Amnesia: The Bunker Review – Thin on Story, Heavy on Scares

Amnesia: The Bunker Review

Amnesia: The Bunker is the latest entry in the Amnesia series of games from developer, Frictional Games. This fifth entry takes a radical departure from previous Amnesia games. It is a contained experience all happening in, yep you guessed it, a bunker. A World War 1 bunker, to be exact.

Compared to other Amnesia games, there is little narrative to Amnesia: The Bunker. You play as a World War 1 soldier trying to escape enemy German forces. Injured, you wake up in the infirmary of an underground bunker, but there is no one else about. You quickly discover they are all gone or dead.

However, they did not die because of the war. They died because of something in the bunker. Something hunting them down. To avoid the same fate, you must escape the bunker. A goal complicated because the exit is destroyed. Your only way out is to gather up the necessary materials to blast your way out. Trouble is, some of those materials lay deeper in the bunker.

That’s the setup for the Amnesia: The Bunker. This is a game of cat and mouse a la the recent Alien: Isolation game. Instead of motion and sound being your main concern, the focus is on light. The electricity in the bunker comes from a generator. A generator that constantly runs out of fuel. Fuel which you must scavenge for and return with to replenish the bunker.

Amnesia: The Bunker Light Versus Dark

You are armed with a pistol and the occasional grenade, plus a flashlight. And an interesting flashlight it is. When it falters, you recharge by repeatedly pulling on a string; much like starting a lawn mower. Without light, you are totally at the mercy of the monster that lurks behind the walls. You must explore the deepest and darkest areas to find the materials you need to escape. At the same time, you must be mindful of the generator running out of fuel. Plus, avoid the creature that is hunting you down.

The last tool in your inventory is a pocket watch. This helps you gauge how long until the generator shuts down. In the administration office, there is a map of the bunker. The map not only gives you the layout, but it also records any important findings and goals discovered. These updates to the map come from exploring and reading notes left behind by the previous occupants. It is good that you have the map to reference your progress. It is bad that you can only access the map from the office.

Dark and Grey

The gameplay mechanics of the map and the generator fueling are a mixed bag. While they add a level of strategy, they also feel like padding to make the game last longer.

On the technical front, the game is polished and runs problem free, though you cannot exceed the capped 60 FPS limit. This game is dark. And drab. And grey. Oh so, grey! All the rooms, corridors, and caves live within a narrow spectrum of color. Of course, this is keeping with the game’s underground setting, but the end result leaves an underwhelming impression.

What the setting allows for is great sound design. No doubt this is the strong suit of the game. As you move around the various rooms and areas of the bunker; creaks of the wooden support structures or floors, the squealing and patter of rats, and the monster play all around you.

Amnesia: The Bunker stands as an off-shoot from the main Amnesia series. It bears no direct connection to any of the previous games. It’s an interesting choice for Frictional Games. They could view the Bunker as a palette cleanser before they tackle a bigger story.

Strategy Versus Scares

The comparison of this game to another cat-and-mouse game, Alien Isolation, is easily apparent. However, Alien Isolation has a lot of franchise back story to engage the player. Amnesia: The Bunker does not. The protagonist of the game you play as, is an unknown quantity. Beyond the brief outdoor sequences at the start of the game, you learn very little about him. In the other Amnesia games, you learn more of the protagonist throughout the game, which invests you more emotionally into the story.

This difference colored my experience in my playthrough of the game. I can appreciate that Frictional Games has done something different from their previous titles. Knowing that you can go into this game with a fresh set of expectations.

The Bunker is all about the strategy of outsmarting and eluding the monster. From that perspective, the game does a good job of creating a sense of dread and tension. You must juggle the needs of gathering the necessary components to escape against being caught by the creature.
The game features 3 modes of difficulty: easy, normal, and hard. Easy is the story mode where you can experience the atmosphere more fully with a reduced risk of dying. Normal is the balanced mode while hard will really test your skills.

Cat and Mouse

Amnesia: The Bunker lacks the story-telling and emotional heft of the previous games in the series. But, if you are in the mood for a scary and tense game of cat and mouse, this game will satisfy your needs.

*** PC code provided by the publisher ***

The Good

  • Different story telling direction
  • Great sound design
  • Good sense of dread

The Bad

  • Not aesthetically pleasing
  • Short duration
  • Minimal narrative focus