MOD SPOTLIGHT

An im­pres­sive Am­ne­sia: The Dark Des­cent story.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By Andy Kelly

The qual­ity of Amadeus, an Am­ne­sia mod by Swedish cre­ator Rem­i­nisc­ity, be­comes clear when I step into the main hall of the old house where the story takes place. It’s a beau­ti­ful, grand room, with cold moon­light pour­ing through stained-glass win­dows, glass domes in the ceil­ing, a vel­vet-car­peted stair­way, and eerie oil paint­ings hang­ing on the walls. It’s prob­a­bly pret­tier than the main game’s Bren­nen­burg Cas­tle, which is quite an achieve­ment for a free mod.

In­spired by Christo­pher Nolan’s won­der­ful The Pres­tige and, cu­ri­ously, the work of TV mind­wiz­ard Der­ren Brown, Amadeus tells the story of Cor­nelius Camp­bell, a ma­gi­cian trad­ing un­der the name The Amaz­ing Al­duin. Cor­nelius’ ca­reer has come grind­ing to an undig­ni­fied halt, and where once he was able to fill the big­gest the­aters, he now strug­gles to at­tract even a mea­gre au­di­ence. This is what tips him over the edge, send­ing him spi­ralling down a path of mad­ness as he does what­ever it takes to be­come pop­u­lar again—even if that in­volves some­thing un­sa­vory. Which, this be­ing a mod for Am­ne­sia: The Dark Des­cent, is a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity.

BIG SHOT

Clock­ing in at four-to-six hours, de­pend­ing on how cau­tious a player you are, there’s a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of game to be found here. And it has the pro­duc­tion val­ues you’d usu­ally ex­pect from an in-house Fric­tional project, with sur­pris­ingly de­cent voice act­ing, be­spoke an­i­ma­tions and some stun­ning en­vi­ron­men­tal art. Early in the game I wake up in a cell and find my­self walk­ing through an un­der­ground cave net­work, with wa­ter­falls and shafts of light spilling through cracks in the rocks. It’s a re­ally im­pres­sive space, and I’m not sur­prised when I learn that it took Rem­i­nisc­ity over three years to

com­plete this mod. I’m sure he feels well re­warded: The game has re­ceived a pa­rade of en­thu­si­as­tic 10/10 user re­views on ModDB, and was also voted as that site’s Am­ne­sia Mod of the Year for 2017.

As a stu­dio, Fric­tional en­cour­ages mod­ding, and re­leased a level edi­tor to al­low Am­ne­sia play­ers to create their own cus­tom sto­ries. This, how­ever, means there are a lot of mods out there, and many of them are, hon­estly, pretty rub­bish. But Amadeus is strik­ing in that al­most ev­ery as­pect of it feels pro­fes­sional. The pac­ing is mag­nif­i­cent, leav­ing a good amount of ten­sion-build­ing space be­tween the scares to make them count. And that’s some­thing that eludes even the cre­ators of big, com­mer­cial hor­ror games with Hol­ly­wood movie bud­gets. Rem­i­nisc­ity seems to un­der­stand the im­por­tance of re­straint and sub­tlety.

Al­though the mod does stick closely to the Am­ne­sia for­mula, it also mixes things up a lit­tle—and makes some changes for the bet­ter. Some of you will dis­agree, but I al­ways thought the san­ity-health-lamp man­age­ment side of Am­ne­sia was a chore, and got in the way of the story. So I was glad to dis­cover that Amadeus gets rid of the need to con­stantly hunt down lau­danum, san­ity po­tions, and tin­der­boxes, mak­ing it feel more like di­vi­sive se­quel A Ma­chine for Pigs— which it also bor­rows some as­sets from. That will turn some hard­core Am­ne­sia fans off, but for me it gives the story and at­mos­phere room to breathe.

MON­STER MASH

Amadeus does fall flat oc­ca­sion­ally, how­ever. Al­though I do ap­pre­ci­ate the de­ci­sion to create orig­i­nal mon­sters for the mod, I never found any of them that scary. A lot of the puz­zles are clev­erly de­signed— par­tic­u­larly the one that in­volves playing a tune on a pi­ano—but the dif­fi­culty of some of the trick­ier ones left me frus­trated rather than chal­lenged. And there’s a gen­eral feel­ing of front-load­ing, with some of the later scenes lack­ing the fi­nesse of the open­ing hours. But in light of ev­ery­thing else it does well, I’d still rec­om­mend it, flaws and all. Es­pe­cially since it costs ab­so­lutely noth­ing to play, pro­vid­ing you own an up-to-date copy of Am­ne­sia.

De­sign­ing hor­ror games is dif­fi­cult, and for ev­ery one that nails it, there are a dozen that sink into cliche and lazy jump scares. Other mods for Am­ne­sia shoot them­selves in the foot by re­ly­ing on things leap­ing out of the shad­ows, or sud­den loud noises, too much. And that’s why Amadeus stands out: It knows when to hold back, teas­ing you, keep­ing the ten­sion tight like pi­ano wire. If you want to play for your­self, Amadeus is avail­able on ModDB (www.bit.ly/amadeusam­ne­sia) and in­stal­la­tion is as easy as drop­ping a folder into your in­stall di­rec­tory and run­ning a .bat file. Eight years later, it’s great to see Am­ne­sia still fir­ing mod­ders’ imag­i­na­tions.

Spooky things are afoot.

The beau­ti­ful great hall, which acts as a hub in Amadeus.

xxxx xxxxxx

Rem­i­nisc­ity seems to un­der­stand the im­por­tance of re­straint

It’s old, but Am­ne­sia is still a looker.

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