Published on June 30th, 2023 | by Sandro Falce
Amnesia The Bunker Review
Summary: While there's some gameplay issues here and there, Amnesia: The Bunker is a short, tense, claustrophobic experience that's well worth your time.
The year is 1916. You are Henri Clement, a French soldier fighting in World War I. You went searching for your friend on the battlefield, and, after getting rushed by German soldiers and falling unconscious, have woken up in a bunker with no memory of how or why you are here. You look around and see that something has brutally slaughtered the entire garrison. Armed with nothing but a rechargeable flashlight and an empty revolver, you start working on your single objective: Survive. Escape.
And that is mostly all Amnesia: The Bunker is about. Surviving and escaping. It’s boiled down all the essential elements of survival horror to create a short, slick, and immersive experience without any filler. You have a semi-open world to sneak around in, with procedurally generated obstacles to get past, and an AI-driven monster that’s hunting you every step of the way.
The narrative here isn’t that important, although it does include many references to the larger Amnesia world, which was explored in-depth in 2020’s Amnesia: Rebirth. That game had a lot of criticism levelled at it for being too story focused and not being as tense or scary as the horror franchise’s roots. While I did enjoy Rebirth quite a lot, The Bunker’s approach of piecing the narrative together through notes and environmental storytelling did feel more akin to what made the original game, 2010’s The Dark Descent, so great.
And an Amnesia game is only as great as its monsters, and we’ve got a pretty scary one in this instalment. Known as The Beast, this creature ruthlessly hunts you down throughout the 6 to 7-hour runtime, only stopping for a few minutes here and there if you distract it or harm it with any of the makeshift weapons you happen to pick up.
The Beast is quite reminiscent of the xenomorph in Alien: Isolation. Throughout your time in the bunker, the monster learns your gameplay style and adapts. When I started the game, I knew that this was how the monster worked so I made sure to hide from it in a variety of ways. But it turns out that I may have been hiding under tables too often because it got to a point around the 3-hour mark where the monster instantly destroyed any table near it just to see if I was under there. It is very effective. As soon as the Beast finds you in a particular spot, it will always check that spot. This makes encounters near the end of the game very tense, and you often have to turn to stealthily sneaking around the monster or confronting it head-on to escape.
During my time in Amnesia: The Bunker, I encountered very few bugs, but the few I did usually involved the Beast, with one resulting in me having to reload a previous save. There was one point where the monster heard me in a room and rushed in to try and get me, but got stuck between two wooden planks and couldn’t move. Aside from that, there’s a little bit of gameplay lag whenever you enter a new area of the bunker, but nothing game-breaking that resulted in me having to go back a save.
Which is good because going back a save can be devastating. For pretty much the entire game’s runtime, you can only save in a single room in the centre of the bunker. You do have to return to this room quite regularly to store items for later use or to check on the generators, but this still means that you could have been exploring a particular part of the bunker for half an hour, found the item or piece of information that you needed from that section, accidentally been caught by the Beast on the way back to the safe room, and now you have to redo that entire half-hour of gameplay again. While I’m sure the intention behind this saving mechanic is to keep you on the toes and to add further immersion, I found it rather tedious and it resulted in me exploring less when entering new locations, just in case I’d have to go back and redo this room from the beginning.
One thing that the Amnesia titles have always been great at is sound design, and The Bunker is no different. This is the real highlight of the game for me. Every section of the bunker has a different atmosphere to it, your footsteps echo differently in some rooms, and every piece of rubble or item responds to your movements. It makes for some very tense stealth sequences. Occasionally, the bunker gets hit by German artillery and the entire room shakes, sending items on shelves falling to the floor and sending rats (and sometimes the monster) running for cover. It’s incredibly effective and really makes you feel like you’re in a war bunker during WWI.
You can also tell exactly where the monster is at all times due to some truly terrific and terrifying sound design. If it’s in the walls next to you, you’ll know. If it’s smashing tables on the other side of the mess hall while you’re hiding inside a locker, you can hear every single piece of that table falling apart and then hear what direction the monster is moving based on how it moves the destroyed pieces of wood.
So, while the game does have a few issues here and there, and the less focused narrative may leave some fans of the franchise wanting more, I highly recommend Amnesia: The Bunker to any horror fan wanting a short, tense, claustrophobic experience. The game is well-priced for its runtime and has incorporated a lot of new features that will keep you on your constantly on you’re the edge of your gaming chair.
Check it out on PC, PlayStation or Xbox, and enjoy your stay in The Bunker.