While not as scary as its predecessors, Amnesia: Rebirth tells an emotional horror story that uses its visuals and sound design in effective, creative ways.
Amnesia: Rebirth is the spiritual sequel to 2010’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Back then, The Dark Descent redefined the horror genre, so you’d expect Rebirth to try and up the ante, with even more terrifying moments.
Instead, developer Frictional Games decided to subvert our expectations. They deliver a deep, narrative-driven title that focuses more on emotional horror rather than just monsters and jumpscares.
I Am Tasi
More than horror, Amnesia: Rebirth is driven by its dramatic, emotional story.
You play as Tasi, a woman lost in the Algerian desert after her plane went down. After she wakes up in the wreckage, it soon becomes clear that some time has passed since the crash, but Tasi has no recollection of any of it. Her only clue is a note from her husband, urging her to look for him.
What follows is a dark, twisted journey full of gut-wrenching moments, hard decisions, and a few scares. But most importantly – you won’t see most of it coming. Sure, some plot points are pretty predictable, but others come out of nowhere and hit hard.
The story gradually reveals Tasi’s past and what happened to the other people in the plane since the crash. It also weaves in the same sci-fi elements we saw in Amnesia: The Dark Descent, though those arrive a little too quickly and feel a bit out of place at first before everything falls into place.
Amnesia: Rebirth shares the same world and lore as the rest of the Amnesia series. By the end, you’ll have all your answers to any questions the previous games might have left you with. However, you don’t have to know any other Amnesia game to appreciate Rebirth.
While the game shares the series’ themes, it is much more mature. I’m not talking about nudity or violence, though the game does feature both. I’m talking about loss, grief, sacrifice, and learning to live with them. It’s those mature themes that the game draws the horror from.
Tasi’s stress, anxiety, vulnerability, and how she keeps shifting between fear and hope are always front and center. This rollercoaster can leave you emotionally drained at times, but it’s also the most terrifying aspect of the game.
You can feel and see how the game’s event impact Tasi’s emotional state. She is stuck in a hostile environment, alone and with no memory. She’s also slowly… changing. The uncertainty of what is happening, and the discoveries you make along the way, keep Rebirth a harrowing experience that rarely lets you go.
Truth be told, I found the game more suspenseful than downright scary. But maybe I’m a little jaded due to years of playing horror games. My point is that Rebirth offers a smart, deep kind of horror the doesn’t get in your face; for the most part. When the game does choose to go with more traditional horror, it often feels forced.
While Rebirth does feature Frictional Games’ iconic monster encounters and tense stealth sections, they aren’t as effective as in previous games. In fact, I’d say they sometimes get in the way.
However, the monsters do help shape the game’s tense atmosphere. They are always much more effective when you can’t see them or when they don’t engage with you directly. Knowing that they’re there is enough to turn a dimly-lit chamber into a nightmare. One of the most terrifying moments in the game has you sneaking through an underground lair full of sleeping monsters as they twitch and shift with every noise you make.
And there are also the chase sequences, which are exhilarating and always come at the right time. They help break the built-up tension and remind you that Tasi is never safe.
A Dark Descent
Not that you need a reminder to be afraid. Most of Amnesia: Rebirth is very dark, claustrophobic, and oppressive. Darkness is actually a key mechanic in the game – it both hides you from enemies but agitates Tasi and worsens her… condition. Kind of like a sanity mechanic in other games. You can use matches light torches and lanterns to create safe pools of light in the dark.
But even in the dark, it’s always exciting to explore the game’s environments. Locations are varied: scorching dunes, an abandoned fortress, alien ruins, and more. The game still uses the same physics-based interaction we’re familiar with ever since the Penumbra games, without any noticeable tweaks.
Rebirth is also a lot more graphically impressive than its predecessors. Yes, it’s been 10 years since The Dark Descent, but I’m not just talking about the visual quality. For example, the monsters might not be as creatively designed this time around. But their disturbing animations make them look a lot scarier than they actually are. They move more organically than the terrifying robotic abomination we’ve seen in SOMA, the dev’s previous project.
Amnesia: Rebirth is a worthy closing chapter to the Amnesia series and a great game in its own right. It’s not as scary at first, but as you get more invested in Tasi’s story, the real horror starts emerging. The game also makes creative use of its visuals and sound design. The sound you hear when Tasi’s fear and stress slowly take over is creepy and unnerving – like the sound of dozens of insects crawling all over your skin.
Even if you don’t usually play horror games, the fantastically morbid and emotional story makes sure Amnesia: Rebirth is a game you won’t soon forget.
Developer: Frictional Games
Publisher: Frictional Games
Release Date: Oct. 20, 2020
Our Amnesia: Rebirth review copy was provided by the developer.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.