Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is a Disappointment [Updated]

I wouldn't spend $20 on this title.

I wouldn't spend $20 on this title.

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs released earlier this month to the hype of many The Dark Descent fans. The Chinese Room, known for their ‘interactive storytelling’ in games took over development of this “sequel” and claimed that it was a true journey “into madness, industrialisation and the darkest secrets of the soul.”

It’s not.

I’ll admit, this sequel focuses on a more subtle form of horror, and I can appreciate that the jump scares are few–it’s a much more creepy, mind-screw kind of thriller, and I enjoy them. I’m not criticizing A Machine for Pigs on its scare factor, or its story.

Contrary to The Chinese Room’s opinion, mechanics are a vital factor in this series. The fact that AMFP completely lacks them is the deal breaker.

The fans of The Dark Descent are fans because of the mechanics used in combination with the story. We’re a loyal bunch who are critical of A Machine for Pigs because, in my opinion, it didn’t deliver on its promise. 

TDD was known for its open world feeling, where you could explore just about any room and pick up objects and manipulate them. You had an inventory, you had a health meter, and you had a mentality meter.

AMFP has none of these things, and feels like a dumbed-down version of what we know. Am I upset because it’s different? No. I’m upset because it claimed to be one thing, when actually, it’s a linear hand-hold through a ‘horror’ game. It’s an interactive storybook. Let’s be honest.

For those of you who haven’t played, the pressure of being at the whim and mercy of tinder boxes was a monumental aspect of the environment. Staying in darkness too long meant that Daniel would go insane–seeing monsters had the same effect. Your lantern wasn’t electric and didn’t last forever. It would dim or even go out all together. 

Mechanics made TDD

These ‘mechanics… duh!’ made the story that fans drooled over. The pressure and anxiety of knowing that darkness, and whatever was lurking in it, was just seconds away gave you sweaty palms and made you dread to rush, though the sense of urgency was almost overwhelming. You were struck with a difficult choice that lasted for hours. TDD is definitely not a short game, and it never tapers off or becomes less terrifying.

The ability to move almost every object in the game, to go into almost every room and explore added to this sense of large, terrifyingly dangerous space. You’re in this giant castle, and there is very little linear help. You’re guided by hints found through clues, notes, and trails of blood. That’s about it.

In AMFP, you can’t open any door that you’re not supposed to go through. This, to me, felt lazy. You can’t pick up any objects that aren’t directly related to your task. Another lazy mistake. Your lamp lasts forever, you have no idea what state the protagonist is in mentally, and there is no indicator of fear other than occasional blurry vision or hallucination. You’re lead by the nose through puzzles, which just aren’t difficult.

It is what it is… but don’t call it something else.

Tomb Raider was an exceptional game that I adore. Through very cinematic cut scenes and quicktime events, you’re lead through this gruesome journey with Lara and you watch her develop as a character.

The key word here is watch. AMFP isn’t a game you play–it’s a game you watch.

Tomb Raider is enjoyable because we knew what it was going in. It didn’t claim to be the successor of a game that is made of gameplay and almost endless options.

The fact that Jessica Curry, director and composer of AMFP said…

“Why was that a problem? Well…it just was because, games, y’know, should have, like, mechanics. Duh!”

…In her blog post responding to criticism shows that she shouldn’t have touched anything related to one of the most critically acclaimed horror games with a ten foot pole.

Her comment is pretentious, self-righteous and shows ignorance and arrogance in the face of comments from the series’ fans. Storytelling is a vital part of a game, yes, but in a series that is already established and known for one key aspect (mechanics… duh)… to rip it out, strip the game to the bare bones and then slap fans in the face is asking for failure.

A Machine For Pigs received a 72/100 on Metacritic from 47 reviewers.

This is like a walking simulator, not a horror game. — targz on Metacritic

The Dark Descent received an 85/100 from 44 reviewers. 

It would have been better if it was just an indie game called Machine for pigs. — Joso2304 on Metacritic

I was disappointed and underwhelmed within the first hour. I feel comfortable telling Jessica Curry to get over herself and become a little more familiar with humility.

I’ll give The Chinese Room credit for storytelling, since that’s what they’re good at, but as far as AMFP as a game?

I think I’ll just go replay TDD.

Updated Review (3/5/14):

This update is long overdue, but given my lack of… well, interest in the title once I finished it, I never got around to completing this review. 

  • Graphically, AMFP is decent. It’s definitely not next-gen beautiful, but it wasn’t made for next-gen. Things ran smoothly, the visuals were pretty well made, and the controls were fairly fluid. It was a bit confusing to switch from keyboard to controller mid-game, so I would recommend starting with one and sticking with it. This was nothing to write home about, but it wasn’t terrible.
  • Story-wise, The Chinese Room is known for their writing. And bravo to them for it–the story, like the graphics, was decent and I found it entertaining enough. The idea of the protagonist’s struggle with his own psychological issues and physically with the machine was an interest thing to watch. I did actually enjoy the story, for the most part.
  • Overall, the game… was alright. My beef with it still stands. The mechanics were lacking, the puzzles were fairly simple, and more often than not I was running straight into pig demons without so much as a flinch–actually, some of them even bugged out and would stand right underneath me without actually attacking me. It felt linear, and I was painfully aware of it. I didn’t feel any rushing sense of dread, I didn’t feel challenged… it felt like I was reading a pop-up book, almost. I still believe it is deserving of the three stars I gave it. It was an alright experience, but it wasn’t immersive and honestly, a few days after I finished it, I (obviously) forgot all about it.
I wouldn't spend $20 on this title.

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is a Disappointment [Updated]

I wouldn't spend $20 on this title.

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Katy Hollingsworth

whale biologist.