Mod of the Week: Amnesia: The Great Work
Hello, fans of Amnesia: The Dark Descent! Are you anxiously awaiting the sequel, A Machine for Pigs? Are you interested in getting your first-person survival horror fix in the meantime with an excellent Amnesia mod? If so, then I have some bone-chillingly good news: there's a lengthy custom story called The Great Work that will impress you with its design and writing while simultaneously scaring the poo out of you.
The Great Work buckles you into the quivering boots of Charles Longden, one of a pair of archeologists investigating the crumbling German castle of Minneburg. Your partner, Jane, disappears one morning, and rather than doing the sensible thing (fleeing the castle and answering any questions from your colleagues with "Jane who?") you descend into the bowels of Minneburg to find out what happened to her. After a bit of exploring, it's evident that the castle holds many secrets and horrors, and as is often the case with secret-and-horror-holding castles, the only way to get out is to go deeper in.
The early puzzles are a nice mix: a locked door here, a hidden lever there, a bit of machinery to mend so you can open a massive metal door that should DEFINITELY NOT BE OPENED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. There are also notes and journal entries to collect, and they're impressively and efficiently written, subtly filling in a bit of back-story, providing some foreshadowing, and containing useful hints for puzzles you'll need to solve. And, of course, while you're carefully rationing your tinderboxes and peeping into desk drawers, there are plenty of scares. An abrupt growl from a darkened corridor will give you a chill, a door opening on its own will stop you in your tracks, and a door opening because something horrifying is opening will OH GOD RUN AWAY AND DON'T LOOK AT IT
A deeper, darker level of the castle introduces you to a collection of prison cells and mind games. Wasn't I in this cell earlier? There was just a skull on the table then, but now there's a skull and a dismembered torso. Or is this a different cell? Wait, is there a severed arm there now too? Deeper past the cell block lies a sanctuary with more puzzles to unlock and your first dabblings in alchemy. And, players of Amnesia will remember the nerve-jangling, sanity-shredding Shadow, which returns to chase you through the castle, cutting off your escape routes with walls of mucus and making you curse the fact that doors only swing in one direction (namely, opposite the direction you're frantically pushing or pulling).
After a couple hours of creeping around, solving puzzles, and fleeing the corpses that weren't quite as dead as I'd wished they were, I finally, thankfully, escaped the castle of horrors... only to witness the words "Chapter 2" appear on my screen. What had felt like a decent bit of modded horror turned out to be only the first of a total of seven meaty chapters in The Great Work, which practically stands on its own as a complete game.
Throughout, the writing and custom voice work are both excellent (though the accents are perhaps a bit unconvincing), the chills and scares are well-paced and well-placed, and the level design is just labyrinthine enough to make you feel nervous and unsure without making you feel completely lost.
The puzzles are of varying difficulty, and can occasionally be quite challenging. I was baffled for a while at one point in Chapter 2, when it appeared I had followed the alchemical steps properly, only to later discover another series of laboratory instruments in different room that also needed to be utilized. The mod's author himself admits some of the puzzles are a bit tough and has been revising them slightly in updates, and even goes so far as to link YouTube solutions, by chapter, in the tutorials section of the mod's page. I found myself stumped a few times, but the careful re-reading of collected notes and the close examination of my surroundings (plus, plenty trial and error) eventually got me unstuck.
The story of The Great Work is also quite interesting, and the author did a fair amount of homework in an admirable effort to root his story in real history. It harkens back to a collection of actual alchemists and scholars, the Invisible College, and the search for the Philosopher's Stone, the alchemical substance that was fabled to turn base metals into gold.
If you're looking for spooky thrills, challenging puzzles, and an enjoyable story to tide you over until Amnesia: A Machine of Pigs is released, The Great Work will definitely light that candle. You can find it Mod DB.
How to install
Once you'd downloaded the .zip file, extract all the items into Amnesia's 'custom_stories' folder.
Retail version: Program Files/Amnesia - The Dark Descent/redist/custom_stories
Steam version: Program Files/Steam/steamapps/common/Amnesia The Dark Descent/custom_stories