he stayed here fairly recently. A journal page left here details an orb that he pulled out of a tomb on a recent excavation. The orb he explains contained a wondrous power but just as he felt it in his grasp, it shattered into pieces that he could not reassemble. Daniel then recalls that he left the key to the machine room behind a painting in his room. That in hand and a quick trip to a nearby storage room, he proceeds into the machine room to repair the elevator.
Another collection of Daniel's journal entries explains why he came to the castle in the first place. Apparently, he found himself haunted by horrid dreams after his incident with the orb. He requested the aid of three specialists as a means of getting to the source of his new affliction. Much to his dismay, all of the men ended up brutally murdered. Daniel then attempted to contact others who may know something more about the orb. He received varying responses but the urgency of the Baron's return letter piqued his interest. Baron Alexander requested that Daniel come to his castle right away before it is too late. Orb pieces in hand, he went straight to the Baron's castle.
Once inside the elevator, it lowers him partway before malfunctioning and sending him into free fall. He crawls from the wreckage into a prison block that is shrouded in total darkness. A flashback explains that the Baron also carries the responsibility of a prison warden. After some careful traversing, he procures a hammer and chipper which he uses to widen a tunnel within a previous inmate's cell. Again more perilous trekking leads Daniel out of the prison and into the cistern. A flashback explains that the Baron uses this area as a secret underground passage. As is Daniel's luck, the route his former self used has been entirely blocked. This time a flood impedes his progress.
Daniel finds that the flood water can be drained from a nearby room. In this room he also finds a journal entry that details a warding ritual performed by the Baron. Daniel willingly had this ritual performed in an effort to slow the impeding doom of this shadow beast. The ritual involved killing a man the Baron claimed was a murderer.
Daniel then discovers that a poisonous fungi now inhabits the no longer flooded route into the sewer. He proceeds into the morgue which contains numerous bodies as one might expect. Daniel locates a note that details a toxin that wiped out most of Alexander's servants. The note goes on to explain that he has indeed developed an antidote that will surely stop the outbreak. Daniel observes that the Baron has made this antidote using the body of an infected servant. Daniel extracts the antidote and enters the sewers.
After evading yet more monsters in the sewers, Daniel arrives at the nave. This is a much more visibly depraved area of the Baron's castle as it functioned as an area for prisoner's who awaited torture. Upon entering the center of this area, Daniel is introduced to Agrippa, a shattered husk of a man who claims to be able to aid Daniel. He explains that Alexander has been using destroyed pieces of another orb in torture as they seem to produce intense anxiety in his victims. If Daniel can reunite those pieces, he may be able to stop Alexander from using the new restored orb that past Daniel had inadvertently handed him. Agrippa also requests that he create a tonic for him that would free him from the shattered husk he currently resides in.
Daniel then enters the various torture chambers in an effort to locate the old orb chunks. He also begins to suffer horrible flashbacks as he begins to realize what he has become. Daniel had been aiding the Baron in the torture of the countless innocents the Baron had delivered to his castle. He did so as the Baron claimed their suffering and sacrifice would surely slow the advancement of the shadow demon. As his grief overtakes him, Daniel recalls that the Baron and he raided a small farm home killing the husband and kidnapping the wife and her three daughters for sacrifices. A journal entry explains that Daniel no longer feels justified in the killing to keep back the beast. In this entry, he curses the Baron for making him do these horrid things and claims his revenge.
As Daniel returns to Agrippa to ask what he is to do next, he is swarmed by monsters who lock him in a nearby cell. Daniel's escape is quick but the Baron's voice fills his head taunting him. Suddenly, something terrible begins to chase Daniel. He narrowly escape back to the nave. Once there, he creates the tonic that supposedly will free Agrippa. Agrippa drinks it and requests that Daniel remove his head.
Daniel now enters the chancel to reunite the orb. A path opens leading to Alexander's hollowed inner sanctum. To enter the orb chamber where Alexander is surely awaiting Daniel makes a blood sacrifice and enters. A naked floating Baron greets Daniel there. He explains that he is hardly evil and that Daniel is to share blame in much of what has transpired. Alexander goes on to say that he is going to harness the power of the shadow which has grown tremendously with all the sacrifices to warp himself into another world. The three endings are as follows.
- Good Ending: Daniel throws Agrippa's head into the newly opened portal. Daniel and the Baron are consumed by the shadow but Agrippa calls upon a man named Johann Weyer to free Daniel from the abyss.
- Revenge Ending: Daniel destroys the portal before it can open, and the shadow consumes the Baron but spares Daniel. Daniel leaves the castle with a guilt-free conscience.
- Bad Ending: The Baron escapes to the other world. The shadow consumes Daniel.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent started off a very different game than the final product; it contained a more traditional structure, with the main character running around several hub worlds that could be completed in any order, collecting money that he could then give to NPCs to help solve puzzles or advance the story. The story itself was very different as well; according to an early pitch document, it would involve the main character traveling to a Castle (much like Brennenberg) in order to prevent an evil "Nobleman" (much like Alexander) from orchestrating an unspecified evil plan. Killing enemies was originally a larger part of the game, even though the document states that "combat is not a large part of the gameplay"; the main character was to be given various weapons, including melee weapons and a bow & arrow. The player could even trick monsters into walking into pools of electrified water and other such environmental hazards.
While the game that Frictional originally had in mind was vastly different, there were some very distinct similarities. First there are "Visions," which were the predecessor of the flashbacks, and act as such. The puzzles, as outlined in the document, are identical to those found in the finished product: the team talks about balancing the slow, thinking puzzles against the "action" puzzles, such as when the player need to clear the debris during the encounter with the water monster. The interplay between light and darkness was still there, though it differed in the sense that light would restore strength, and that lighting a corridor would also make it easier to pass the monster. Also, they kept the diary entries, though they were written by other characters instead of the protagonist.
So, some things changed and others stayed the same. In the end, the team found restraint, choosing not to include the "gamey-er" elements and instead going for a so-called "purer" horror experience.
In conjunction with the Portal 2 Potato Sack ARG, in which Valve held a sale of 13 indie games on Steam which were then subsequently invaded by various forms of GLaDOS, Frictional released a short expansion to the main game, titled " Justine". The expansion offers a different type of horror than the base game, this time being a collection of puzzle rooms tied together by an omniscient narrator (not unlike Portal). A new monster features - the "suitor" - and your character this time is female. It is loosely tied to the main game, with a collectible note from Daniel. It also, strangely, does not allow you to save, and once you die it crashes to the desktop. Although this is clearly a bug, the developers sarcastically claim that this was a deliberate choice made to "ratchet up the tension".
Justine wakes up in a dungeon, at the bottom of a castle, with a monster at her doorstep. Like Daniel, she doesn't know who she is or why she's here, and so is led along by the voice of Justine, a twisted and mysterious woman, emitting from various phonographs around the dungeon. She has kidnapped three people who were important in her life, and she asks you to spare them or kill them. The aforementioned monster comes in three forms (though they are the same visual model), each a different suitor for Justine. Players travel through the dungeon and slowly unravel who they are and who Justine is.
It is currently unavailable if not bought through Steam, though Frictional has promised to bring it to other digital distribution services.
- According to the original pitch document, the game was at first called "Unknown".
- Inside the game installation one can find a locked archive file called supersecret.rar. Inside the file one can find a variety of media which relate to the games development such as level progress flowcharts, concept art, early videos etc. The password to this file is lke271tyr299odn314 and is obtained by piecing together the supplied string of characters found at the bottom of the screen in each of the 3 endings.
- It is speculated that the passwords one receives at the end of the game represent the three Norse gods Loki (spelled "Loke" in Scandinavia), Tyr and Odin, each shortened to three letters.
- Much of the game is based on historical figures and organizations, such as Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, Johann Weyer and the Order of the Black Eagle.
- Brennenburg might be a reference to Brandenburg, since they both translate from German to "Burning Castle" — Brandenburg was considered the heart of Prussia, which is where the game takes place.
- The screams of the monsters were made by combining a long metal pipe with a large metal funnel, and then moaning loudly into the end of the pipe.
The original soundtrack for Amnesia: the Dark Descent was composed by Mikko Tarmia.
|Track #||Song Title||Running Time|
|06||Next to the Guardian||01.49|
|07||Theme for Unknown||03.04|
|17||Ending Alexander (alternative version)||02.12|
- Operating System: Windows XP/Vista/7
- CPU: 1.5Ghz
- Memory: 1 GB RAM
- Graphics: Radeon 9600/GeForceFX – Integrated graphics and very low budget cards might not work
- OS: Windows XP/Vista/7
- Processor: 2.0Ghz
- Memory: 2048MB
- Disc Space: 3GB
- Video Card: Radeon HD/GeForce 6
- OS: Mac OS X 10.5.8 or newer
- Processor: 2.0Ghz
- Memory: 1 GB RAM
- Graphics: Radeon 9600/GeForce 4 (GeForce4MX not supported)
- Hard Drive: 2GB space free
- OS: Mac OS X 10.5 or newer
- Processor: 2.0Ghz (Universal Binary)
- Memory: 2048MB
- Disc Space: 3GB
- Video Card: Radeon HD/GeForce 6d