What sort of self-respecting scary video game begins in the middle of a desert under a blazing sun?

It’s a vibrant option for a series so inherently related to dismal passages and shadowy corners and flailing around in the dark. It feels deliberate, too, as you trek throughout the dunes, frantically hugging the shade to prevent dropping dead of dehydration prior to the video game’s even truly started. Later, you’ll understand how absurd to have actually questioned Frictional’s capability to tinker you – this is an Amnesia video game, after all, not Uncharted; there is no buried treasure to recuperate here – however enjoy the sunlight while you can, my pal. It will not last long.

There’s a lot about Amnesia: Rebirth that feels actively various, really. Though it maintains much of the scary series’ renowned DNA, Frictional has actually been amazingly adventurous here, inverting a lot of our expectations to craft something that’s at as soon as both familiar and entirely otherworldly, and a reliable, if complex, tale that’s extremely enthusiastic.

It’s about now I’d drop in a little taste of Amnesia: Rebirth’s story, however whatever I’d typically pop into this paragraph – the bit where I inform you about our lead character, Tasi, and her stuffed-with-spooks experience – is basically spoiler area, that makes it remarkably hard to discuss, to be truthful. Courageous and practical, she’s an engaging hero, however, and I reckon you’ll like her, even if you do not constantly comprehend her inspirations. And while it seems like Tasi’s journey is unduly prolonged – especially in the last act – her story grasped me right up till the credits rolled.

An extraordinary time.

For those of you who choose their scary to be more sedate and mental than in-your-face, Amnesia: Rebirth primarily avoids modern-day tropes. While it does utilize a variety of (extremely reliable) dive frightens, those scamps at Frictional do not offer us enough of them to enable us to get desensitised. Instead, Rebirth freaks us out with its skillful world-building, thoroughly ratcheting up the stress with little, nearly insignificant things; the noise of scuttling behind the door, possibly, or a vase rolling towards you, pressed by hidden hands. It’s an unbelievable achievement, truly, provided the environments themselves, if striking, aren’t especially remarkable.

That does not indicate you will not invest your time searching every corner of them, however. In line with the series’ tradition, your resources are limited, and you’ll only be able to collect matches and lantern oil in limited quantities. Consequently, you’ll invest a lot of time picking through the detritus of those who’ve come before you, ripping through their tents or smashing jugs and vases in the vain hope of finding an additional match or two. While Tasi can light nearby sconces or candles to help mitigate the inky darkness, thanks to a stingy inventory cap, you’ll never feel particularly flush with resources, even when you’re fully loaded. One wrong turn and you may find yourself plunged into darkness, wasting your precious matches as you stumble around in the dark, trying to work out your next objective.

I forgot what this caption was supposed to be.

Light is absolutely critical to your progression, mind you, because without a nearby light source, Tasi’s ability to withstand the darkness is restricted at best. Rebirth’s “sanity system” – invoked when she’s too close to an enemy or in the dark for too long – is a constant juggling act. Tasi’s phobia is depicted by smoky tendrils that curl around the periphery of the screen, but as you’re shrouded in darkness pretty much all the time, they’re practically omnipresent, forever impeding the corners of your screen. For the most part, I thought the resources were pretty much perfectly distributed – I frequently dropped down to just two or three matches, but rarely ran out completely – but with so little environmental lighting, it’s nigh on impossible to prevent fear getting the better of her.

The puzzling, on the other hand? This is where Amnesia: Rebirth truly excels. Neither insultingly easy nor frustratingly complex, these puzzles offer that specific kind of challenge that can simultaneously make you feel like the stupidest and the smartest person on earth. Few obstacles are straightforward but even fewer stumped me entirely, offering the perfect respite between terrifying chase sequences (and one incredibly tedious encounter in a pitch-black maze).

Though impressive in many ways, however, a lack of polish taints Amnesia: Rebirth’s shine. I’m uncertain if the problems extend to the PC version, but the PlayStation 4 build I played was a tad unstable. Twice I lost an hour’s progress, once because my save got borked – every time I loaded in, I was stuck at the bottom of a darkened stairway I’d never seen before?! – and once after Tasi was inexplicably impaled on the environment. Rebooting didn’t work, either, but thankfully, the game keeps periodic autosaves you can access from the main menu.

The 12-ish-hour playtime could have actually been trimmed down a little, too, with the final act, in particular, feeling unnecessarily drawn out. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it because I did – beyond the times where I was scratching around in the dark, anyway, I had an absolute blast – but it did seem unduly long towards the end.

And after such a lengthy lead-up, I’ll admit I felt a little cheated when the credits rolled. The ending sequences – I’ve seen two – felt abrupt to the point of rudeness and deeply unsatisfying. And while it’s intimated that your capability to control Tasi’s fear will have consequences later on, I’m not sure how – or even if – the decision she faces near the close of her story were impacted by this. Without multiple playthroughs, it’s difficult to be sure, of course, however I certainly finished the video game sensation like it would’ve played out the exact same method regardless.

That stated, in spite of these obstacles, I can’t reject that I enjoyed my time with Amnesia: Rebirth. The periodic unequal pacing and absence of instructions weren’t rather adequate to temper the truly chilling spooks and interesting tale, that makes Amnesia: Rebirth a strong entry into the franchise’s canon, even if it may not horrify rather as much as its predecessors.