What could possibly go wrong when machines created by humans could start thinking for themselves, act independently and turn against their creator?
Some of the answers can be described with the game-play of Frictional Games’ Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs.
Set in an imagined Victorian epoch – in a shade of existence – where science mingles with misunderstanding – the games takes you on a trip where darkness squeals, takes electrifying turns in torturing humans and lets rotten smells fill the air.
Oswald Mandus – the protagonist – wakes up feeling amnesic – just like the main character of Amnesia: The Dark Descent. He soon finds out that the machine beneath the city – which is 1899’s London – has been sabotaged – and that he has to save his children who are trapped in the dark hallways underground. Piece by piece – you discover truths about yourself and about the doings of the machine.
You start by exploring a mansion, hearing whispers, screams, strange noises and seeing shadows and ghastly apparitions. You only have one goal in mind – and that is saving the children. Through written notes, journal entries, gramophone recordings and phone calls – you hear detailed parts of this story.
After a certain spell – parts of you became crucial parts of the Machine.
The Machine is the malevolent antagonist of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. It was created by Oswald Mandus in 1899, and gained sentience after part of his soul was inserted into it. It’s sentience is referred to as The Engineer.
The Machine was created to harvest people and automate human sacrifice on an industrial scale in the hope that it might prevent the horrific events of the 20th century. It was envisioned by Mandus after the disastrous trip to the sacrificial steps of an Aztec temple in Mexico when he came into contact with the Orb.
The physical part of the Machine is enormous, stretching far and wide beneath London. The Machine is powered by Compound X, which in turn provides steam for the various machinery. It also produces large amounts of waste that needs to be discharged by a vast system of pumps.
Although designed with offices, catwalks, operation consoles, and panels, The Machine seems to be able to run mostly on its own, requiring manpigs for manual labor or small repairs. It also communicates with Mandus via a set of telephones and loudspeakers all throughout the system, further driving the realization of its intelligence and cleverness.
Interestingly, The Machine seems to be integrated with the hearts of Mandus’ sons. When Oswald’s soul is fragmented into two as well (seemingly by the fractured Orb when it ‘sucked out the fever’ that he had contracted in Mexico), The Machine gains sentience as another form of Oswald himself (aka, The Engineer). Thus, the true antagonist is Oswald’s own conscience, operating The Machine. It also refers to itself as the jaguar-faced man and a feathered serpent, attributes of the Aztec God, Quetzalcoatl, who in Aztec myth fled across the Atlantic after his removal from the sun throne, causing an apocalypse.
Man-pigs lurk in the shadows – pigs developed as humans – which learned how to live and work underground. The decaying of everything around tells nothing but a sad story of despair. Everything seems deserted, forgotten, hiding terrible secrets.
When you finally encounter people is when you see that the city is gone mad, manpigs kill the living humans outside and turn them into fuel for the machine. You go deeper and deeper into the heart of the darkness – only to learn that once darkness conquers something – it is hard to oppose it and fight it back.
The survival horror genre has seen many titles – but the best games out there – in my opinion – are the ones with the first person perspective. They let you enter the atmosphere and live the story. In Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs you explore and fight the dark forces in order to re-establish some peace in the protagonist’s path.
The story is well written, the dialogues are deep, the voice-acting is great. Great soundtrack too.
This is not the first time I played the game – definitely not the last. Recommended for its plot and scare-jumps.