Developed by: The Chinese Room
Produced and Published by: Frictional Games
“This Dawning Epoch, this age of reason, an empire gone fat, ripe for the bleeding.”
In the fall of 2010 a small Indy game came out called Amnesia The Dark Descent. I myself didn’t hear about it till around the New Year where upon my friend let my play for 30 seconds. By the end of it, we were in the fetal position and crying from the horror on screen. Shocked and curious about what I had just played, I went home, bought and downloaded it. It would forever change the way I see horror in media. I finally got through the game in around 2 weeks just from turning on the game and chickening out at the loading screen. If you think I’m joking, many other people had a similar experience.
About six or seven months later I found out that a sequel was in development and I got pumped and nervous. After delay and delay my hopes were starting to dwindle. Was I ever going to get to play this game? Why are all the games I want to play delayed for years? Well A Machine for Pigs has finally been unleashed and after 3 grueling nights I finished it.
Using the same mechanics of the first game, Machine for Pigs has removed several components that made the first game such a nail biter. Gone is lantern oil, (since there’s electricity now) tinderboxes, sanity meter, inventory and health system. My first problem with doing away with these items is that one looses a lot of the tension and “collectathon “ that made every scene in Amnesia memorable and a tough decision. “Should I use a tinderbox here, or my lantern? Or should I just go insane?” a reasoning I could figure out was that a big request upon the developers was that the game be controller enabled instead of just being for keyboards only. To this extent it has been allowed but at a huge disadvantage to the game and tension.
Puzzles from the first game have returned but are now much more simplistic, such as, “this generator needs a fuze so walk in the room next door and get a fuze.” Which if done correctly can be good but feels too simple and unfortunately is. The new monsters are delightfully disturbing, at first, but never become the legendary horrors that patrolled the first game. A problem with the monstrosities is that you don’t have any penalty for looking at them; so in a certain scene when you get to see them full on for an extended period of time, all the horror escapes from their persona.
Generally speaking I found the first half of the game to be absolutely terrifying with not knowing what was going to happen when or where, this is due to my brain being on complete overload. Its true the first hour has absolutely no monsters or threat of being killed so once you realize that you haven’t even seen a threat to the character the tension evaporates. Worst of all, the game heavily relies on jump scares, something that’s fun at first but soon becomes annoying and pathetic, especially when the first game never had to rely on those.
On the good side of things, Machine for Pigs is unbelievably horrific and scary. I was on several Skype calls with my friends listening to my screams and having them there for some support. There were definitely several moments where I had to stop, take a break and let my heart calm down. While I completed the game in a short four hours, I believe some may finish it between three and six hours depending on how slow you go through the game, read the notes and figure out puzzles, ect.
“They will eat them Mandus, they will make pigs of you all! And they will bury their snouts into your ribs and they will eat. Your. HEARTS.”
I have only one real complaint when it comes to the story: I didn’t really get it until a second playthrough. But since it was a user error, I wont take off any points. Set in 1899 you play as Oswald Mandus, a wealthy owner of a meat factory that recently got a sickness while on a trip to Mexico. Upon his return he recovers from his sickness and has a small case of amnesia. While I can’t revel any more without going into spoilers, the story itself is masterfully created and executed. The Chinese Room, having done Dear Esther in the past definitely knows how to do their stories, and this one is incredibly disturbing and intriguing in a situation of “what would you do” and “was it the right thing?” The only real fault I could find in the story structure is that it is slightly predictable with you’re first prediction being the correct one. Overall I do think this is one of the stronger stories from the past year.
“I want my children you unholy bastard!”
The best way to play Machine for Pigs is with the lights off, and headphones on according to the developers and for good reason. Sound design is so top notch and impressive that it is, without a doubt, the single best design I’ve ever heard in gaming. For example if any sound, or noise was heard I knew exactly how far away it was and where. The sounds of the manpigs are expertly created and give a genuine sound of terror in their shrieks. Another impressive feat is the soundtrack by Jessica Curry from its beautiful moments to its robust horror to its downright disturbing “nails on piano wire” feel. I don’t have a single complaint when it comes to the sound design and usage.
“The innocent, the innocent, Mandus, trod and bled and gassed and starved and beaten and murdered and enslaved. This is your coming century.”