Amnesia: Rebirth Adventure Mode (PS4) Review

Amnesia Rebirth’s adventure mode is a great choice for newcomers that dislike horror games with defenceless protagonists, giving them the opportunity to experience the excellent narrative and unsettling environments. However, returning players may be put off by the streamlining of mechanics and inconsistent changes that leave some locations feeling lifeless and devoid of threats.
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Amnesia Rebirth released to considerable critical and commercial success last year. Six months later, Frictional Games took the lessons they learned from SOMA’s “safe mode” and introduced the “adventure mode” to Amnesia Rebirth. It launched on PC last month and has now has found its way to PlayStation 4 and PS5 (with a 60fps framerate boost for PS5 owners). I thought it would be a good time to go back and try out this new mode and re-review it for those that are curious or missed it at launch.

As a direct sequel to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, it follows a new protagonist – Tasi Trianon – who awakens in a downed aircraft in the middle of the Tunisian desert. She immediately sets out to find her hubby and crew but swiftly realises that she has already travelled with them through several locations. She recalls only fragments of these interactions and remembers she is 1-month pregnant. Giving the player control of a pregnant protagonist instantly makes her journey across the desert, through ruins, and an apocalyptic alternate dimension, more stressful than in any prior game.

Amnesia Rebirth had several chapters dedicated to quiet exploration and puzzle-solving, making adventure mode a logical addition.

Throughout her journey, Tasi encounters several survivors and more than a few corpses. These moments trigger flashbacks slowly unravel the events of the past few days. The loading screens – which are much shorter on the PS5 – reveal Tasi and Salim’s tragic past and are vital to understanding her motivations and choices. Tasi even encounters the remnants of Daniel’s expedition and explores a dimension that demonstrates the terrible cost of using the mysterious orbs of power that have appeared in the prior games. For gamers with children, it’s also easier to appreciate Tali’s dogged determination and understand that noble self-sacrifice is no more than a lofty ideal when you have children to consider.

Although Amnesia Rebirth has some fun gameplay moments, it is still built on the same framework Frictional Games have been using for over a decade. As such, the “gameplay” loop can feel fairly simplistic. This is a game that asks you to turn down the lights, put on a pair of headphones, and immerse yourself in the atmosphere and narrative beats to get the most from it.

Several detours into an alternate, post-apocalyptic dimension show off what the modified decade-old HPL engine can still achieve. The grotesque architecture, harsh lighting, and ambient music do a great job of creating an unsettling, otherworldly experience.

Many parts of Amnesia: Rebirth felt like a good fit for an adventure mode. Even in the default mode, it has clearly defined chapters dedicated to exploration and puzzle-solving. You’ll need to read notes and clues, observe the environment, find and manipulate items, and use inventory items on objects similar to point-and-click style games. The removal of the sanity meter – and therefore the need to manage light sources or avoid monsters – allows the player to freely explore. I could finally hunt down every story collectible and came away with a better understanding of the expanded lore.

Despite upping the brightness – in some areas where it makes sense, others less so – Amnesia Rebirth maintains its brooding atmosphere. As a result, exploration still feels tense and there’s still the urge to push forward to the next well-lit room. In areas that would originally involve avoiding patrolling monsters or chase sequences, adventure mode introduces several new puzzles that add an extra step to getting past obstacles. They’re not remarkable, but they ensure you’re not just trudging down empty corridors.

Several simple puzzles replace sequences in which you would normally be manipulating objects under pressure or running from creatures. Further into the game – when encounters become more common – creatures are either absent, do not chase Tali, or are simply moved to a more distant location.

However, Amnesia Rebirth had far more “scripted” moments than the prior games. There were jump scares, distant monster sightings, and a few tense chase sequences that had you slamming shut doors behind you. The way Frictional Games has altered these sequences can feel inconsistent and, in contrast to SOMA’s safe mode, Amnesia Rebirth’s adventure mode feels like a step too far at times.

During a normal playthrough, you’ll encounter evidence of ghuls and other extra-dimensional creatures long before you encounter them. It’s an effective way to keep the player on edge as it is hard to know if you were actively being stalked or not. When these creatures finally appear, Amnesia Rebirth upped the ante by giving many a sense of smell (or some other tracking ability), making it harder for the player to simply sit in a corner until they moved away or despawned. It led to a few frustrating situations that required more trial-and-error than I cared for. As such, I was happy to skip them in adventure mode.

Descending the waterworks below the fort remained as tense and unsettling as ever (and it makes sense that it was better lit). Unfortunately, exploring the fort above just felt like sifting through empty halls.

Sadly, adventure mode can’t seem to find a balance from chapter to chapter. An early example – about a third of the way into the game – involves Tasi exploring a ruined French Foreign legion fort and the waterworks beneath it. What was once a tense slog through darkened halls while stalked by a ghul is now completely quiet and devoid of even implied threat. You can find the desiccated remains of the former soldiers and their desperate notes, but you see neither sight nor sound of the ghul, with several scripted scares removed entirely.

On the other hand, the subsequent descent through the waterworks has the ghul appearing in the distance, growling nearby as you explore the darkened tunnels. The final sequence – probably the first frustrating roadblock for a normal playthrough – still has the ghul appear but it stalks away from the player and eventually disappears. This section feels far closer to the original experience albeit without confrontation. Perhaps these inconsistencies will be less of an issue for new players, but they’ll stick out for returning players.

Despite my active brain telling me I was playing in adventure mode it was hard not to fall back into old habits, like furiously scrounging for every match.

Overall, my feelings on adventure mode are mixed. If you’ve not played Amnesia Rebirth before – because you missed it at launch or dislike horror games with defenceless protagonists – adventure mode is well worth it for the compelling protagonist, unravelling narrative, and deep lore. Despite the obvious lack of danger, the presentation and menacing atmosphere will keep you unsettled throughout. On the other hand, returning players might simply grow bored with the streamlined mechanics, obvious lack of threat, and scant few additional puzzles.

What I missed most was the old routine of desperately scavenging for matches and lamp oil in the dark, lighting every brazier I could, and dashing to well-lit safe rooms for a moment of respite and the opportunity to soothe Tasi’s unborn child and hear her thoughts. Despite enjoying my adventure mode replay, the perfect balance for me would be an option to toggle off monster encounters, while keeping the darkness-based sanity mechanics intact.

Amnesia: Rebirth Adventure Mode (PS4) Review

Amnesia: Rebirth Adventure Mode (PS4) Review
7 10 0 1
7/10
Total Score
  • Story
    9/10 Amazing
    Always the strongest element of any Frictional Games' title, Amnesia: Rebirth has an uncommon protagonist you can sympathize with and an intriguing narrative that unravels with great pacing.
  • Gameplay
    6/10 Normal
    Despite the return of inventory management and more complex puzzles, it often feels like you're still playing - mechanically speaking - 2010's Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
  • Visuals
    7/10 Good
    The modified HPL engine shows its age, but a combination of otherwordly architecture, grotesque creature design, and atmospheric lighting remains effective.
  • Audio
    7/10 Good
    There are few memorable tracks, but the voice work is great and the ambient music - coupled with the distant growls of horrific creatures - will keep you on edge.

The Good

  • The slow unravelling narrative and rare choice of protagonist
  • Exploration and puzzle-solving remain compelling
  • Dark, menacing, and otherworldly atmosphere
  • The increased framerate and faster load times on PS5

The Bad

  • Inconsistent changes leave some locations feeling lifeless and unthreatening
  • The basic gameplay loop has barely evolved since The Dark Descent
  • Loading times on PS4
Total
33
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