Amnesia: The Bunker Review

The boys at Frictional Games have made an illustrious career since their first game revolutionized the horror genre. Their early work with the Penumbra games was a little too episodic for most gamers’ tastes, but when Amnesia: The Dark Descent came out in 2010, they came into their own artistically and commercially.

Countless streamers found huge audiences playing Frictional’s games; mugging the camera and getting utterly terrified by the experiences crafted by this Swedish studio. The entire game has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the terror palpable atmosphere. The Dark Descent has been compared to Outlast, but I think Amnesia has a far more bitter, cynical sense of horror.

Their undisputed masterpiece is Soma; a game so bleak, most people probably don’t notice the underlying nihilism. But they should, because it’s not just about the measure of the human soul from the eyes of a machine, it’s also a personal statement about the developers themselves.

Not every appreciated Soma at the time because it eschewed traditional gameplay conventions to be more effective at telling its narrative. Frictional has returned to Amnesia and they aim to deliver their take on classic survival horror gameplay design; a stark contrast to Soma‘s minimalism. Has Frictional Games made another masterpiece? Find out in Amnesia: The Bunker review!

Amnesia: The Bunker
Developer: Frictional Games
Frictional Games
Platforms: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (reviewed)
Release Date: June 6, 2023
Players: 1
Price: $24.99 USD

Frictional Games have a very specific philosophy when it comes to their horror games. It revolves around not interfering with the player or clashing with their mental model of the rules in the game. The idea is to keep gamers immersed as much as possible and not let game systems take precedence over the narrative or atmosphere.

With Soma, Frictional wanted to keep the players engaged with the story and atmosphere while dealing with dangerous monsters. It was a combat-less game but each threat had to be dealt with in unique ways and just by looking at them would cause adverse effects. If you died too many times, the enemies would disappear to give the player breathing room to progress. The point was to not annoy the player and to make an oppressive ambiance.

With Amnesia: The Bunker, Frictional has decided to throw its hat into the ring at attempting a non-linear sandbox-style survival horror game that still manages to have Frictional’s distinct style and sensibilities. The results are about as impressive as one would expect from the team that made some of the most terrifying horror games since 2007.

Amnesia: The Bunker‘s premise is surprisingly very straightforward compared to Frictional’s prior games. At first, it doesn’t look like a horror game; players will be barreling down trenches on the Western Front during World War I in an explosive action sequence.

Players assume the role of Henri Clément and he breaks new ground for the Amnesia series because he is the only protagonist who can use weapons. During the battle in the introduction, Henri gets ambushed by Germans while trying to save a comrade and awakes in a bunker with a bad case of amnesia.

During Henri’s brief coma from the attack, something terrible happened to the other men who were stationed in the bunker. The place is a complete wreck; there are macabre deaths strewn about, barricaded passages, smashed machinery, and massive rats with large glowing eyes.

The huge rat infestation is the least of Henri’s problems; he is also sharing the bunker with a nightmarish hulking abomination. This monstrosity can be best described as a mixture of Quasimodo and Nemesis; an implacable and resilient beast that hates light.

The goal of Amnesia: The Bunker is to survive and find a way out. Even though the bunker is a pretty small location, it is very dense and highly detailed with unique landmarks and points of interest. What makes this setting compelling is how Frictional does not limit the player in how it can be interacted with.

Large padlock on the door? There is a key to the lock somewhere. Don’t know where to look? Try smashing it with a brick and risk attracting the monster from all the noise. Maybe time is short because the generator is low on gas? Shooting the lock is also an option, but good luck finding the ammo because the men who died fighting this creature have exhausted most of the bullet supply. It’s possible to get the beast to smash a locked door too.

Amnesia: The Bunker is very elaborate and thorough about how players can interact with the world and the range of possibilities. All weapons are not just for temporarily driving the monster away, they are all viable means to negotiate obstacles, which makes the experience feel very immersive. Situations, where players can experiment, are not limited to finding ways to get to new areas.

The act of reloading the guns is tense and Henri will load each chamber carefully, one at a time. Every action feels deliberate and designed to feel like a weighty commitment. It all works in service of the terrible monster lurking around corners or in burrows; every action feels like a compromising risk.

Sometimes the hardest challenge to overcome is fear itself and you may find yourself hiding in the central saferoom, refusing to leave. There is a randomized element to the gameplay; all lockers have different combinations every playthrough and the only way to know the codes is to check the dog tags of the dead soldiers. Some resources can appear in different places which makes for good replay value.

The abomination can also be interacted with in meaningful ways too. When not using limited fuel to rely on the generator for light, players have a wind-up flashlight that needs regular winding for power. The problem is the winding makes noise and attracts the monster. This game constantly puts players in terrible situations and expects them to improvise on the fly.

Hiding spots can only provide solace for so long since the creature can get really pissed and smash them into pieces. Like in Alien: Isolation, the threat’s AI can be tricked with diversions, and weapons like grenades or even a shotgun can thwart the beast for a fleeting moment of respite.

No matter what, Amnesia: The Bunker never has a dull moment, especially because of how tight and lean it is. Unfortunately, this is also a weakness since the entire game can be beaten very quickly. On the first time playing with lots of messing around, expect about a five-hour run at most. After getting acquainted with Amnesia: The Bunker‘s systems and layout, it is easy to get to the end in about two hours.

To its credit, Amnesia: The Bunker gets the most out of its premise and fully realizes its full potential. Fans will find themselves wishing for more; new areas, different stalking monsters, and more puzzles. Thankfully, at $24.99, Amnesia: The Bunker is priced fairly for its brevity.

Considering its modest price, Amnesia: The Bunker looks as good as any AAA production. The boys at Frictional did their homework to make the setting feel period appropriate and festooned the bunker with all kinds of World War I equipment and props to realize the ambiance. Asset reuse is also kept to a bare minimum where appropriate and every dead Frenchmen has a uniquely mangled corpse.

Great care was put into the lighting and physics. Occlusion effects are very convincing and shadow quality is clear as a crisp spring morning. Every object has weight and behaves realistically when knocked around or thrown. This matters when trying to slow down the pursuing beast and all you have is a chair or a first-aid box.

The sound design is utterly otherworldly and unsettling. The inhuman, guttural groans and rasps from the creature are enough to make gamers run away in the opposite direction.

The only issues with the presentation are the hitches when traversing through the corridors that lead to other areas in the bunker. Normally, Amnesia: The Bunker runs flawlessly at 60 frames per second on an Xbox Series S, but these transitional zones give the game a little bit of a struggle. The hitching is very brief and won’t likely affect gameplay at large, but it is noticeable.

Frictional Games have finally abandoned their “walking-sim” style horror games with Amnesia: The Bunker. The experience is unrelenting white-knuckle terror where the player’s actions and choices are critical. Fans of Alien: Isolation and classic horror will get a lot of enjoyment from this.

Amnesia: The Bunker was reviewed on Xbox Series S using a code provided by Frictional Games. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Amnesia: The Bunker is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 4.


The Verdict: 9

The Good

  • Nerve-wracking and terrifying to play
  • Beautiful and macabre imagery and ghastly sound design
  • Open ended and nonlinear unpredictable gameplay
  • Tried and true, carefully balanced survival horror resource management
  • Cheeky puzzles and a diabolical stalking monster

The Bad

  • Clocks in under five hours


A youth destined for damnation.

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