Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Last week, a friend of mine, Phillip, invited me over to his house so that we can play some video games together. I was surprised when I saw that he had a copy of Amnesia: The Dark Descent with him. It's one of the best horror games out there, although the game is a bit rare to find in stores these days; I've checked both my local Walmart and Best Buy's, but to no avail. It's too bad that most of the store employees haven't even heard of this gem of a game before. Anyways, what my friend told me was that he bought his copy off eBay for a rather cheap price of $3.99, which, in my opinion, was a stunning offer. However, the reason why Phillip invited me over to his house was because he was too scared to play it by himself.
He had just gotten the key in the Archives, but Phillip didn't want to go into the Wine Cellar yet, so we decided to enter the place together. As I started up the game, the first thing I noticed was that, for some reason, the two company logos were missing; the game went right to the loading screen with the scary looking up-side down head with not even a glimpse of the "Frictional Games" or "Nordic Games" titles. I found this to be rather strange, but I suspected a $3.99 copy of the game might be rather glitched and bugged. It actually took a while for the game to start up from the loading screen; for about a minute or so, I thought that the game had crashed, although my friend said nothing.
I noticed that the title screen of the game didn't have any music. Before starting up the game, we had already turned the volume up to max - unfortunately we didn't have any headphones - and my friend was sure that both his speakers were working. Strangely, when I asked him if he's even heard the title screen music before, he replied with a no. That means the music must have always been missing from the title screen. He assured me that the rest of the game did have music, much to my relief. Playing through Amnesia without any sounds would be a complete bore and would severely hinder the experience. In my opinion, the music is one of the reasons why Amnesia ranks amongst the best horror games out there.
Still, I couldn't help but feel rather unsettled by all the bugs we've already encountered simply from loading up Amnesia. I had then hoped that the rest of the game would play out fine without any more errors. Little did I know that I was to find myself wrong, dead wrong.
Anyways, we loaded up from his last save file and found ourselves right at the entrance of the Wine Cellar. Everything here looked fine; the room was dark, a heavy fog hung all over the area, and there was that slight but audible "woo-ing" sound in the background. All of this was to prepare my friend for the perfect scare experience. I remembered that the Wine Cellar did scare me a ton the first time I entered the place, though of course it was incomparable to the places that were to come once we passed the entrance hall. As Phillip was about to go downstairs, I told him that the place was a bit too dark and that he should turn on his lantern. He responded simply by looking at me with a weird expression on his face, as if he had no idea what was talking about. As I opened up the Inventory, I instantly noticed that he had no lantern in there.
You would not believe how hard I had facepalmed at that moment. Was it is even possible to miss the lamp in the Old Archives? I'm not sure; I had never advanced the game without it, and I'm quite certain the game doesn't even allow you to do so since it points Daniel straight towards the lantern when you enter that room. By this point I was getting rather frustrated - I guessed it was another bug or something - and I would've insisted on going back to the Old Archives and grabbing it if not for the fact that I knew the door would be locked. I thought then that maybe going through the whole game without using the lantern would scare my friend a bit more, although it would make solving some of the puzzles and finding all the key items a lot more difficult.
I knew my friend had not seen the monster yet because he told me that he didn't find anything in the Archives. Fortunately, Phillip was quite the easily scared type (he still loves horror games, like me, though), so I knew he would soon be in for a surprise. We were going to that part of the Wine Cellar with the poofer that appeared as soon as he picked up the Laudanum, and I urged him to do so, telling Phillip that it was a great healing potion. This was when I really started to get angry with the game. There was no growl from the grunt to signify its presence as soon as he picked up the item, and when he turned to go across the hallway we did not see even a shadow of the monster nearby. Knowing full well that breaking out into a fit right now would totally ruin the immersion, I decided to keep myself quiet and just continue watching Phillip play the game. However, if I saw one more bug occur, I would leave the room and urge Phillip to break his copy of Amnesia. I'd go lend my own copy to him afterwards.
Everything afterwards seemed to play out mostly fine, although I did think that there was something strange with the Shadow when it appeared after we left the Laboratory with the potion. I though its roar seemed a slight pitch higher than normal, as if it was more of a shriek, but I disregarded it as merely a minor detail and not really something to get angry over. So, we made it all the way through the Refinery fine (didn't encounter the Grunt there, but I didn't either on my first playthrough), and I was really looking forward to the part coming up ahead when my friend would have to start dealing with the Kaernk. I remember how scared I was when I first got to that part of the game; I nearly got a heart attack when I got killed by the invisible water monster! Phillip, I knew, was quite timid, so I couldn't wait to see how he would react.
Imagine my disappointment when the most bizarre thing occurred as we were leaving the Refinery; instead of being taken to the Cellar Archives, we got, for some reason into the Guest Room. It was at this point that I felt more weirded out by the game than angry at it; a missing grunt or lantern was a noticeable bug, but a complete breaking of sequence was not only inexcusable, but also downright strange. I urged my friend, then, to quit the game, and that was when I decided to download the HPL Editor in order to open up Amnesia's map files and see what was wrong with them. It actually took forever for the game to load back to the title screen when I clicked "Exit" (there was no point in saving now); I almost thought, after a few minutes of staring at the loading screen, that the game was downright messing with me, and didn't want me to quit just yet.
However, things only got stranger from here on. After downloading and installing the editor, I first decided to open up the "Old Archives" file and see if anything was going on with the lantern. I instantly received the "Amnesia.exe has caused an exception_access_violation" error, and the HPL Editor shut down. Feeling the anger rising up within me - I had thought then that the game was probably so buggy it wasn't even worth bothering fixing anymore - I decided to open up the Wine Cellar file. As soon as I had loaded up the HPL Editor program again and clicked on the Wine Cellar map, not only the editor, but my friend's very computer seemed to hang. Boiling with frustration, I hit ctrl + alt + delete, and seconds later, was met with the dreaded blue screen of death.
There was something wrong with this copy of Amnesia. Something bizarre and deeply wrong.
I should've known better, then, and just told my friend that I would lend my copy to him. But I was foolishly curious and wanted to know more about this bugged copy, especially why the HPL Editor kept crashing. I decided to bring it home myself and play it just to see how the rest of the game would turn out. Maybe whoever sold my friend this copy was some jokester that had went into the editor and played around with a whole bunch of stuff. But then....how were they able to get these changes fixed into the disc, and to take effect when the game was installed? I had to find out by myself.
At home, I uninstalled my own Amnesia and then installed this broken one from my friend's onto my computer to start playing. As soon as I had clicked "Start Game" and loaded the thing up, I was taken to the loading screen, which, as always, took forever to pass and get the game going. But to my immense surprise, instead of being taken to the soundless title screen, the game began right inside the Guest Room where I had left off. This immediately came to me as rather unsettling. The skipping of the title screen hadn't even happened on my friend's computer, and it was a clean install. Also, as I started moving my character around, I thought I heard a slight bit of static coming out of the loudspeakers. The music and stuff was still playing fine; looking into the inventory, I saw that the lantern was still missing, although I did have the three rods from the Storage and the Study, and all I needed was the machine room key.
I was quite anticipating what would happen to me in the room with the loose picture and the key-in-a-jar, because I knew that normally, I would be attacked by a grunt as I made my way towards the closet. Of course, I wasn't really expecting that to happen since this version of the game was so bugged, but nothing, nothing that I had been expecting prepared me for what I was about to occur next.
Yes, I heard the growl, and the music did change to the Grunt theme, but I vaguely recalled that there was also supposed to be some ominous sound effects as well as a hint urging me to find a place to hide. These did not appear. I bravely decided to take a look at this Grunt and went right out of the room, and saw, to my surprise, that the Grunt wasn't even wandering near me - it actually seemed to be running away, because the Grunt was slowly but surely making its way towards the exit door. When it reached there the grunt continued walking, his model flickering and moving rapidly back and forth as if he was trying to walk through the wall. What really disturbed me was how frantic the creature looked. It flickered so fast it almost seemed to be twitching, as if it was genuinely scared and trying to run away from something.
That was when I heard it. That voice. Alexander's voice, the deep, ominous voice of the baron saying a line I swear I had never heard from him before: "You can do it, Daniel." I instantly thought to myself: do what? By now I was thinking that this bugged Amnesia was really, really just trying to mess with me. On a whim, I looked into my inventory and saw it: the ceremonial knife item, like the one that was used at the end of La Caza custom story to cut open Gordon's heart. It had just appeared in them amongst all my other items. The voice suddenly repeated: "You can do it, Daniel." as if it was on a loop. I clicked on the knife and noticed that the only object I could use it on in the room was the Grunt.
As I approached the creature, its twitching and flickering suddenly became so fast and frantic that I literally thought it must've been trying to break out of the room. It was no longer making growling and snarling sounds; the creature was dead silent. The music in the background seemed to become rather soft as well. The closer I got to the grunt, the faster it continued to move, until eventually as I stood right next to it, the thing twitched back and forth so swiftly I could barely see its physical, solid form. I knew, that it was scared of something. The grunt feared something. What did it fear and want to run away from? Well...
I used the knife. At that moment, I nearly jumped from my seat as I heard the loudest scream in my life simply erupt out of my speakers, and the static that had been subtly hiding in the background music seemed to become much louder as well, so that it was almost overwhelming. This was with my volume extremely low - it was only at 15 or something (out of 100). But that scream; it completely scared the living daylights out of me, and I knew that it came from the Grunt. Something about the tone of the voice got to me; it wasn't completely high-pitched, but there was suffering clearly evident in the scream - and then the screen flashed red, as if my health had gone extremely low, and then everything simply blacked out.
I thought my computer hung, because nothing loaded up for about a minute or so afterwards, and ctrl + alt + delete wouldn't work. I was just about to restart my computer (I would uninstall the game immediately afterwards) when suddenly I found myself in the Back Hall, my vision was still red, and there was that Grunt's bloodied corpse lying directly at my feet.
I don't know what happened then. Something in me simply urged me to continue on, to see what this broken version of Amnesia offered me. This decision to keep playing is something that I very much regret now that I look back upon it, but at the time, I couldn't help myself. Not only was the game bizarre, but it was also too interesting. Like....did I just kill a Grunt? Why were the Gatherers more scared of me than I am of them? And what was up with Alexander's voice - like, how did they get the voice actor to say that "You can do it" line? It sounded nearly identical to the voice of the original baron.
I made it through the machine room puzzles, though I noted the strange shriek-like pitch in the Shadow's voice when it appeared again. It seemed a bit louder this time, disturbing me just slightly, and rising to a noticeable crescendo when the Shadow roared inside the elevator. I knew that some messy stuff was probably waiting for me inside the Prison. Whoever created this bugged version of Amnesia clearly had strange intentions in mind, forcing the player to kill a Grunt and causing that scary scream to burst out of my speakers. By now, I had turned my volume to zero and also clicked mute just in case. Despite being interested in the game, I didn't want to jump again from hearing another scream.
I noticed something strange with my vision as I walked out of the prison. It seemed to become slightly more red, similar to the blood-red sight of Daniel when his health goes to Barely Conscious, but not completely. Also, my health was back to full, as well as my sanity, which is pretty good. I made my way into the prison and everything seemed to proceed normally there, though there was a noticeable lack of monsters. Since I had my computer's volume at zero, I didn't know if they had changed any of the sounds. There was also something else, what appeared to be a trail of blood at my feet as I made my way up the stairs in the southern block. I followed the trail and was eventually led to the cell with the hole beneath the bed, and here was when I saw it: two corpses lying on the floor, both female.
I couldn't believe it. How did they get female corpse models into this game? There was even a light blue dress beside the smaller body, so that I knew it belonged to the girl that Daniel had killed. I was pretty sure that she had died in the Storage, though, and not the Prison as the current scene suggested. Both were covered in a pool of blood. I was actually genuinely interested in what sounds must be playing at this point, so I unmuted and turned my volume up.
There came that voice again: Alexander's, and this time he said "Well, done, Daniel," as if clearing praising my efforts in killing these two women. Suddenly, my vision seemed to become slightly more red than before, casting everything I saw in a slight crimson haze; still not as bad as the Barely Conscious state, but now fairly noticeable. There was also the annoying static playing again in the background. Deciding to check my inventory, I noticed something interesting: I had my lantern now, for some reason. But nothing came up when I pressed the button to turn on the lamp. I knew there would be something significant about this later.
I got into the hole without needing the hammer and chipper and appeared in the north block. Here, everything proceeded as normal, with me using the glass jar to obtain some acid in order to melt the lock. But as soon as I left the kitchen I heard a growl again. It was evidently a grunt's, but like the Shadow's, there seemed to be something high-pitched hiding behind the sound that gave it the quality of a squeal. Instead of the terror music, all I saw was the Grunt's shadow running away from me in the distance. Thinking that it was probably also scared of me, I went to the lock and used the acid.
Instantly a memento appeared, and it said: "There can be no survivors." I thought this was a bit strange and decided to disregard it, proceeding instead towards the cistern. But upon clicking on the door, the screen suddenly blurred as if I suffered sanity loss, and then, an instant later, my vision became even more red. I thought I heard something from the player, something that sounded like a very angry growl, worse than the Grunt's. I clicked the door again, but it just wouldn't open.
This was when things just got absolutely bizarre. The grunt stood behind me, but it was again trying to walk itself into a wall, flickering and twitching faster the closer I came to it. A hint appeared: "Press F." I did so. Instead of the lantern appearing, the ceremonial knife did so instead. I did not know how this was possible, or how the creator of this buggy Amnesia managed to do this, but there was a model of that knife, very clear and apparent, being held in my character's hands. I knew what was about to come next, so I quickly muted my speakers.
I have said this before, but I will say it again: I sincerely regret continuing to play this far into the game. As soon as I had clicked on the grunt, there came that scream again, and it was even louder than before, despite the fact that my speakers were muted. I jumped out of my seat and stood back, horrified, as the screen turned completely red and then black again. There was something about that scream that I just can't stand. It was just so depraved and horrifying, choked with suffering - worse than all of the other sounds I had ever heard from this game - and it chilled me to the bone. Even now, the scream seems to echo in my memories, something that I recall with intense fright due to how it had scared me every time I heard it. I knew, then, that I had killed another grunt, Daniel had taken another life. And it seemed to me....that he was enjoying it.
I outright unplugged the speakers from my computer and then waited for the screen to come to again, this time loading me up in the Cistern with a vision that was just a slight tint redder than before. Pressing F, I saw no knife, no lantern, although both items still remained in my inventory. The puzzle inside the control room seemed to have already been solved, because I could access the bridge leading to the Morgue right away. Since the Prison had already been bizarre enough, I knew that what was coming up ahead would be worse. But as soon as I tried to open up the Morgue, the game crashed. At least my computer didn't hang, as I was able to close Amnesia, thankfully.
That was my second chance. I should've stopped right then and there and burned away this disgusting copy of Amnesia. But I didn't. I was a fool.
Neglecting to go to the Morgue when I again started up the game (I was taken right to the cistern without title screen, just like before), I proceeded into the sewers. Somehow, all the poisonous fumes were gone, though, as always, my vision did seem to get a lot redder now. As soon as I entered the sewers, I began to hear something familiar and yet extremely unsettling in the background. It was the shriek-pitch of the Shadow, reappearing again just slightly, a distant and yet clearly audible noise in the background, like the remnants of a scream, or almost a very high violin-like screeching note. And it seemed to stay forever, despite the fact that my speakers were clearly ripped out from my computer.
There were no Brutes in the sewer, but instead something far worse. You know that room where you found the Grunt's dead body? Okay, I was definitely not expecting this when I entered, and it definitely gave me the biggest scare yet. This was when I really started to think that the game was not just buggy; it was completely fucked up. Whoever created this version of Amnesia clearly had very, very sick intentions.
I was met with a grunt running towards me as soon as I opened up the door, which surprised me and nearly made me fall back in my seat. It wasn't the fact that the monster appeared - it was how the monster looked. This was a very different grunt than before, and I can't stress enough the disturbing nature of what I saw: the grunt's face did not look like a model. It seemed hardly to be from my computer screen because it was unseeingly realistic. I cannot even describe to you how unsettling this grunt looked because of how, well, completely real it looked. But worst of all, its face was indescribably creepy.
The Grunt's jaw was not flappy; it curled up into an impossibly wide smile, not a happy one, but rather one that seemed deranged, insane, and psychotic. And no matter how I looked at the face, the smile always seemed to be aimed at my screen, as if the grunt was smiling right at my player. Also, the creature had no eyes. I'm not saying that it had only eye sockets or something like that - it literally had NO EYES. Only skin, disturbingly realistic, unmodel-like skin where its eyes should be. The grunt ran so fast I had literally no time to close the door when I saw it. But the worst part was that its head simply fell off the shoulders before the grunt could reach me. Its body collapsed to the floor, and the head remained with that impossibly wide and creepy smile, those lack of eyes....I can't describe this without shivering to the bone.
I darted away from that scene as quickly as I could and made towards the exit of the sewers (the gate was already broken down). No Brute-chase, and I made my way towards the Nave, the final segment of the game.
It was at this point that my vision became not only blood-red, but I also thought I always saw something, like the outline of a figure, right at the edge of my screen whenever I moved. It seemed no more than an outline of sorts, but it was constantly moving, shifting, coming in and out from view. I made my way down the Nave and, expectingly enough, Agrippa was completely missing. The doors leading to the two torture areas were already opened, although the choir was locked, so I could only enter the Transept.
I noticed, when I entered the Transept, a hint saying, once again "Press F." It was not the knife that appeared when I did so, but rather the lantern...and it illuminated an immensely disturbing sight. My vision became so deeply red it was even worse than the Barely Conscious state, and that outline of a figure that was constantly peeping in the background seemed, for a second, to become completely full, before disappearing again. The face appeared somewhat familiar, though at the time I couldn't figure out exactly what it was, but I saw its eyes, and they horrified me beyond comprehension. They were huge, bulging, and circular, seemingly to stare straight out of my computer screen, and, like the grunt's face, had looked disturbingly realistic. Furthermore, the screeching sound in the background was also becoming steadily louder, and....I could not even turn off my lantern. It continued to illuminate the figure and those eyes, those mind-shreddingly disturbing eyes..
As I wandered towards the Transept torture rooms (where else could I go?) the figure's mouth also appeared, and it seemed to be hanging open, no teeth inside, a visible outline of a tongue hanging out jeeringly. I also seemed to hear a voice in the background, and I instantly recognized whose it was: Agrippa's. It was saying something like "Please, Daniel, please..." over and over again, sounding more and more desperate each time, until I finally reached the torture rooms. I think this was the saw one, and when I came in I utterly jumped out of my seat. Remember that grunt's face with the giant creepy smile and no eyes? There were PILES of those within this room, literally stacked everywhere from the floor up towards the ceiling, like that mound of corpses in the Morgue. My vision became so deeply red I was nearly enshrouded in complete darkness, and the screeching sound became very noticeable. I also thought I heard Agrippa scream or something, and a few seconds later he simply stopped. I seriously just quit and darted out of the room and the Transept.
I did not end up back in the Nave; rather I was now in the Inner Sanctum, I believe, standing right before the Orb chamber. Suddenly, everything was back to normal. No red vision, no disturbing outline of a figure, no lantern. My inventory was completely empty. I made my way into the Orb chamber.
There was no Alexander in this room, although I did hear his voice, and the baron simply said: "You have succeeded, Daniel." As I made my way towards the center of the room, my vision suddenly flickered insanely, and I heard the sanity draining sound. Opening up my inventory again, I noticed something immensely frightening: the brain had simply disappeared, beneath it the letters ".........................." and that was it. My health was all well. My movement became very slowed and slurred, the screeching noise reappeared at an almost immensely high pitch, my vision became blood red again. I heard voices in the background. They were all screams, and I must mention once again that my speakers were not anywhere near my computer. These screams mirrored the grunts', all depraved and sorrowful, and yet they now had an angry tone in them, as if they were shaking with both fear and fury. And then, as I reached the very center of the room, it happened.
I have no idea how the person did this, but the camera angle suddenly changed, inverted....so that it almost seemed to be looking upon itself, and I could very clearly see Daniel's face. It was exactly that outline of that freakish figure I had seen before, protruding circular eyes, tongue hanging out of mouth, now magnified extremely clearly so that I could see exactly how depraved it was. There was nothing model-like from this picture; it was insanely realistic. I wanted to quit right then and there, but my game simply hung. It stopped at this picture of Daniel's psychotic face, blood dripping from his disturbing eyes down his cheeks, his mouth curled into an impossibly wide snarl-like grin that told seemingly endless urges of fiendish wickedness.
I restarted my computer and decided that the last thing I would do, before completely uninstalling this game, is to try and chance one more look at the HPL editor. I was completely creeped out when I realized, upon my desktop appearing, that the screeching wail-like sound was STILL in the background, unceasing, a crescendo, slowly but surely becoming clearer. I had the fright of my life when I opened up the HPL level Editor. There was that face again. Daniel's face, his psychotic eyes and grin, and nothing else. No tools, no editing, not anything. Just that face staring out of my monitor screen.
I turned my computer off. That screech is still there, slowly becoming a little bit louder.