I think that Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs was much better than Dark Descent. There. I said it.
Wait...where are you all going? No! Stop, come back!
You can't be a horror fan and not have at least some sort of lingering knowledge about Amnesia: The Dark Descent. When it first came out (and I'd argue, to this day...), it was everywhere. That game was the words on everybody's lips; it seemed like everybody had praise for it, and not an ill-word to be heard about it. I like to think of myself of a pretty well grounded horror fan, and I'll be honest, it got to the point where people actually seemed surprised that I hadn't played Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Somehow, my disinterest in playing it seemed to baffle most people. Time and time again, I had to explain myself. Medieval castles and otherworldly dark magic just really isn't my thing. I did eventually get around to playing The Dark Descent, and I was met with a lot of what I had sort of expected, already. The story didn't appeal to me. The setting didn't appeal to me. The game mechanics and the sanity meter actively turned me off of the game. If I could have had less than zero interest, I'm sure I would have. I think I had pretty much written the franchise off, when something caught my ear and grabbed my interest. A Machine for Pigs. I can't exactly explain what it was about the title that caught me. There was something disturbing and demented in the title alone, leaving me to wonder just what was so scary about a pig machine, that it had earned itself the title of an Amnesia game. As I learned more about the game, I felt as if it had been made especially for me. The setting seemed more accessible, and the story was more emotional; the music was grand and beautiful, yet still haunting and tense. I was so glad to see the sanity meter gone, as well as having to ration out oil to balance my dwindling sanity. From what other gamers have said, the hate for Machine for Pigs comes from that lack of game elements. I'm well aware that a lot of people loved those very game-like mechanics, but to me, it felt like they were things that stood in the way of the story. I'm not a hardcore gamer by any stretch of the imagination, and I really appreciated not being bogged down by things that would have ultimately taken away from the experience. Even the puzzles and tasks that I had to deal with were manageable, and made the experience so much more enjoyable. Instantly, I fell in love with Oswald Mandus' world. My heart sank as he lamented and searched for his children. As he descended further into the machine of his own making, I feel like he came to understand and regret his actions so much more than his predecessor did. The whole narrative just felt so much easier to relate to, and on a whole, it felt deeper and more complex. The monsters that I was faced with in Machine for Pigs also felt so much more effective than in Dark Descent. I'm not saying that I wouldn't crap my pants in fear if I ran into the latter, but the manpigs had so much more going for them. They were these horrible creatures; they were scary and disturbing, but they also had complexities. We learn, during the game, that manpigs are made from the rejects in society. Orphans, the severely handicapped, the homeless and the insane. Suddenly, seeing a manpig looming in his cage isn't just scary, it's also heart breaking. If you look closely enough, you can see his sad eyes and a sense of innocence as he stacks wooden blocks or cries in a corner. If I hadn't been won over yet, I certainly was when I was given a villain to both fear and pity. A Machine for Pigs also snuffled it's way into my heart through my love of music. I touched on the soundtrack in a previous blog, but I feel like it's worth mentioning again. I'll be honest, I can't think back to one memorable piece of music from The Dark Descent. Nothing sticks out in my mind and I don't really remember ever being made to feel anything by the music from that game. Jessica Curry's soundtrack for A Machine for Pigs never failed to leave me with goosebumps. The music was a mix of tender moments, warm strings, and beautiful vocal work, paired with guttural, industrial groans and clanks. I felt like the surroundings of Castle Brennenburg was boring, and aside from a few interesting aspects (that bloody fountain, am I right?!), it felt monotonous and uninspired. That could be my disinterest in medieval masonry coming into play, however. The dark otherworldly horrors theme has been played to death over and over again, and has seen it's fair share of creepy old castles. It was a relief to explore the sentimental and richly decorated Mandus estate, and I was absolutely thrilled in exploring the titular machine. I have a deep admiration for abandoned and worn down factories and asylums, and perhaps that's what thrilled me the most, but there was something else, too. There was a tangible feeling of reality in this larger than life machine. I wish I had a proper word to describe it, I really do. A Machine for Pigs incorporates the same sort of grotesque wonder that I felt when playing some of the better Silent Hill games. There's tension and horror around every corner, but also a feeling of pure love, longing and sentiment that makes the game so much easier to relate to. I would also argue that Machine for Pigs stayed with me so much more profoundly because of the ending. I had always felt that for how much the collective gaming world had given The Dark Descent sloppy praise filled blow jobs for it's genius, that the ending was...well, really silly and ridiculous. The ending of Dark Descent always felt like they didn't quite know how to make an ending that felt final. The ending of Machine for Pigs is probably one of my favourite final moments I've ever experienced in a game. It carries a mix of nostalgia and redemption, and it feels profound, matching the overall feel of the story. I love this game, I love it so damned much. It feels like a story that I wish I could have written, and it makes me wish I could go back to the beginning and experience it for the first time, all over again. Does it bother me that other people seem to dislike it so much? Well, perhaps a little, but at the same time, this game seems like it was tailored so closely to my own likes and needs that it might as well be just for me. That's fine by me, I'm just as happy to sit alone and braid flowers into the hair of a manpig than to ever consider revisiting Castle Brennenburg.
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