Amnesia: Rebirth Accessibility
Amnesia: Rebirth is certainly the most accessible game in the series. Sadly, the desire to bring a unified player experience seems to dampen the enjoyment of not only exploring, but also in being forced to solve mandatory puzzles.
Score7 out of 10
I’ve always been a fan of horror games, but my favorite types are the ones that invoke fear through the atmosphere. Where a threat is either imaginary or even non-existent, where there are no weapons, and where you feel vulnerable to whatever is there. Sorta like Phasmophobia if you want to get relevant. Amnesia has always been a personal favorite of mine for those reasons, and so being able to jump into the new Amnesia: Rebirth was exciting.
Previous games in the series had subtitles, text to show what a letter said, and items you could pick up would flash slightly. Sure, these features weren’t perfect. Subtitles nearly spanned the width of the screen, text for readable material felt too wordy, but their presence was very welcomed. Especially for games that released in 2010 (Amnesia: The Dark Descent) and 2013 (Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs).
Amnesia: Rebirth is the newest addition to the series of survival games, and I was incredibly impressed to see some major improvements with accessibility. But in trying to keep the game a haunting experience, it does fall short in a lot of places.
You play as Tasi, who ends up in a plane crash over a desert on the way to an expedition with her husband. Upon waking up, we learn more about the character and history, all while some bizarre supernatural event unfolds around them. The game tugs on your heartstrings and toys with emotions when, early on, it’s revealed Tasi is pregnant, but something isn’t quite right.
Tasi is tasked with clambering through caves, historic buildings, and all while trying to avoid the darkness and…a monster. Being in the darkness causes her sanity to drain, which in turn causes vivid hallucinations. Along the way, there are lots of puzzles to solve, but let’s get into that shortly.
Amnesia: Rebirth has a lot of dialogue due to being very heavy in its story and inner monologues. Similar to the previous games, but this time around, Frictional Games has managed to achieve not only a brilliant presentation of captions but also a fantastic selection of customization options.
Subtitles can be turned on for dialogue, and closed captions for key sound effects. You can change up the size from Default up to Very Large with a background opacity slider that I adore. Sliders are great. You can also choose to have the distance of a sound affect the transparency, and there’s also an option to have the text animated. This basically results in letters popping up letter-by-letter, but I really disliked the effect and slowness of it.
Captions come with symbols to help differentiate what type of audio is audible to you. Normal dialogue spoken out loud looks like normal subtitles, whereas radio or internal thoughts come with <<these>>. As for sound effects, you’ll see asterisks’. You can see an example of both below using the image slider to shift between the two.
Throughout the game, you’ll also be able to have text for everything readable appear as a text box displayed in a much nicer way than the previous Amnesia games. The text is confined to the box and doesn’t take up a lot of the screen space so it’s more condensed reading which I really liked.
Focusing more on the visual representation of sound, you’ll have some sounds specified. So for example, wood creaking will be displayed, however, the sound of a barrel being thrown down the stairs, or the monster screeching isn’t shown. I really feel like this was missing a trick, as the attention to detail in the dialogue is so great, it would have been wonderful to see the same representation shown for understanding the environment more intricately.
Amnesia: Rebirth, however, does suffer from the ultimate goal of fearing the unknown, and this does mean there’s hardly any visual cues for directional audio. Sure, specific events with audio involved will trigger a blueish vignette but don’t seem to show you where the event is. I heard the monster appear several times, but I had no indication as to which direction it was, instead my screen went all distorted due to my sanity draining.
And because of the incredibly heavy visual effects taking place to give fear a visual representation, all sense of direction and understanding is thrown out. All I know is that I need to find light and navigate a very blurry, ghosting environment while Tasi is freaking out.
The visual cues throughout the game are somewhat half-and-half. On the one hand, objects you can pick up flash clearly with a light sheen. Your cursor changes icons to indicate what can be interacted with and how.
On the other hand, there’s absolutely naff all help when you’re stuck. Amnesia: Rebirth assumes that you’re going to notice things like a giant plank next to an elevator and that it’s going to be part of the puzzle. The most help you get is the protagonist muttering obvious clues to herself after a significant amount of time has passed.
There could have been some greater help at hand, but because there are no difficulty modes, the game seems to just let you struggle through. Hints are available, but only for reminding you of things such as checking on your baby to reduce fear, or to fill your lantern with oil. Nothing for clues. In fact, we were sent a review guide to help in areas we were stuck, and honestly, I think offering the player in-game access to hints like I had would be so beneficial if needed.
I played Amnesia: Rebirth on the PC, but it does support a gamepad, which as far as I could tell, didn’t really have many vibration cues. Or at least, I couldn’t tell because I was too focused on throwing props around the room looking for more matches.
Amnesia: Rebirth, as touched on earlier, tries to convey its information through a lack of HUD, utilizing a plethora of visual effects and overlays. Things become disorientating, hard to navigate, and some sequences that I won’t mention due to spoilers were just covered in such a heavy fog. When these elements aren’t present though, the flames you light fill areas up nicely. When you’re in darkness your surroundings go dark blue so you can at least see. I’d say that the classic Amnesia style holds up well, but it does feel incredibly overused here.
Overall, Amnesia: Rebirth is certainly the most accessible game in the series. Sadly, the desire to bring a unified player experience seems to keep the gameplay at a set level with no help in exploring or solving puzzles.
A review copy of Amnesia: Rebirth was provided by the developer / publisher.