Frictional Games’ Amnesia series has been one of the premier horror franchises in gaming over the past decade plus. The team’s first Amnesia game, The Dark Descent, burst onto the PC scene way back in 2010 and is now renowned for being one of the spookiest games out there. We’ve had a few indirect sequels since, and while those fall roughly in line with what that first game attempted all those years ago, none of Frictional’s follow-ups have ever been as downright terrifying as that debut entry. While that’s mostly true of Amnesia: The Bunker as well, this is a title that definitely harkens back to the series’ roots, and as a result, this is absolutely the scariest Amnesia game since the original.
first-person horror series
If you’re unfamiliar with those roots we’ll give you a quick summary here. Amnesia is a first-person horror series that focuses more on what could be lurking in the dark than what’s actually there. The series regularly falls well under that ‘walking sim’ category as you do very little fighting most of the time; you’re usually creeping, hiding and puzzle solving to try and find your way out of a horrific situation. The first game was more freeform and vague in its approach to level design and storytelling, while sequels Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and Amnesia: Rebirth became more linear and focused. The Bunker is much more like the original in its overall approach, and this new title actually marks the first ‘open world’ entry in the franchise.
Right, housekeeping out of the way, let’s get to it – Amnesia: The Bunker is a bloody scary first-person horror title. The game starts out in the trenches of WW1 before a few short gunfights and close shaves push you deep below into a labyrinth-like bunker. You’re then tasked with, basically, escaping said bunker – although something absolutely-not-human is lurking around in the shadows down there. Lovely.
You’re quick to realise that Amnesia: The Bunker largely leaves you to your own devices once underground, and we quite liked this approach to begin with. You have a central hub where a fuel-thirsty generator keeps the lights on, a handy map that details the explorable sub-sections of the bunker, and an overhead lamp that provides a place to save your progress. Once we’d lifted the bunker’s lockdown — which is an early game objective — we went on our way, trying to find any bits and pieces that might help us escape.
Much of the game’s progression, clues and story beats are told through notes scattered about the place – some voice acted and some not. It’s definitely in your best interest to scour every nook and cranny of the bunker, even if you’d prefer to avoid the shadows for obvious reasons. Notes are key to progressing, and thankfully, the game adds a handy little red pin onto the important ones in your inventory. Generator fuel and other resources are super important too, so yeah, it’s definitely worth taking your time to find what you need.
One change of pace in this new Amnesia title is the addition of weaponry. Ammo is extremely scarce and revolver shots, grenades and the like can only serve to ward off the monster – you can’t outright kill it this way. Still, that slight sense of power gives you a bit more confidence to explore, although we’d recommend you only exercise your right to shoot firearms in the most necessary of situations.
Frictional being Frictional though, they give you quite a few other ways to use your new-found firepower and this was one of the highlights of the experience for us. You can blast your way through wooden doors, set off traps from range, and just generally engage your environment through weaponry. There are almost always other ways to tackle these objectives, but the world tries to apply logic as best it can and the dev team has been keen to stress that if you think you can do something in a certain way, you probably can. This system does show its limits later on, where the game introduces more scripted events, but early on we found ourselves proclaiming quite a few ‘a-ha!’ moments as we scrambled to find ways to progress.
As we alluded to earlier, you can tackle most of Amnesia: The Bunker in any order with the end of the game ultimately just requiring you to find the right bits of equipment to get out. We liked this approach as it really did feel natural to wander around and play through, although we did run into a few uneven bits of progression as the game went on.
Early on we came across a few very important notes that basically told us where we’d need to go to escape, so naturally, we made a beeline for that area of the bunker pretty quickly – only to realise that we’d skipped a few steps and had to circle back to other, unexplored parts of the bunker to get what we needed to escape. We get it, the team likely wants players to fully explore and spend more time playing, but we’d have liked the game to be a bit more daring in its freeform nature. It’d be kinda cool to just stumble upon the right notes & equipment and find the quickest way to escape early on, right? Missing sections on a first playthrough would help encourage replayability too.
And it’s here where Amnesia: The Bunker trips over itself a little bit. The game wants to allow the freedom to explore and for players to tackle objectives as they see fit, but it still wants you to follow a certain path and spend a certain amount of time in each area of the bunker. 2020’s Amnesia: Rebirth was much more scripted but it felt natural in that more linear title, while The Bunker feels a wee bit stuck between being truly freeform and funnelling you down a certain path
If you’re into your scares though, Amnesia: The Bunker absolutely nails it. Again, it’s probably not quite as frightening as The Dark Descent, but this is the closest Frictional has got since and we were pretty tense throughout our entire playthrough. The way the developer utilises light and dark is masterful, and what you can’t quite see down there in the bunker really does play with your mind.
We must also give the team another shoutout for Amnesia: The Bunker’s audio. Whether it’s the rackety rumbling of the central generator, the creeping and screeching of the monster hunting you down, or just the dead air silence when very little is going on, Frictional has done a fine job in the sound department. Audio is incredibly important in horror games, and the sounds of the bunker did a super job at immersing the player and adding to the overall tension of fighting to escape.
An area where things aren’t quite so smooth right now is in the game’s general stability. We came across multiple crashes during our playtime on Xbox Series X, and some caused lost progression due to the game’s manual save system. The performance is pretty good elsewhere — outside of hitches when you first enter a new section of the bunker — but if you’re playing at launch it’s definitely worth saving as much as possible in case of crashing. The team says that it’s aware of certain crashing issues and has been working on a patch to fix things up, but we haven’t seen any updates go live during our review process.
Amnesia: The Bunker is Frictional Games’ scariest title since the team made a name for itself with 2010’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The game’s new approach to an ‘open world’ style environment is welcome in enabling player freedom, even if we’d have liked the team to push that design principle even further. You don’t get as direct of a storyline told here as you do in Amnesia: Rebirth, but the game is certainly spookier as a result of its new setting and its move to free the player of any linear shackles. We reckon fans of the original — or horror game aficionados in general — will very much enjoy exploring this monster-filled bunker