There’s a notable curse in horror game development. Somewhere in the gamifying of the horror experience, there is often a decision to give players enough tools to eventually overcome and overpower the threat so much that it is no longer a threat anymore. The horror element often dies away in the face of this empowerment and a horror experience often becomes more of an action experience, or simply something not scary anymore. There are far too many “horror”-themed titles in which this is present. And so it stands out so much more in 2020 how Frictional Games has not only avoided that trope, but continued to evolve and advance its own unique brand of horror game in Amnesia: Rebirth.
Amnesia: Rebirth is the story of Anastasie “Tasi” Trianon, an architect joining an archaeological team on its way to work in Algeria. Along the way, the plane crashes. Tasi wakes up alone without sense of how much time has passed or what has become of her crewmates. What follows is not the journey of an adventurer getting a gun and shooting their way out of a rough spot. It’s a desperate journey of survival that takes Tasi into the depths of ancient forts and underground caves, where logic and reason give way to insanity and dangerous glimpses of the supernatural.
Those familiar with the Amnesia series should know full well that Tasi doesn’t truly wander alone as she desperately attempts to discover the fate of her accompanying husband and crew mates. Strange forces lurk in the shadows. And Tasi is not a fighter. She is an architect and artist. Her best defense is often the light, sometimes the shadows, and the ability to run and hide from danger as long as she needs to.
Amnesia: Rebirth is a masterful vehicle of suspense, mystery, and discovery alongside its intense rollercoaster of sanity. Tasi’s emotional desires and reactions are conveyed logically and thoughtfully. It is difficult to say you ever feel empowered, yet the story elements that push Tasi forth are made abundantly clear and reasonable. This is a narrative in which Tasi must survive, you must help her get there, and it makes the struggle against the dangers ahead and the dread of turning each and every corner that much more palpable. All of this is further aided by a masterful set of light and dark mechanics, incredible sound design, and some great environmental design throughout.
When we looked at other games, Resident Evil 3: Remake certainly came up, but Jill’s journey is one of action through and through. There are definitely disturbing and scary moments there, such as the chimera nest, which may actually be one of the scariest single points of gaming of the year. The Last of Us 2 also has a place in this category. The threat of the cordyceps virus and the infected, alongside the dread of humans out to kill you can’t be denied. Even Half-Life: Alyx has a legitimate stake in the conversation as a game full of disturbing environments, creatures, and encounters that instilled some of the scariest moments of the year.
Yet, at the end of the day, as great as these games are, each of them give you tools to brute force your way through their predicaments and turn the tide of horror in your favor. Whether balanced or outright over the top, you are a commanding force of power and influence in these games. Amnesia: Rebirth gives you no such power. Its purpose is to frighten you, yet draw you helplessly deeper into its mystery, and it does incredibly on both counts. For that, it has more than earned our respect as a masterclass horror title in 2020.
Check out the other winners from The Shacknews Awards 2020 in our Year of the Games: 2020 article.
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Shacknews Best Horror Game of 2020 - Amnesia: Rebirth
Alyx is definitely the scariest game I've played this year. It'd be one thing playing it on the couch as a regular game but being in it is a real visceral terror.
My personal horror game of the year is the GENIUS Discover My Body: https://pantagruel.itch.io/discover-my-body
It’s even pay what you want, so no excuse to have the experience!