I wouldn’t say I’ve been itching to return to Amnesia: The Bunker, Frictional’s perfectly ghastly blend of horror game and immersive sim, but I’ve certainly been itching to write about it. The terrible beauty of that generator-based exploration and scavenging loop. That moment when you walk just a little too quickly down a corridor, and hear the awful rummaging in the walls. The agonising discovery that not only is it possible to roam with the lights out, but pretty much required, beyond a certain point. The dense burden of grasping more or less where to go, without knowing how to survive the journey – and above all else, those goddamn rats, always encountered where least convenient. Shoo! Shoo!
It’s by far the most oppressive and demanding horror game I’ve played in recent memory, and it’ll get considerably worse with the release of the Halloween update.
The game’s creative lead Fredrik Olsson has been keeping up a sinister drip-feed of planned features on social media – slowly building up a complete picture, like a cackling painter trapped in a cellar with something eldritch scratching at the door. It’s hard to say more without spoiling aspects of the vanilla launch experience, so you might want to finish the game before reading on.
Amnesia: The Bunker’s Halloween update is, as you’d expect, pencilled in for October release. It will introduce a Shellshocked difficulty mode that chops down the game’s handful of safe spaces to a single, trembling middle finger. For one thing, time doesn’t stop when you open your inventory in Shellshocked difficulty, so there’s no hiding behind menus while out in the world – you’ll want to be securely home in the Admin Office before you pick through that letter from a dismembered soldier.
Except that the Admin Office isn’t so secure, any more. Play on Shellshocked difficulty, and you’ll find that the doors are now made of wood. Wood is breakable! Here are some other things that break: your face, limbs and assorted internal organs.
The update’s other sadistic new features include further randomising the distribution of items and hazards, including rats and dog tags. You can even randomise the placement of the game’s lockers, which harbour critical items and resources – rather than being conveniently located in Mission Storage, just round the corner from the Admin Office, they might manifest in the sublevels.
You can also opt to begin without the game’s pistol – it’ll be stowed in one of the lockers. This alarms me less, given that the gun will not do you much good, much of the time, but you’ll definitely feel the pistol’s absence when you’re trying to get past a padlocked door with 60 seconds of generator time to go.
It’s not all stick. There’s a touch of carrot in the shape of boxes potentially containing randomly spawned rewards. If you’re out of bullets or bandages, you might want to risk smashing one open. Hey, it’s your funeral.
“This is Frictional back on imaginative, exciting form, and I’d be happy seeing them do other slightly more contained projects like this,” Alice Bee wrote in our Amnesia: The Bunker review. “I’d also, of course, love to see something new – but it feels like Amnesia is a pocket dimension they can visit again.”