Amnesia: The Bunker is a scrappier take on survival horror

Frictional leaves its comfort zone being with The Bunker.

Amnesia: The Bunker cover art
Amnesia: The Bunker
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
Platforms
PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox,
Release date
6 June 2023
Reviewed on
PC
Fergus Halliday
Jun 05, 2023
Icon Time To Read4 min read
Quick verdict: Amnesia: The Bunker

Amnesia: The Bunker finds fresh thrills in a more open sandbox approach and a new setting. It's not the best the series has ever been, but it's easily the most exciting and experimental instalment.

pro
Pros
pro Sandbox scares
pro Procedural generated map
pro Terrible feeling guns
con
Cons
con Relatively-short
con Sometimes looks a bit dated

The Dark Descent’s viral success has cast a long shadow over everything that Frictional Games has done in the years since. Still, it's telling that every subsequent title from the developer has held onto the same kind of scrappiness that defined its breakout hit.

Culturally and commercially, the first Amnesia was a phenomenon fueled by ambition that far exceeded the means of its modest budget. Amnesia: The Bunker lives up to this legacy in ways that 2020’s Amnesia: Rebirth couldn’t quite realise. If that last game was a double-down on the formula that struck a chord with streamers in the early 2010s, this one is the defiant departure from it. 

The Bunker incorporates plenty of period-appropriate prose and sanity-shearing monsters that fans will recognise but carves out an identity of its own through non-linear levels and immersive sim-like elements. This foray into unknown territory sometimes yields imperfect results, but it emphasises just how big and imposing a small-scale story like this one can feel just as often.

Amnesia: The Bunker review

Amnesia: The Bunker eschews the series’ past gothic and exotic locations for a more stripped-back setting. The entire ordeal takes place in a bunker during the first world war. You play as a French soldier who wakes up in the medical ward of the titular subterranean safe house only to discover that everyone is dead, the power is blown, the only way out is blocked and there’s a monster on the loose. 

Where previous Amnesia games tasked you with unravelling a mystery and confronting the darkness at the heart of it, this one opts for a more straightforward one. Your goal is simple. Get out while you can.

Following a brief introductory segment, you’re given both a map of the titular bunker and free reign as to which parts of the complex you want to explore and in what order. As you do so, you’ll find notes and clues which shed light on the events that preceded you and add context to the situation in which you now find yourself. 

Even if the historical context evokes its own themes and feelings, creeping through the tunnels and living spaces here echoes the isolating vibe of space station set titles like System Shock or Prey. While the series' usual blend of physics-based puzzles and tense stealth sequences are present, The Bunker takes the superficial similarities that these elements have had with immersive sims like the titles mentioned above and adds much-needed depth to them. 

In contrast to earlier Amnesia games, there are often multiple ways to get what you want or where you want in The Bunker. At one point, I couldn’t work out where to find a key for a given door, so I simply ran to the other end of the map and dragged an explosive barrel all the way back over and used it to blast open the door.

This kind of freedom when it comes to creative problem-solving is as welcome an addition to the formula here as it is with games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

However, that is not to say it doesn’t come without cost or consequence. Amnesia: The Bunker is a survival horror game after all. Every bit of unnecessary noise you make seems to have a chance of snagging the attention of the snarling beast searching for you.

The environmental and audio design is such that you constantly feel hounded, even if you’ll rarely actually encounter the creature unless you do something stupid or loud to bring it down upon you. Whenever this happens, you’ve got to either find somewhere to hide until the danger passes or sprint run all the way back to the hideaway at the heart of the bunker. 

There’s a deliciousness to the dread to cause and effect here, with The Bunker emphasising non-scripted and more dynamic encounters even more so than previous Amnesia games. But unlike those games, this one gives give you the ability to fight back.

Amnesia The Bunker screenshot

Right from the get-go, you’ve got a revolver, grenades and environmental hazards at your disposal. While these tools now allow you to face your fears in a more direct way, Frictional has done a tremendously good job of making your arsenal as fiddly and unreliable as possible.

Other games would simply have you reload your gun by hitting a reload button. The Bunker opts for a drawn-out animation where inspect your revolver, individually clear empty chambers and then reload each bullet one by one. In the heat of a close encounter with the creature hunting you, these little flourishes can sometimes get you killed but they make for a tremendously tense experience regardless of the outcome.

On top of the usual resource management that having to think about bullets brings with it, you’re also constantly scavenging spare fuel to keep the generator powering the lighting system in the underground outpost alive. If it runs dry, you’ll be cast into darkness until you find more. You’ve got a rudimentary clockwork flashlight with you that you can use in a pinch, but that makes noise every time you wind it up so you don’t want to rely on it too much.

The last big change that The Bunker makes to the Amnesia formula is the integration of procedural generation. With each new playthrough, the layouts of traps, puzzles, enemies and hazards in the game will change. It’s not quite on the level of something like Prey: Mooncrash but it does promise to add a little bit more replay value that previous instalments in the series have typically lacked.

Beyond these bigger changes though, what’s here is fairly in line with previous Amnesia games. The writing and sense of atmosphere are incredible as always, though the visual side of things does lag a little this time around.

The Bunker does a great job of immersing you in the grime and muck of its setting, but it feels like it does so in spite of how dated some of the environments can sometimes look. The fact that Frictional has built something so distinct from previous Amnesia games out of the same bones is compelling on a mechanical level but not nearly so charming on an aesthetic one.

Is Amnesia: The Bunker worth buying?

Amnesia The Bunker header

After mastering their own formula with Amnesia: Rebirth, The Bunker sees Frictional take a fresh foray into unknown territory. It’s a fascinating and thrifty experiment that fans of the series will likely enjoy, as well as one that’s much more approachable for newcomers intrigued by the premise.

The Bunker finds fresh thrills in subverting many of the things that made Amnesia so popular in the first place. It’s not quite as deep a dive into madness as previous romps, but that briskness (and the promise of procedural generation) works in its favour. A fresh new setting and more freeform design make for an all-new Amnesia experience you won’t soon forget. 

Amnesia The Bunker trailer

Play Video

What can I play Amnesia: The Bunker on?

Amnesia: The Bunker is available for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.

Is Amnesia: The Bunker coming to the Switch

At the time of writing, Amnesia: The Bunker is not coming to Nintendo Switch. It's possible that a port of the game might be announced at a later date, but given that Amnesia: Rebirth did not get a Switch Port it's difficult to say for certain.

Fergus Halliday
Written by
Fergus Halliday
Fergus Halliday is a journalist and editor for Reviews.org. He’s written about technology, telecommunications, gaming and more for over a decade. He got his start writing in high school and began his full-time career as the Editor of PC World Australia. Fergus has made the MCV 30 Under 30 list, been a finalist for seven categories at the IT Journalism Awards and won Most Controversial Writer at the 2022 Consensus Awards. He has been published in Gizmodo, Kotaku, GamesHub, Press Start, Screen Rant, Superjump, Nestegg and more.

Related Articles

Everything included with the Meta Quest 3
How much does the Meta Quest 3 cost in Australia?
The Meta Quest, formerly known as Oculus Quest, from Meta, formerly known as Facebook.
outdoor mushroom heater
Outdoor heaters: Energy efficiency, specs, and price compared
Heaters gonna heat heat heat heat heat heat!
Slow Horses on Apple TV Plus
Where to observe Slow Horses in Australia
How slow could they possibly be?