When Mechanics Bump Into Immersion

I bought Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Directly from Frictional. DRM-free games make me happy.

Anyways, after seeing what Patrick had to say about his time with Amnesia on Twitter and hearing his comments on the Bombcast, it felt like a necessity as a fellow horror geek to finally pick the game up and make my way through it. I have a question for everyone that has played it: was there ever a point when you asked yourself one of these questions:

  • Do I continue going into this pitch black darkness which I know is going to outright kill me so that I'll probably just have to do it all again...only to die again?
  • How long will I be walking around before I'm less scared and more pissed off that it's pitch black and I can't find this one last fucking chemical?

Essentially, I am now stuck in a rut because the game's mechanics are now beating up against the immersion in this game. See, I know this is a game with an objective and mechanics at play. A gamer's natural instinct is to use these mechanics in a way to benefit them to get to their objective. I lit torches to see my way through in order to conserve my lantern oil. Something happened (either I picked up a chemical or the monster showed up or something, can't remember exactly) that blew the torches out. All of them. All of those tinderboxes I used...wasted...and I have no more. Therefore, I turned on the lantern and went searching. The lantern oil is gone...and I've got three of the four chemicals.

When those mechanics you need to have that advantage are taken away from you and then some other mechanics are used as a massive obliterating obstacle, you have to ask yourself one of those two questions.

That ended up becoming my problem: I stopped being immersed and started being pissed that I couldn't find the chemical. Every mechanic that I could've had available to me in order to find it was taken away from me, and that's understandable. I shouldn't expect everything to stay static at all times. However, I would hope that I wasn't wasting something without having a little inkling that it COULD be taken away, right? I don't know. It's a weird line that I'm straddling at the moment.

So I have this entire pitch black wine cellar that I've been through what I assume is almost the entirety of...and no way to see what the fuck I'm doing. The moans and groans, even the ambient music and the sounds of an impeding monster stomping through the doorways doesn't scare me anymore because I'm too busy being frustrated that I cannot find the objective piece I need to continue the game.

I've considered just starting over, but I know what to do in the beginning parts of the game now. It won't have that same unique sense of dread and tension that it did before, and I'm deathly afraid I'll just see it as more mechanics rather than this really cool and immersive world that was created to try and scare the balls off me.

Giant Bomb community, what should I do? Suck it up and just die over and over (or whatever happens whenever I sit in darkness for too long), or start over and make sure I don't use those tinderboxes?

4 Comments
5 Comments
Edited by jakob187

I bought Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Directly from Frictional. DRM-free games make me happy.

Anyways, after seeing what Patrick had to say about his time with Amnesia on Twitter and hearing his comments on the Bombcast, it felt like a necessity as a fellow horror geek to finally pick the game up and make my way through it. I have a question for everyone that has played it: was there ever a point when you asked yourself one of these questions:

  • Do I continue going into this pitch black darkness which I know is going to outright kill me so that I'll probably just have to do it all again...only to die again?
  • How long will I be walking around before I'm less scared and more pissed off that it's pitch black and I can't find this one last fucking chemical?

Essentially, I am now stuck in a rut because the game's mechanics are now beating up against the immersion in this game. See, I know this is a game with an objective and mechanics at play. A gamer's natural instinct is to use these mechanics in a way to benefit them to get to their objective. I lit torches to see my way through in order to conserve my lantern oil. Something happened (either I picked up a chemical or the monster showed up or something, can't remember exactly) that blew the torches out. All of them. All of those tinderboxes I used...wasted...and I have no more. Therefore, I turned on the lantern and went searching. The lantern oil is gone...and I've got three of the four chemicals.

When those mechanics you need to have that advantage are taken away from you and then some other mechanics are used as a massive obliterating obstacle, you have to ask yourself one of those two questions.

That ended up becoming my problem: I stopped being immersed and started being pissed that I couldn't find the chemical. Every mechanic that I could've had available to me in order to find it was taken away from me, and that's understandable. I shouldn't expect everything to stay static at all times. However, I would hope that I wasn't wasting something without having a little inkling that it COULD be taken away, right? I don't know. It's a weird line that I'm straddling at the moment.

So I have this entire pitch black wine cellar that I've been through what I assume is almost the entirety of...and no way to see what the fuck I'm doing. The moans and groans, even the ambient music and the sounds of an impeding monster stomping through the doorways doesn't scare me anymore because I'm too busy being frustrated that I cannot find the objective piece I need to continue the game.

I've considered just starting over, but I know what to do in the beginning parts of the game now. It won't have that same unique sense of dread and tension that it did before, and I'm deathly afraid I'll just see it as more mechanics rather than this really cool and immersive world that was created to try and scare the balls off me.

Giant Bomb community, what should I do? Suck it up and just die over and over (or whatever happens whenever I sit in darkness for too long), or start over and make sure I don't use those tinderboxes?

Posted by believer258

Can you open the console and give yourself candlelight? Of course that one little detail might pervade your thoughts for the entire rest of the game, ruining any immersion you once had.

If it were me, I'd delete that save, leave it sitting for a few months, and then come back to it.

Edited by YI_Orange

Check a walkthrough, see if there's something you missed that can help you through it.

That said, I had similar experiences with the game. Not getting literally stuck, but not being able to figure out a puzzle or find something easily so I would just look stuff up to keep progressing. At a certain point I just wanted the game to be finished. Honestly, I think the game would have been better had it been 3-4 hours shorter.

Also, I'm not really a horror guy since it generally doesn't have much effect on me, but the only moment that made me feel like Amnesia deserved it's reception was the infamous water sequence.

Posted by jakob187

@YI_Orange: I wouldn't want to check a walkthrough. It's supposed to be about immersion, and I have now purposefully kept myself away from walkthroughs and videos in order to give myself a level of true immersion. The reason things got all fucked up was because I didn't understand what the puzzle wanted when I first got to it. In the beginning, that was an interesting feeling of exploration and experimentation. It wasn't until I got to that feeling we all know to well - the one where you go "okay, seriously, I've tried everything in this room and nothing works, what the fuck am I supposed to do here" - that I decided to leave and then realize that I needed to go into the wine cellar to find all of the chemicals. I thought I had gone in there, but I didn't apparently? I don't know.

Don't get me wrong: I've played plenty of games that don't give you any explanations of shit that you need to know (i.e. Dark Souls, Out of This World, etc) and had great experiences. I don't NEED to have my path pointed out for me or my hand held. I just have this feeling right now that I can't continue without being pulled out of the immersion. It honestly sucks.

@believer258: I've considered that as well...sadly.

Posted by Sooty

@YI_Orange said:

Check a walkthrough, see if there's something you missed that can help you through it.

That said, I had similar experiences with the game. Not getting literally stuck, but not being able to figure out a puzzle or find something easily so I would just look stuff up to keep progressing. At a certain point I just wanted the game to be finished. Honestly, I think the game would have been better had it been 3-4 hours shorter.

Also, I'm not really a horror guy since it generally doesn't have much effect on me, but the only moment that made me feel like Amnesia deserved it's reception was the infamous water sequence.

Amnesia can already be finished in 2-4 hours if you don't spend too much time moving at a snail's pace, so saying it should be even shorter is kind of silly.

There's even 42 minute speed runs on YouTube now.