By TheAcidSkull 0 Comments
Lets be honest, no one was envious of the position A Machine For Pigs was in, since it had the unfortunate fate of being the the sequel to one of the best and most awesome horror games ever made. A Machine for Pigs has a lot of mixed reviews, which, while I don't agree with the overall assessment that the game is bad, is fair form a certain stand point. I guess the main reason for this is that A Machine for Pigs doesn't feel like The Dark Descent'ssequel, at least from a gameplay standpoint. The story in The Dark Descent, while not mind-blowing,was very interesting and cool, but it completely served the gameplay. This game, however, is the complete opposite, because almost every design choice is focused on the story; that's not inherently a bad thing, but yet again, it's obvious why many Amnesia fans were disappointed.
First of all, he gameplay takes an enormous step back. The first thing I noticed is the fact that your interaction and flexibility to pick various objects up has been severely limited. This could have been a good thing, considering that the level of flexibility in amnesia was so great that sometimes you'd touch basically everything before arriving at a solution, but the restriction was just too great, which made the"puzzles" simply too elementary, since all you had to do is walk around a specific area and basically aim your mouse at everything until the hand icon appeared. The Puzzles, instead of searching the area to find and craft items, have been thematically changed, which is actually a good thing, since the main theme here technology and industrialism, so you'll spend a lot of time turing levers and such.
Moreover, the Pigmen AI is not as intimidating as that of the Gatherers and Brutes. The Grunts/Brutes were scary as hell, because they were merciless killers who endlessly chased you once you had the misfortune of running into them. The Pigmen the other hand, are not nearly as aggressive, in fact, I found escaping them comparatively easy. I only died once throughout my playthrough and that was because I was cornered by two Wreches (lowest ranking Pigmen). Some of them are considerably weaker too, since it takes them a while to actually kill you whereas the Gatherers either killed you in two hits or in a single blow! Also, these Pig Monsters are very humanlike in nature, which is great for the plot (I'll get to that later), but not so much for building tension and horror, since the fear factor somewhat decreases. That's not to say that they are complete cakewalks, in fact, there are some well built jump scares and the tension is maintained during certain sections of the game, like the one when you are placed in an unknown area with some patrolling pigmonsters (The Bigger, more brutal versions called the Engineer, or in some cases the Tesla). However, it doesn't take much effort to hide from them, considering that most of the time you'll be able to run off and slip into darkness for safety.
And speaking of darkness, Amnesia's signature aspect, the sanity meter, has been removed all together, which to me is probably the greatest disappointment, because it's a significant game changer. The previous remarks I've made so far wouldn't have been such huge problems if they had maintained this small yet crucial aspect of the game. With the sanity meter, the pigmen would have been more intimidating and scary, and Instead of observing them from the dark and waiting for them to to move on, I would have listened to the sounds they made in order to track their movement. The removal of the sanity meter also removed the need to stay out of the darkness. Thus, the players possessed an electrical lantern, which did not require constant fuel. This, I guess, made more sense context wise, since this is the era of industrialization; nevertheless, they could have found another loophole around it. They tried, I'll give them that. For example, approaching the pigs makes the light flicker, which WOULD have been scary had this held any actual consequence, however, in the end, it was just a blatant indicator that the enemy was nearby. Nothing more, nothing less.
Having said all of that, A Machine for Pigs succeeds in other features with flying colors. As I said, it is very story driven, more so than the first installment. You take control of the Oswald Mandus, and industrialist who wakes up in his mansion over the sound of his children calling out to him. To not spoil anything, I will just say that despite the fact that the story may seem obvious from a superficial level, it takes a lot of twists and turns, so much so that you end up in a very unexpected place in a brilliant way (the 3rd act is absolutely fantastic). The narrative, like in The Dark Descent, is delivered through notes and audio dialogues/monologues, though it's not as hard to put together as it was in the first game, yet it still never loses the feeling of confusion, which is a definite plus for the game. I mean, the game is called AMNESIA, so it makes more sense that one may think.
I'm also glad they they put subtle hints in the story that links it with The Dark Descent, I was a bit worried that the second game would have been completely detached, but luckily my fears were not confirmed. This is, lore and plot-wise, still essentially an Amnesia game, and the game doesn't fail to remind you of that. Fortunately, these connections are very subtle and interesting. (meaning that it doesn't beat you over head wit constant references.)
Furthermore, this game is very atmospheric. The environments are very drab, lifeless, unclean, dark and gloomy, which is a fitting match for the suffering caused by Industrialism and the rapid advancement of technology in the 19th century. A Machine for Pigs constantly draws a parallel to the fact that most people, whether a commoner or not, have become pathetic, dirty pigs who ruin their own souls by forever remaining ignorant and by never striving for something better. This is obviously reflected by the Manpig enemies, which explains why they behaved like humans as opposed to monsters. I just wish they had maintained some of the better elements of The Dark Descent, considering that with something like the sanity meter these Pigs would have still been symbolic and integral to the story without losing their fear factor.
And last but not least, the score is absolutely magnificent. There were certain moments where the music started playing and I have to say that it completely out-shined whatever was happening on the screen. It's not enough to say that the victorian world jumped of the computer screen and came alive, because it would be an understatement.
In conclusion, A Machine for Pigs is an interesting ride. Is it as nerve-wrecking as The Dark Descent? Obviously not, sadly. The problem here was that the gameplay served the story, which, when crafting a horrific experience, isn't the best route to take. Don't get me wrong, a good story is something I appreciate greatly, but when I know in my heart that we could have had both a great narrative and gameplay, it saddens me that the Chinese Room/Frictional let a great opportunity slip through the cracks. Still, there are many interesting and fantastic qualities in A Machine for Pigs, so the idea that it's a terrible game is simply untrue, because, while I may not have been as mentally drained at the end, I was still captivated and intrigued by Oswald's story.