“An attempt to make a really strong and focused horror”
Amnesia: The Bunker is the next horror experience from Frictional Games. We spoke with the game’s creative lead Fredrik Olsson to learn more about the game that’s bringing new mechanics to the much-loved franchise.
When we think about Amnesia as a series, one of the first thoughts that comes to mind is the sanity metre— a mechanic that adds an additional layer of stress to games, that are by all accounts, stressful enough with their insistent use of untiring monstrosities attempting to slaughter the protagonist in the dark. For a feature so prominent in previous Amnesia games, it comes as a surprise that Frictional Games has done away with the mechanic in Amnesia: The Bunker, but from what creative lead Fredrik Olsson has told us, we could still be in for a heart-pounding experience when The Bunker launches in May as one of the games coming to Game Pass.
What is Amnesia: The Bunker?
“It’s WWI, and you wake up in a Bunker. The exit is blocked, and you need to assemble some explosives and blow it open. Along with you is also a monster that is stalking the corridors and trying to hunt you down. Your only way to survive is to make as little noise as possible, keep the lights on, and use various tools to your advantage.”
I can’t wait to see some tense and scared players as they work their way through the bunker. The game is, first and foremost, an attempt to make a really strong and focused horror experience.
Amnesia: The Bunker is a first-person survival horror game from Frictional Games, the team behind Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Soma, and more. It’s set to launch on May 16th for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, as well as joining its predecessors on Xbox Game Pass on day one. In this instalment, players will have a semi-open playground to explore instead of a “linear sequence of puzzles,” where player choice is the most important factor of each obstacle you face. “It is a very focused horror experience. You have one big, connected environment where the game takes place in. It is then up to you as a player to figure out what to do and how to overcome the various obstacles and hazards,” Olsson told us. “More often than not, there are multiple ways of achieving your goal. For instance, a door can be blown open with a grenade, by luring the monster to break it down, or bypassing it by finding a hidden tunnel.”
What will Amnesia: The Bunker play like?
Frictional likes to bring something new with each game it releases, such as Soma’s more narrative-focused gameplay or Amnesia: Rebirth’s save feature that would allow you to skip a monster encounter if you died, and Amnesia: The Bunker is set to continue the trend, albeit with slightly more prominent changes this time around. “I guess you can say the biggest difference lies in the fact that this game is much more focused on gameplay and player agency,” Olsson explained. “The game is much less ‘handholdy’ and more open-ended. Players will have to rely on their creativity and resourcefulness when overcoming obstacles and planning their approach.”
One aspect of the resourcefulness and creativity Frictional is allowing us to dabble with in this next instalment, is the franchise-first use of conventional weaponry, which many players were quick to spot within the initial announcement trailer. As Olsson says, we’ll have access to “weapons such as a gun, grenades, gas grenades, and even fire.” These can be used against the creature lurking in the shadows, but they’re also part of a host of unrevealed gameplay systems we’ll have at our disposal this time around. “Compared to previous games, The Bunker has tons of new elements in it,” Olsson said. “It’s very system-driven, and while a lot of the systems can be used as weapons, most of them can also be used as tools in order to progress faster. The player will have to decide which resources to use and when.”
“We’re going for a completely silent protagonist this time, more similar to Daniel in The Dark Descent,” Olsson added. “Also, the semi-open nature of the game means that players will encounter fragments of the backstory in a non-linear order.” Due to Amnesia: The Bunker’s focus on player-driven gameplay, you’ll find that the story will unfold at your own pace, placing you in the centre of the events instead of following a predetermined course of plot points. The term ’emergent horror” has been used by Frictional, which means the creature dogging you throughout the game will react dynamically to your actions, without the conventional jump scares you find in more linear games that can use choreographed scenes.
Will the sanity gauge return in Amnesia: The Bunker?
As has been mentioned before, Frictional Games is really shaking up the gameplay with this instalment of the Amnesia series, and in a twist that we probably wouldn’t have guessed, the team has done away with the prolific sanity meter found in the previous games. But you’re not safe from the stress-inducing mechanic completely — where would the fun be in that?
“In many ways, you can say that Amnesia, at its core, has always been about the interplay between darkness and light. We wanted Amnesia: The Bunker to continue that heritage, but we also wanted to try something new this time around. We did, for example, not want a sanity mechanic for this game, instead, we were looking for something more tangible,” Olsson revealed. “That’s why, in order to survive, the player will have to concern themselves with the generator that powers up the bunker. If it runs out of fuel the lights will go out, and the creature that hunts them will become more active and present. Add to this that the main light source is an old and extremely noisy dynamo flashlight, and you can imagine the horror when full darkness kicks in.”
So yes, while we won’t be racing towards the nearest light source in an attempt to hinder the protagonist’s slow descent into madness in The Bunker, we will need to ensure the complex’s generator is working fluidly if we’d like to continue outrunning the creature while being able to see where we’re going — don’t give the generator the fuel it needs, and you’ll be using the wind-up flashlight as a sort of dynamo dinner bell… and you’ll be the main course.
Frictional Games and its relationship with Xbox
This instalment will be launching on May 16th for Xbox Series X|S, and as such, you can expect to see Amnesia: The Bunker achievements to come with it. It’s still a bit too early for us to have the list, but Olsson told us that the team has “tried to go for achievements that tap into the open-ended nature of the game. Therefore, a lot of them encourage things like using all the various tools at your disposal and fully exploring the world.”
Alongside its Xbox Series X|S debut, which will offer up 4K visuals and higher framerates than previous games in the series, as well as enhanced shadows, terrain, and effects, Amnesia: The Bunker will also join Xbox Game Pass on day one. Right now, Amnesia: Collection and Amnesia: Rebirth are available on the service and have been since October 2022. Olsson told us that working with Xbox to get both games on Game Pass “has been a blast; communication has been fantastic, and we couldn’t ask for more when it comes to support.” Frictional currently has two projects in the works spread across a team of 25 and a number of contractors, so any support it can garner from a powerhouse like Microsoft is most likely a welcome bonus when signing games on with Game Pass. “Having a strong partnership like this really helps a small studio like ours, and we couldn’t be happier that Game Pass subscribers will get the chance to enjoy Amnesia: The Bunker through the service.”
“I’m really looking forward to just watching players as they take on the more dynamic and emergent aspects of our game. The randomness of resources and other elements mixed in with the AI-driven threats will give each player a different experience,” Olsson concluded. “We will hopefully see a lot of unique situations and solutions as more people start playing the game.”
Amnesia: The Bunker launches on May 16th for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox Game Pass. Will you be tackling the horrors within its concrete walls? Drop a comment below and let us know!