Amnesia has practically become a sub-genre of survival horror unto itself, its tropes consisting of the Lovecraftian entities that stalk in the shadows, a trapped, defenceless protagonist and also having the worst light sources known to man. The third entry in the iconic franchise, entitled Rebirth, was a demonstration of formula’s flexibility within a complete change of scenery, some of which taking place in broad daylight. The Bunker still manages to bring plenty of new features to the table whilst remaining, undoubtedly, an Amnesia game.
This one, set during WWI, follows a French soldier, Henri Clément, trapped in the titular bunker filled with corpses of fellow soldiers and a lurking Beast responsible for said corpses. Much of the horror comes from stumbling around in the dark looking for key items that will help you escape, while the Beast pursues you from inside the walls. As with the other games, several aspects add to the stress: there’s no sanity meter when you’re plunged into darkness, but once the generator runs out of fuel and the lights go out, it’s only a matter of time before the monster comes after you; likewise there’s no scarcity of light sources like before, but your shitty wind-up torch is noisy and puts you at risk. Generally, sound is put to effective use and is key to survival, especially in how the directional sound of the monster can indicate where it might pop up next.
The semi-open world of the bunker demands that the player explores each area at a time, returning with new supplies as frequently as possible and really considering ventures out of the safe room. It’s satisfying when a well-planned trip rewards you with game changing items - such as a wrench or bolt cutters - that allow you to venture further into areas previously unreachable. Similarly, there’s nothing more wonderful than coming up with your own unique solutions to navigating the environment - not every locked door needs a key.
I would say these new mechanics make The Bunker the most fun Amnesia game to play, although the unrelenting persistence of the Beast, whilst scary and stressful at first, can sometimes just be annoying - think the Xenomorph from Alien Isolation. The addition of weapons is indeed exciting but quickly becomes futile (or at least when only used to fend off the creature). The running back and forth to escape the monster helps to pad out what is probably way too short of a game. And the notion of replaying it all with randomised key-item locations doesn’t seem that appealing, especially considering the lack of variation in the ending(s). Still, it’s a hell of a first playthrough!
Small gripes aside, The Bunker is still one of the strongest horror titles of the year thus far. If it proves anything, it’s that Amnesia still holds a firm place in the genre, and I hope Frictional Games continue explore new and exciting ground with it.