By Spindraft 9/24/2013
The first reaction to this newest offering from Frictional Games is one of mild shock believe it or not. After watching all the media, browsing all of the beautiful screenshots and watching the great teaser videos it is quite a slap in the face to start up the game and be presented with a blue, hazy, almost smokey view of what you are expecting to be an expertly delivered and visually perfect virtual world. What most annoyed this Amnesia fan is that through the muddle you can clearly discern the amount of work that went into the creation of this industrial landscape and you want to soak up every minute detail, it leaves you feeling a bit robbed - a fact that did not go unoticed by players early on as one of the first guides on Steam was how to get rid of it. Using the guides technique (which requires a simple true/false switch within the save code) seemed to work but had to be implemented for each new area and if you like to take screenshots of your favorite games switching the fog code to false will render them like over developed negatives in color.
One last rant about the miserable fog and we will get on to more pleasant discussions. In forum submissions the existence of the fog has been expressed as being a part of the story but this really seems an over simplified justification when entered within posts that are seeking to make some sort of sense out of the fog’s intrusion. The story is so in depth and the setting in which it lives is such an exemplary enviroment that this writer fails to recognize any concievable way that the fog adds to the stories growth at all. If atmosphere is the goal then the mood is quite upsetting and not for the right reasons.
Ok! I got that out of my system, I think.
‘A Machine For Pigs’ is a profoundly disturbing and well written story, one of the best written parts for any game that has ever been written and it is this story that houses the scariest element that lives within its world. It is the dark depiction of the human greed for power, control, revenge and god like status as told through Mandus, an industrial magnate of the European Industrial Age of the late 19th century, and the entire era’s gift to the 20th century, that delivers a very real horror that will sink deep into your conscious mind as it begins to relate to the very century that you now live in. Written by Dan Pinchbeck the narrative harbours an amazingly detailed plot that drags you along the edge of the truth for much of its telling, sucking you down into this sick little world like a good thriller.
The setting is London just before the turn of the 20th century and Mandus, the industrialist and explorer, has returned from a bad expedition in Mexico; he is suffering from fever and months pass before his full conscious state is restored. Upon awakening he finds that his beloved factory, a slaughterhouse, has been sabotaged, his children are missing (their mother died during child birth) and a mysterious voice called the Engineer is leading him to go into the bowls of the machine and fix it to save his children. Stunned by this turn of events Mandus immediately sets out to find them but the truth that he uncovers is more horrific than any he could have ever imagined.
As game play goes there are many similarities to the first Amnesia offering ‘The Dark Descent’ but these similarities are only shared within the mechanics themselves. Movement and object interaction is essentially the same although interaction is taken a step further with small details like flipping window panes up and down or turning electric lights on and off. The real gem in ‘A Machine For Pigs’ is the cleverly designed enviromentally connected puzzles that hide their own clues within the documents and notes that you come across in game. At times you feel like you have come across an undecipherable dead end but if you give the scene and any related documents the proper consideration you just may find a switch behind a painting on the wall or a gun that acts as a lever to a hidden door; and do not be afraid to double back on your path when all else fails. You will find yourself many times calling yourself names under your breath, you know, things like “dumbass” or “you idiot”.
Although ‘Pigs’ gives some reference to items from ‘The Dark Descent’ such as the Kaernk, a variation of the orb called the “egg” and the use of the term Brandenburg it really has nothing to do with the first game at all. It is true that both protaganists were explorers and their stories take place within the same century but they are actually quite independent tales where David was trying to stop a deadly supernatural force discovered on a dig in Africa and Mandus has created the very evil he has sacrificed his soul to and now must find a way to stop. A truly magnificent machine that you must manipulate from top to bottom as you search out the truth behind Edwin and Enoch’s disappearance and the most beautiful thing about this gloomy journey is that you are never exactly quite sure of the part you play in this manipulative puzzle.
The completely engrossing story and the absolutely beautiful setting in which it is delivered make it easy to overlook the actual lack of truly scary moments in the follow up to what is considered the scariest game ever created in the genre (if your not counting ‘Outlast’). The manpigs are capable of a few good scares along the way but actual run-ins were so rare I actually allowed the attacks in an effort to gain some really cool screenshots. The random deaths did not impede game progress at all in fact it seemed to help for the most part as upon resurrection the manpig would be absent from the area allowing for unimpeded forward progress. The flashing lights, which indicated the proximity of a manpig, and the awesome manpig sound effects were enough to make you cautiously enter new areas or peak around corners before blindly running into a disastrous situation but all in all this writer found the story itself far more disturbing and scary than any creature or unknown the game could throw at me. Kudos again to Pinchbeck for an absolutely fabulous writing job.
Frictional Games partnered with the British Indie group The Chinese Room to produce ‘A Machine For Pigs’. The Chinese Room is known for its mod games, the biggest of which was ‘Dear Esther’ (2012), and is currently working on an exclusive title for Sony called ‘Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture’. Frictional is also rumored to be working on a new title powered by its HPL Engine 3; as for ‘A Machine For Pigs’ it is out now and it is awesome (even with that accursed blue haze) so go to Steam, get a copy and prepare to be mortified. Here piggy, piggy, piggy!
HAG Score - 9.0