Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

amnesia: a machine for pigs

Review: Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs

3:00 PM on 09.09.2013 // Jim Sterling

That'll do, pig

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a beloved title for a number of reasons. As well as becoming a viral darling thanks to a cavalcade of shrieking YouTube videos, Dark Descent was praised for bringing back a sense of true survival horror at a time when so many publishers were adamant the genre was dead. It was also just a straight up terrifying game, which helped!

For the sequel, Frictional Games has drafted in the talents of The Chinese Room, best known for its story-driven excursion into vagueness, Dear Esther. The blending of survival horror and a studio famous for its contribution to what are popularly called "art games" makes for an intriguing cocktail, one that could potentially delight, but also severely disappoint. 

A Machine For Pigs straddles the line. The Chinese Room's talent for storytelling and mystery works very well in Amnesia's twisted world, but its love of making players hear, rather than play, its mysterious stories will certainly rub some Dark Descent fans up the wrong way.

Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs (PC)
Developer: The Chinese Room
Publisher: Frictional Games
Released: September 10, 2013
MSRP: $19.99

With a game as reliant on an unravelling story as A Machine For Pigs, it's difficult to discuss almost anything relating to narrative without ruining the whole thing. To give you the basics, however, the year is 1899, the turn of the century, and a lone man in an abandoned house is in search of his two sons. To say much more about the story itself would serve us a hard turn into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say, The Chinese Room weaves a most disturbing tale. 

Amnesia benefits from dabbling in medical horror, by far one of my favorite subgenres, and overlaying a genuinely authentic Victorian atmosphere over the environments and dialog. Audio recordings and documents unveil the game's backstory, and all carry with them unnerving surgical detachment married to a stark romanticism of language. As an exercise in period horror, A Machine For Pigs displays its pedigree with pride. 

Much of what made The Dark Descent enjoyable has been carried over, too. As one might expect, a vast amount of the game is made up of walking through dark rooms, jumping at creaky floorboards and clanking noises. Every now and then, a minor puzzle may provide a hindrance, though such tasks usually involve very simple activities such as replacing broken fuses or pulling the correct levers. Thorough exploration of each area to find hidden switches makes up much of the experience, and discovering each gramophone or discarded letter is required to further understand what soon becomes a most perplexing story. 

[Stay tuned for our official video review, coming soon!]

Enemies are few and far between, and cannot be directly combated. As with Dark Descent, the presence of monsters requires switching off the light, hiding quickly, and praying to God you sneak out alive. The fear of making one's move, the often disarming terror at the idea of alerting the twisted creatures that stalk the halls, has all been preserved from the original game, though the instances are incredibly rare, perhaps moreso even than last time. 

For all its atmospheric preservations, the influence of The Chinese Room is keenly, sometimes overbearingly felt. For one thing, Pigs is far more about walking and having a story told to you than Dark Descent was. Gameplay elements such as light sources, tinderboxes, and the sanity meter have all been removed, leading to a game with a lot less to worry about. A Machine For Pigs gives you a lantern, that can be switched on or off at will, and that's about it. Even tactical use of the lantern is rendered moot, since there are so few enemies to deal with. Make no mistake, this is a game that wants to tell you a tale, and it does all it can to ensure you pay attention without distraction. 

Thanks to this often exclusive emphasis on story, much of the ground-level horror has been reduced. The concepts involved in the narrative are unsettling on a psychological level, but the scares themselves, the stresses of maintaining one's sanity and safety, are at a remarkable low in comparison to The Dark Descent, and fans who wanted more of the same may well be disappointed by what is far more of a guided tour than a survival horror experience. It wouldn't be unreasonable for some horror fans to think, "is that all?" when the game's four hours are up. 

Those who find themselves drawn into the story, however, will be impressed by the presentation, especially the use of music and the gorgeous design of the environments, both of which add real weight to the game's most dramatic moments, even at times when the plot itself borders on the incomprehensible. The whole adventure builds itself up to an impressive crescendo, escalating the pace on a subtle level and pulling back the curtain on its weirdest elements at the perfect moment.

The evocative imagery the dialog drums up, especially the very real and dismal meaning of the titular "Machine For Pigs" itself, delivers a different kind of horror experience from the jump scares and visual body horror we're so used in games, a mentally alarming tactic not seen since the earliest Silent Hill games. Even if it's low on the scares, there's an undeniably "creepy" vibe that permeates A Machine For Pigs, and it effectively keeps the game tense, even when it's obvious there's no immediate danger. 

Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs is a threadbare successor to The Dark Descent in several ways, taking out tangible gameplay in order to provide an experience undeniably closer to Dear Esther than many of us may want. Even so, it at least makes an effort to compromise and bring us a lot of the atmosphere enjoyed in both Amnesia and Penumbra, while the perturbing story and half-surgical, half-industrial imagery contribute to an evocative game, if not a wholly satisfactory one. 

It's hard to recommend A Machine For Pigs to every horror fan, as it provides something that could so easily delight or dismay, something that is unique and effective, but potentially shortchanging. If you want to be told a vexingly bizarre story presented with a real sense of style, The Chinese Room may have exactly what you want. If you're a massive survival horror fan who wants to be made to scream, however, you probably want to stick your snout in someone else's offal. 



amnesia: a machine for pigs - Reviewed by Jim Sterling
Likable - That's a seven, which is actually a different number than five. It's more than ok. We like this game. I don't want to play it every day forever and ever, but it's definitely worth the time I invested in it, and I'll be picking it up again to relive the fun sometime down the line.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
amnesia: a machine for pigs

  Jun 05

Not again! Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs pushed back

'We are working away as fast as we can, it has to take the time it takes'

  Oct 31

Have a timely new Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs trailer

Don't watch this by yourself with headphones on

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!

Cblogs of 11/26/15 + Combat Heropon-isms

Video games go mainstream

I’m Not a SJW, I’m an Anthropologist: Making the Case for Diversity in Games

Insidia REVIEW - A whole dark, gloomy, and kinda creepy world to explore

DS REVIEWS: Trace Memory

Things I'm Thankful For

Cblogs of 11/25/15 + Turkey N Stuff

Cheat Codes Podcast - Ep. 73: Stay Classy

NVGR: Updated Album "ADBC" (No longer an EP)

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

Niero Desu avatarNiero Desu
Did a google maps search around my parents house for bars and there isn't one in like 25 miles, so I picked up an Intel compute stick and South Park: Stick of Truth on Steam. That's more or less the drunken screaming I'm in the mood for at about the cost.
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
Do you ever have that moment of clarity when talking to someone and suddenly realising: You're just a skull, and they're just a skull, with fucking eyeballs and a sac of skin being the only comparative difference between you visually? ..just me then?
Nathan D avatarNathan D
After quitting for two days out of frustration, I beat Ludwig on my first try of the night. I'm on cloud fucking nine right now.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
When I did my retail shift today, we were moving more Smash/Splat Wii U bundles and the Gears/Rare Replay/Ori XB1 bundles than Uncharted and Battlefront PS4s. I think Nintendo and MS have better value on their side this holiday. Sony got lazy.
Confuseddalek avatarConfuseddalek
I found this weird game called Samurai Heroes for 8 dollars today. Its not bad.
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
Got Deadpool, Arkham Asylum and BioShock 1 and 2 all for 30$. Not to bad for going Black Friday shopping late.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
If you haven't played Tales from the Borderlands yet, GO BUY IT! By far the funniest game I have ever played, and the characters and narrative are incredibly well written. Very few memes unlike BL2 by the way.
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
Played all of Life is Strange today in one sitting. Bloody hell. You should all play it. Only game this year to make me cry. Bravo developers. Possibly the most valuable thing I've ever bought for £10.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Last night, got farther than ever in Wasteland 2. This is my third playthrough-once thru beta, once through the orig version, now on Directors cut. Worth the restart, and it speaks highly of the game that I like it enough to do this. DAMONTA HERE I COME!
KeithTheGeek avatarKeithTheGeek
GUYS HELP I KEEP BUYING MORE AMIIBO. Today it was Little Mac, since he went back up on Gamestop's website. I probably would have gotten Captain Falcon as well if I wasn't already running a little short on cash.
BigDoniel avatarBigDoniel
50 hours in and I can safely say that Xenoblade is the best JRPG I've played in years. Should hopefully be finished in time for X too!
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
One job down on day I should have off, now for the other job.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I beat Murasaki Baby on PS Vita. Easy 100% trophy. That ending theme tho.
TheGwailo avatarTheGwailo
I have 34 games in my Steam queue alone, 4 on xbone, and a handful on handhelds. I have 3 days to make a dent. Time's up, let's do this!
Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: To make up for yesterday, I decided to ask a second Community Question today. Have you taken advantage of any Black Friday deals today? If so, what did you purchase? Feel free to share pictures of your spoils, if you have any.
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Some Black Friday artwork arrived today ! [img][/img]
Lawman avatarLawman
Black Friday is getting to me. All these games I kinda, maybe want that are at anywhere between respectable and deep discounts, but I'm not sure if I want to bite. I'm wondering if Godzilla's worth $12? After checking review scores, I'm not sure.
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
Mission complete![IMG][/IMG]
Serethyn avatarSerethyn
Black Friday slowly seems to creep its way onto Continental Europe, but I'm not complaining! I managed to get my grubby little paws on a new physical copy of The Wonderful 101 for €20! Thanks, America!
Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: Since I missed yesterday, I am going to do something a little different today. Are there any questions you would like to ask me for a change? If so, please feel free. I may add a second Community Question later today, as well.
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -