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Amnesia: The Dark Descent
[[File:|240px|The planned box art for Amnesia: The Dark Descent]]
Developer(s) Frictional Games
Composer(s) Mikko Tarmia
Platform(s) Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows
Release date(s) September 8, 2010[1]
Genre(s) Graphic adventure, horror
Mode(s) Single-player
Media Download
System requirements

OS: Windows XP/Vista/7 / Linux / Mac
Processor: 2.0Ghz
Memory: 2048 MB
Disc Space: 3 Gigabytes
Video Card: Radeon X1000/GeForce 6[2]

Amnesia: The Dark Descent (previously known as Lux Tenebras or Unknown[3]) is a graphic adventure survival horror game by Frictional Games, who previously developed the Penumbra series.[4]



In a similar vein to the developer's previous games, Amnesia is an exploration-based adventure game played from a first-person perspective. The game retains the physical object interaction used in Penumbra, allowing for advanced physics based puzzles and interactions such as opening doors and fixing machinery.[5]

Amnesia does not give the player access to weapons, giving them no defense against the gruesome creatures that wander Brennenburg Castle. Because of this, the player must use their wits to escape and hide from the monsters until they lose interest in finding them. Using the shadows to hide is recommended.

Separate from the player's health bar is an indication of the character's sanity. Being in darkness too long, witnessing unsettling events or staring at the monsters for too long will reduce your sanity. As the sanity level decreases, visual and audio hallucinations begin to take place and the player is noticed by monsters more easily. Using tinderboxes to light candles and other light sources, as well as a lantern found near the beginning of the game, the player can stop their sanity draining. However, the number of tinderboxes is limited and the lantern uses up oil and cannot be used once it runs out. This forces the player to find a balance between the amount of time they spend in light and shadow. Sanity is restored to full once the player completes an objective or progresses the game's story.


The game casts the player in the role of Daniel, a young man from London, who awakens in the dark halls of Brennenburg Castle with little to no memory about himself or his past.[4] All he can remember is his name and that something is hunting him.[6][7]

Amnesia begins with Daniel waking up inside the old castle. Throughout the game, Daniel's situation and additional information about the backstory is found through diary entries and notes that the player can find during their journey, and flashbacks as Daniel recalls old memories of the castle. Shortly after waking, Daniel finds a note written by himself that explains how he purposely made himself forget his past, for reasons yet unknown. The note urges Daniel to descend into the castle's Inner Sanctum and murder a man named Alexander, the baron of the castle. The note gives a final warning that a "living nightmare" is chasing him, and Daniel must escape it for as long as he can.

Daniel decides to follow his former self's advice and explores the castle halls to descend to the Inner Sanctum. As he explores, Daniel occasionally finds a fleshy substance growing on the walls and doors, a sign of the "nightmare" getting closer and closer. Through the diary entries scattered around the rooms, the cause of the castle's fall into ruin begins to become clear. Before his arrival at the castle, Daniel went on an archaeological expedition to Africa with his friend and colleague Professor Herbert in order to research an ancient burial chamber. Whilst there, Daniel encountered a large underground chamber during a dig, much older than the one they had expected to find based on their research. A sudden collapse of stone trapped Daniel inside the chamber where he began to suffocate, but also experienced a strange vision of a glowing blue sphere of light. Attempting to grab it, he suddenly blacked out and woke up being rescued by Arab diggers with the pieces to an ancient Orb in his hands.

Daniel returned to England at the request of Herbert and attempted to fit the pieces together but was puzzled to find out that they did not fit together. Stranger still, the pieces appeared to be changing shape and texture. To find out more, Daniel visited famed geologist Sir William Smith. The geologist was unsure of what was causing the changes, and assumed it was just a natural occurrence. Later, Daniel received a letter about the fate of the expedition he left behind and it was revealed that only the empty campsite was found. Herbert and his men had vanished and the lone survivor, who was grievously injured, kept rambling about something hunting down the expedition. Some of Herbert's journals were sent back to England and Daniel picked them up. The majority of the notes were only quick scribblings at most, but Daniel was confused to see that Herbert wrote he was trapped for over an hour, despite beginning to choke almost immediately. Stranger still, Herbert claimed to have descended into the ancient chamber and retrieved the Orb himself, making it impossible for Daniel to have the fragments.

Daniel continues to explore Brennenburg Castle and is soon hunted by disturbing, nightmarishly mutilated creatures as well as the "Shadow". He also begins to experience visions of the events in the castle's past, including what Alexander, his target, had done in many of the chambers. Daniel is shocked to realise Alexander had been performing inhumane experiments on animals in order to find "vitae", a substance he saw as essential for some sort of mystical ritual. He is also shown to be ruthless, even going as far as to poison and kill his own men to prevent them telling the outside world what he had been doing inside the castle. Daniel also experiences flashback visions of him and Alexander talking to one another, presumably on their way to the Inner Sanctum. Daniel continues his journey down into the depths of the castle through the use of Alexander's elevator, which takes him down into the underground prison area of the castle.

Further diary entries show that despite being haunted by nightmares every night, Daniel was able to reassemble the Orb after one such dream told him it could be done. The object fitted together without any adhesive and now sat in Daniel's drawing room in a complete form. Daniel went to Herbert's university to get some answers about the relic, and saw Professor Taylor to find out more. He learned that the Orbs appeared to have left a mark on English culture, even inpiring royal symbology. The Orbs had, supposedly, originally been wielded by priests. On his way out, he overheard a conversation from which he learned that William Smith had been killed only a fortnight after Daniel spoke to him. Through more flashbacks, Daniel learns he went to see a Dr. Tate about his nightmares, but was not able to get a diagnosis. Days later, both Professor Taylor and Dr. Tate were killed in horrific ways, and convinced Daniel that he was somehow to blame for their deaths. Thinking he would be next, Daniel tried contacting many names in Herbert's address book and received a cryptic response from a baron in Prussia who claimed he could protect him from some unknown force. The letter was signed 'Alexander' and urged Daniel to come to Brennenburg Castle immediately.

Once at the castle, Daniel began to assist Alexander in various tasks designed to keep the living nightmare away from him. Revealed to be a Guardian of the Orb, the "Shadow" would not take long to arrive, despite being described as sluggish. During this time, Daniel also allowed Alexander to use his Orb in their attempted rituals to banish the Shadow later on. On a tour of the castle, Alexander revealed not only Brennenburg's function as a prison, but also that the inmates would be used in arcane rituals needed to save Daniel. The Shadow began to draw ever closer, until finally the partial failure of a ritual allowed it into the castle. Panicking, Daniel told Alexander he would do whatever it took to survive and unwittingly played right into the baron's hands.

Back in the current timeline, close to the Inner Sanctum, Daniel meets an old frail man chained to the wall near the castle's laboratory. The man is Agrippa, a friend of Alexander's, who helped him gain knowledge of the Orb's powers many years ago. His conciousness is now trapped in a dead husk so that Alexander may use him as a source of information. Agrippa asks Daniel to create a concoction to set him free from his body and stop Alexander from using the Orbs. Through finding the ingredients and the things needed to carry on, Daniel finds himself in a part of the castle littered with torture rooms and bodily remains. Through flashbacks and more diary entries, it becomes clear why Daniel chose to lose his memories at the beginning of the game.

Alexander began telling Daniel about different methods of extracting vitae from the prisoners down in the castle depths, claiming the process would keep the Shadow away from him. Daniel followed him without question through his increasing desperation and helped to perform gruesome rituals of killing the prisoners through various methods of torture, thinking that he would save himself through the process. Using such items as an Iron Maiden and a brass bull, Daniel ended up becoming the very thing he was killing and even went as far as to kidnap local villagers and children from outside the castle to use for the rituals. Consumed by grief, regret and disgust at his actions, Daniel drank a memory-destroying Amnesia tonic to have a fresh start and fix what he had done. He realised that Alexander had manipulated him in order to obtain the Orb to achieve his goal and swore that the baron would die for his actions, leading to the events at the start of the game.

As he progresses, Daniel is attacked by a horde of creatures and locked up in one of the castle prison cells. He hears Alexander speaking to him telepathically, thanking him for his role in everything and for keeping the Shadow away from the baron. Daniel manages to escape and returns to the laboratory to find the Shadow's influence growing over everything. Agrippa asks Daniel for the potion. If the player has found the ingredients, then the potion can be made in the lab and fed to Agrippa. The old man then asks that his head be cut off and taken with Daniel to stop Alexander and get into a "portal" before he does. If the player didn't find the ingredients, then Daniel enters the Inner Sanctum alone. He uses the power of his own Orb to open the way and goes to complete his objective.

Inside the massive chamber, Alexander awaits on a raised platform in front of one of the Orbs, engulfed in a blue glow. Surrounding the Orb are three fragile pillars that are feeding blue-hued energy to it in order to complete the ritual. Alexander thanks Daniel once again and rants about how he can finally return "home" once again. Three possible endings to the game can happen at this point.

If the player chooses to knock over the pillars, then the ritual fails. Alexander screams as his body disintegrates, and Daniel leaves the chamber. The Shadow's influence is assumed to be gone through his redeeming actions, and he leaves Brennenburg Castle with a guilt free-conscience.

If the player does nothing at first, the portal Alexander wants to open appears and he begins to float towards it, leaving Daniel to face the Shadow alone. If the player uses Agrippa's head on the portal, then the ritual will be completed before Alexander can get through, resulting in his death. Daniel is seemingly killed by the Shadow but wakes up in darkness with small blue lights visible in the distance. The voice of Agrippa assures him everything is going to be alright and the game ends.

If the player does nothing at all, then the portal opens and Alexander enters into it in a blue flash. With nothing holding the Shadow back, the fleshy substance consumes the Inner Sanctum and kills Daniel, the screen fading to black.

The game's story seems to be, at least in part, inspired by the short story The Outsider. This is first concluded given the setting: a decaying Castle in the middle of a forest in which the end isn't able to be seen with no recollection of what happened beforehand. This conclusion can also be made when considering the frequent homages the developers make to the author H.P. Lovecraft and his works. Even the engine which powers all Frictional Games's titles, the HPL Engine and the HPL2 Engine, bears the aforementioned author's initials.[8] The authors also cite "Soul made Flesh" by Carl Zimmer and older horror movies such as The Haunting as being inspirations.[9]


  • Daniel - The main character of the game. Apart from his English nationality, not much is known of him except for the diary pages that suggest that he is an archaeologist. In the African desert on an expedition with his friend Herbert, Daniel discovered a tomb containing the mysterious Orb. From then on, a "shadow" had been hunting him, killing almost everyone he had contact with. He sought the help and refuge of Alexander of Brennenburg, who made Daniel participate in his vile experiments. Daniel cooperated because he was desperate to escape the Shadow and was convinced by Alexander that the victims were only worthless criminals. After Alexander abandons him, Daniel swears revenge and drinks the Amnesia mixture at the start of the game to purge his horrible memories and seek redemption.
  • Alexander of Brennenburg - Alexander is a being who has been masquerading as a succession of Prussian barons during his centuries-long life. He gathered as many of the Orbs as he could find in hopes of opening a portal, possibly to reunite with his long dead wife or to his original homeland/world. He tortured captured victims to extract a mystical "vitae" from them, with which to perform mystical rituals in order to achieve his goal. Alexander displays a sociopathic level of remorselessness and manipulation. He manipulated Daniel into helping him with his horrific experiments, promising him protection from the Shadow in return. However, as soon as Daniel's work was complete, Alexander sealed himself in his Inner Sanctum and abandoned Daniel.
  • Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa - The infamous occult writer and supposed magician. Not much is known about his relationship with Alexander, aside from the fact that they were working together and researching about the Orbs. Alexander keeps him imprisoned in a dead husk of a body so that he could use his knowledge to perform rituals involving the Orbs.
  • The Shadow - An unseen force that is hunting Daniel. Its sole purpose is to guard the Orb that Daniel took from the burial chamber and has killed numerous people to achieve that end. While it is not seen as a physical being, it is described as a huge sluggish mass of darkness and leaves behind a fleshy damaging substance over anything it touches.
  • The Gatherers - The main enemies of the game, they are Alexander's servants and are seen as monstrous humanoids with deformed facial and bodily features. These enemies come in two variations, Grunts and Brutes, and patrol parts of Brennenburg Castle, attacking Daniel if sighted. Since Daniel is weaponless, they cannot be killed and have to be avoided as often as possible.

Custom stories

It is possible to create custom stories for Amnesia that can then be loaded in the game.[10] Various tools for the HPL2 Engine have been released that allow the creation of own levels, models, particle effects and materials.[11] Game logic can be implemented using the AngelScript scripting language.


Work began on the game while Penumbra: Requiem was still being developed, with the company working on both projects at the same time.[12] The game was first known under two working titles: Unknown and Lux Tenebras. It was not until November 13, 2009 that it was announced as its current title, Amnesia, with the release of the game's website and a game trailer.[13][14] On February 5, 2010 it was announced that the game had reached the alpha stage of development on all platforms.[15][16][17] Two weeks later the developers released a new Teaser trailer that showed actual game-play footage, and the developers began accepting pre-orders for the game through their website. Also revealed was that the game was at that point being tested on all three intended platforms. It was also announced that the game would be released simultaneously for all of them in August 2010.[18][19] This was later rescheduled, and the game was then expected to have a September 8, 2010 release.[20] It was then later announced on August 27, 2010 that the game had officially gone Gold and would soon be ready to sold.[21] On September 3, the games demo was released containing selected parts of the gameplay and story. It was then successfully released on September 8, 2010.[22]

If the game reached 2000 pre-orders by May 31, 2010, Frictional promised it would release extra content for the game. The goal was finally met in early May, after the pre-orders were offered at a discount made available until May 31. This was done due to the success of Penumbra: Overture as a part of the Humble Indie Bundle.[23] The extra content was revealed to be commentary,[24] they explained in the comments section[25] of the same page that it was intended function similar to Valve's commentary system that began in the Half-Life 2 series.


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 88% (13 reviews) [26]
Metacritic 86/100 (28 reviews) [27]
Review scores
Publication Score
Adventure Gamers [28]
Eurogamer 8/10[29]
Game Informer 9.25/10 [30]
IGN 8.5/10[31]
PC Gamer UK 88% [32]

Amnesia has received highly positive reviews with consistent praise given for the ominous atmosphere and horror elements. John Walker of Rock, Paper, Shotgun even went as far as to say that "I think it is safe to say that Amnesia is the most successfully frightening game to have been made."[33] The Escapist's Zero Punctuation, known for its criticism of most modern horror games not being scary, also praised the game's ability to frighten, commenting that, "I guess it's good to stick to what you know, and Frictional seems to be stuck, nailed and riveted to what they know, and what they know is how to make me poo my pants."

Frictional Games did show some trepidation over the game's initial sales after the first week,[34] but were encouraged by continued sales throughout the first month after the game's release, with Frictional recouping all the expenses from creating Amnesia by early October 2010.[35]


  1. ^ Amnesia: The Dark Descent gone gold New Game Network, August 27, 2010
  2. ^ Amnesia: The Dark Descent - Minimum System Requirements Frictional Games
  3. ^ Next Frictional Games Title Name Revealed! - Linux Gaming News
  4. ^ a b Amnesia: The Dark Descent - Game Information Frictional Games
  5. ^ Amnesia: The Dark Descent - PC Hands On Eurogamer, July 25, 2010
  6. ^ Interview With Frictional Games – Penumbra/Amnesia ( Tgdb Entertainment, May 15, 2010
  7. ^ E3 2010: We talk with Frictional Games about Amnesia: The Dark Descent Big Download, June 19, 2010
  8. ^
  9. ^ Thomas Grip of Frictional Games Speaks on Amnesia: The Dark Descent With Gadgetophilia, September 15, 2010
  10. ^ In The Games Of Madness: Editors are out! Frictional Games
  11. ^ Tools - HPL2 Documentation Frictional Games
  12. ^ Frictional Games On Penumbra And The Future Rock, Paper Shotgun, February 17, 2009
  13. ^ Amnesia: The Dark Descent Revealed - Blue's News
  14. ^ Amnesia: The Dark Descent Trailer - GamersHell
  15. ^ Amnesia: The Dark Descent goes alpha LinuxGames, February 7, 2010
  16. ^ Alpha - the beginning of the end! Frictional Games Blog
  17. ^ Amnesia: The Dark Descent Reaches Alpha Inside Mac Games, February 9, 2010
  18. ^ Amnesia: The Dark Descent – Teaser, Web Site & Pre-order Linux Gaming News, February 19, 2010
  19. ^ Amnesia: The Dark Descent – Teaser, Web Site and Pre-Order CHARGED, February 19, 2010
  20. ^ Disturbing details regarding the release of "Amnesia: The Dark Descent" revealed! Frictional Games, June 22, 2010
  21. ^ Amnesia: The Dark Descent Gone Gold Linux Gaming News, August 29, 2010 (Article by Maxim Bardin)
  22. ^ Scary New Horror Adventure Available for Linux Linux Journal, September 13, 2010 (Article by Susan Linton)
  23. ^ Insane Amnesia Discount! Frictional Games, May 5, 2010
  24. ^ "some commentary for the release" Frictional Games, May 11, 2010
  25. ^ "similar to the way HL2ep2 does it" Frictional Games, May 11, 2010
  26. ^ "Amnesia: The Dark Descent Reviews". Game Rankings. Retrieved October 8, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Amnesia: The Dark Descent Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 8, 2010. 
  28. ^ Berens, Nathaniel (September 8, 2010). "review: Amnesia: The Dark Descent". Adventure Gamers.,1206. Retrieved September 9, 2010. 
  29. ^ Smith, Quintin (September 7, 2010). "Amnesia: The Dark Descent PC Review". Eurogamer. Retrieved September 7, 2010. 
  30. ^ Biessener, Adam (September 8, 2010). "Horror Done Right". Game Informer. Retrieved September 9, 2010. 
  31. ^ Onyett, Charles (September 3, 2010). "Amnesia: The Dark Descent Review". IGN. Retrieved September 7, 2010. 
  32. ^ Bickham, Al (September 6, 2010). "Amnesia: The Dark Descent review". PC Gamer Magazine. Retrieved September 8, 2010. 
  33. ^ Wot I Think: Amnesia – The Dark Descent Rock, Paper, Shotgun, September 7th, 2010 (Article by John Walker)
  34. ^ One week after the release of Amnesia Frictional Games Blog, September 15, 2010
  35. ^ One Month after Amnesia's release Frictional Games Blog, October 8, 2010

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