Just finished Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. I have to say that this will be added to the list of the most disappointing sequels I’ve ever played. While the game still shined in some parts and it did have its moments, but it is in no way comparable to even the Justine DLC of the original Amnesia: The Dark Descent, let alone the full prequel. The game is still immersive as ever, with its grim and horrifying atmosphere. The sound is top notch and adds to the immersion of the player into the game’s atmosphere, and the soundtrack composed by Jessica Curry is just out of this world and my personal favorite is ‘Mors Praematura’, and the voice acting, while felt a bit forced at times, is great and lets you feel what the characters are going through. Cannot comment on the graphics, seeing that I have a low end graphics card and I ran the game on medium/ low settings; I will, however, comment on the aesthetics which are just plain steam punk galore and a wonder to behold. Everything from the twisted contraptions to the seemingly endless, dark and narrow grating filled hallways and pipes intertwining together like snakes and steam rising everywhere threatening to scald your ass if you’re not too careful. It’s just plain sweet steam punk orgasm.
Nevertheless, the design of the monsters (or the Manpigs as they are called in this game) is pretty much lackluster and once you see them the first time, you won’t be freaked out if you sensed their presence in later encounters. You play as wealthy industrialist Oswald Mandus as he tries to find his children after waking up from a coma he had for seemingly months after catching a fever from a ‘disastrous’ expedition in Mexico. The story is held nicely and it actually lets you think about a lot of stuff concerning this world and what it has gone to and the fear of the future with twists gently thrown at you as you progress.. Some are less expected than others. Now that we’re done with the positives, let’s get to the gripes that I have with this game.
First of all, the gameplay is streamlined to the maximum with no thoughts required at all. You can run, crouch and pick up and use specific items as the cross-hair prompts you to. You open doors by pulling the mouse or pushing it while holding the left mouse button. Journal pieces are scattered throughout the game for you to pick up and read to help you understand what the hell’s going on. Nothing different here from the previous game and all seems to be in order, so what’s the problem? Simply, No inventory. No item management whatsoever. Every object in this game can be only picked up, Meaning that if you’re solving a puzzle you’ll have to drag whichever object you need to the specific destination needed to solve it, which tends to make solving puzzles a chore rather than fun. Second, your lantern can’t run out, as unlike the first game this lantern is run by electricity, hence no tinderboxes to be found anywhere in this here game. And the same goes to the candles which you can’t even interact with but instead some lamps are scattered in some locations (mostly in the beginning of the game) which you can turn on and off and are pretty much useless to begin with because you have your trusty lantern that can never run out no matter what. I have no problem with video game logic in general, as this particular incident falls into that category. I even hate the posts that laugh at that logic. I don’t argue about Megaman not being able to shoot except left or right, nor do I argue about Mario breathing underwater normally, while in certain levels when he falls into it he dies. I know what games are like and I’m okay with that, BUT NOT WITH EVERY GAME. You can’t be overly realistic in a game and you can’t be too over the top and nonsensical as well.
The first game had you carefully manage your time with your lantern and when to use it and when not to. It added to the tension of the game and the overall experience, and I was okay with that. It was required to let the player feel that nothing is for free. This is ABC survival horror, people. But letting us use the lantern at all times without penalizing us for it is just unforgivable in this game and draws the sense of fear away. Survival horror is supposed to let the player feel misery and tension at all times. So it’s kind of confusing and shocking on why a series like Amnesia just removed the majority of that feel in the sequel. Also the fact that Manpig encounters are pretty much too low compared to the first game’s encounters with the grunts and the brutes, and the pigs themselves aren’t that scary to begin with. I found myself creeped out by the voices of the suitors in the Justine DLC more than seeing the Manpig in front of me face to face. I imagined something more than this to be honest from the teaser alone, it’s just sad. Also, the open spaces are dull and repetitive in structure and, like the Manpig encounters, are even fewer and the open locations themselves have no effect in the overall experience of the game except for a sequence later in the game which in my opinion had no effect in the story or the narrative whatsoever. Gone are the health and sanity meters, and hello regenerating health.
You don’t get dizzy nor does your sanity deplete at all if you came across a weird phenomenon like the lights flickering or the grounds shaking.. You just hear Mandus gasping and shrieking and breathing heavily as he panics and that is it, again removing more layers of immersion and tension. If a Manpig caught you and beat you up a little, you can always run away and hide for a bit till the screen turns back to normal and all is fine and dandy. The puzzles are pathetic, and all consist of dragging an object into its designated place or hole or whatever or pull switches and that is it. No thought required. No challenge. Nothing. And then comes the biggest gripe of them all. The game is just a little over 3 hours in length, give or take. I was shocked to find the credits rolling after a huge cut scene… was that what TheChineseRoom was working on for the past 2 or something years? A 3 hour mediocre experience? Granted, Justine took an hour to beat, but the DLC was packed with tension and horror and was by no means mediocre. You can have fun playing a short game if the content is superb. But this.. This is quintessential mediocrity. All this wait boiled down to a very half-baked experience. The game isn’t broken, the game isn’t bug ridden, no. Resident Evil 5 wasn’t buggy or broken ‘Except for the whole partner AI thing’ but it was still playable regardless, just like this game. I’m not comparing A Machine For Pigs with the likes of Darkseed 2 *shivers*, but I expected WAY MORE THAN THAT IN AN AMNESIA GAME.
I know that I’ve shoved this opinion onto many throats, but that goes to show what happens when you dumb down your game as an excuse to reach for a ‘wider audience’, and this is added to the list of endless banes of the video game industry. I am growing more skeptical to mostly every sequel coming around the corner.
In the end, a machine for pigs is a lackluster, forgettable 3-4 hours survival horror adventure that won’t leave a mark on your life if you got to play it, and you won’t miss anything substantial if you didn’t. The game’s environments are beautiful and the sound design’s superb. Other than that, it reminds me of horrible, somewhat nostalgic memories spent playing another mediocre sequel, Devil May Cry 2. This is a definite pass. Spend your time playing any of the custom stories for the first game or even, if you still haven’t, play the first game itself.
(Review written by: Amr Elhalfawi)