Amnesia: The Bunker Review – A great concept hindered by frustrating execution

Gare – Thursday, June 15, 2023 5:31 AM
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As a fan of horror, whenever a new Amnesia game is announced, I can’t help but feel a certain jolt of excitement; we are, after all, talking about a series that revitalized the genre with its first installment all the way back in 2010, proving that horror can still very much be scary. Frictional Games had already been near and dear to my heart before that due to their excellent Penumbra games, and even in later years – specifically with titles like SOMA – they showed us that they’ve got what it takes to blend memorable narratives with effective scares. Now, the good news is that Amnesia: The Bunker is a better game than 2020’s rather forgettable Amnesia: Rebirth… but it comes with its own fair share of tedious mechanics that hold it back from becoming truly great.

The hunter and the hunted

The setup is undoubtedly intriguing: you’re stuck in a World War 1 bunker with no way out, and there’s a deadly supernatural beast stalking you from the shadows. It’s a classic Amnesia premise spiced up with an Alien: Isolation-esque twist, with the player rarely – if ever – feeling truly safe, especially when you realize that the unkillable, AI-driven beast is an ever-present threat that’s always there and doesn’t just show up occasionally for scripted chase sequences. This time, however, your protagonist isn’t entirely defenseless, either: while running and hiding are still very much viable (and often preferred) options, you have a gun and various other tools – grenades, flares, etc. – at your disposal to temporarily fend off the beast. The rules are laid down early on: the creature hunts in the dark, hates the light and mostly reacts to sound. Also, your rechargeable flashlight just so happens to make a lot of noise whenever you use it, so… yeah. You can probably put two and two together. That said, you won’t only have to rely on a flimsy flashlight or self-made torches – the bunker’s generator is located in the only safe room of the entire game (incidentally, this is also the only room where you can save), and by filling it up with fuel, you can temporarily turn the lights back on. Yup, I did say temporarily, as the generator will eventually shut down once it runs out of juice, and the bunker will once again be covered in pitch darkness, making it significantly more likely for the monster to come out – and significantly more difficult for you to get anything done.

Who turned the lights off?

What I’ve described is essentially the core mechanic of The Bunker: you have to scavenge for fuel to turn the lights back on for just long enough for you to explore your surroundings and find important key items. It’s also the source of many of my frustrations with the title, as the ticking clock element this introduces meant that I often had to “speedrun” areas while hastily searching for (and often overlooking) items and supplies, which, at least in my case, completely killed the mood of the game. I would learn the basic layout of a zone, die to the monster half a dozen times, then reload my previous save, turn the lights back on for a few minutes and accomplish my task as fast as I possibly could, which… let’s be honest, wasn’t exactly the most organic way of experiencing the game, but I felt like the mechanics and overall design of The Bunker sort of forced me into this rather tedious, trial-and-error play style. In Alien: Isolation, the Xenomorph was a constant and endlessly unnerving threat that made you dread the concept of having to leave relatively safe zones in order to explore and progress; in The Bunker, the fuel/generator mechanic is added on top of the already present monster threat, turning the experience more frustrating than terrifying after a while.

An uneven experience

In addition to the above, the lacks a map screen you can pull up with the click of a button (you can only view it by going back to your safe room and inspecting the in-game map hung up on the wall), plus it features an extremely limited inventory system that will likely force you to make several treks back to the aforementioned safe room in order to dump out your excess supplies and make room for more important things. That said, I feel like it would be hasty of me to judge these features as inherently bad – some people will absolutely love having to navigate the bunker based on memory alone, with only a few inventory slots available at any given time, while to others, it might come off as more of an annoyance than anything else. Speaking of annoyances, the monster itself can be rather terrifying at first, but once you get to a point where you’re just hiding under a bed and waiting for it to go away so you can resume solving a puzzle, the game soon loses that initial dread factor.

That said, there are genuine moments of excitement and fear to be found here and there – hearing the monster crawling around inside the bunker’s walls never failed to get my heart racing, and realizing you’d have to make the long journey back to the safe room with only one bullet left in your revolver can indeed make even the most determined horror gamer’s palms moist with sweat. It’s just that these moments are few and far between, with most of the game’s relatively short play time instead being filled with pure tedium, annoyances big and small, as well as gameplay mechanics that actively prevent the setting and the atmosphere from really flourishing. The Bunker is also disappointingly light on storytelling, deciding to instead reveal a barebones plot to the player via journal entries and a few throwaway references to previous Amnesia titles. For those specifically looking for a more narrative-centric horror experience, they won’t find it here.


Amnesia: The Bunker is a game I really wanted to love, and one that I do believe many people will indeed love. It’s got all the ingredients for a genuinely haunting survival horror experience: a persistent, constantly present monster, an inherently creepy setting, non-linear exploration and – for the first time in the series – the ability to craft tools and use weapons to defend yourself. Its promising ideas and intriguing concept, however, are severely hindered by cumbersome mechanics and design choices that quickly turn fear into frustration, saddling the game with repetitive, trial-and-error-based exploration and tedious resource management. I do think many will find The Bunker to be an overall enjoyable experience, but for me, its cons sadly outweigh the pros.

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