MOD OF THE WEEK
In Mod of the Week, Chris LIvingston scours the world of user-created adventure for worthy downloads. This week, a double helping as Chris investigates mods that makes Amnesia even scarier.
Just in time for (a few days after) Halloween, two full conversion mods for Amnesia: The Dark Descent, both by the same modder, umbakarna, both creepy and atmospheric in their own ways, yet entirely distinct from one another.
The first mod is called Meta, and concerns a journalist who has uncovered a scandal involving a powerful baron. The baron isn't particularly happy about being exposed for his "filthiness" and knocks the journalist unconscious, banishing him to a dungeon full of horrors. I guess he's not a fan of ethics in journalism.
Meta is straight-forward horror. Ghouls pursue you as you investigate dark torture chambers, claustrophobic tunnels, pitch-black hallways, and other creepy and disturbing environments while trying to puzzle-solve your way to freedom. The scares are very effective: at one moment about ten minutes into the mod I experienced more fright than I did in the entire sixteen hours I spent with The Evil Within. I actually jumped in my chair and shouted, well, a very bad swear.
There's a lot of custom features in addition to new maps and a new story: new objects, custom skins, maps, voice work and sound effects, and a fairly nice inventory and journal system. Mostly, though, the modder just does a great job by slathering on the dread. At one point I discovered another victim of the baron, sitting on a table in chains, his body mutilated and twisted. It took me a while to even work up the nerve to approach him, and I kept my eye on him for a while, figuring he'd lurch to life and shamble after me. He didn't, though. What he actually did was far worse: when I bent over to retrieve an object from the floor, I turned around to see that he'd completely vanished. Guhhhhh. The only thing worse than a monster you can see is one you can't, right?
There's probably about an hour or so of playtime in Meta, depending on how easily spooked you are and how good you are at solving puzzles in the dark. The mod ends with the promise of a sequel.
The second mod, Mana, is a bit different. Still definitely creepy at times, but less about straight-up nightmare fuel and more focused on exploration, puzzle-solving, and experimental gameplay.
Mana tells the story of a young woman discovering an evil presence at the magic school she's attending. Shocking, I know, that a school that teaches magic might contain some less-than-proper behavior. The young sorcerer, named Elisa, has decided to ditch the evil university, and the mod challenges you to help her escape.
Mana, much more than Meta, marks a real departure from vanilla Amnesia. There's naturally a mana system, in which you can illuminate rooms at a cost to your mana meter and later perform other magical feats like passing through certain walls and obstacles. Rather than chambers of pain and blood, there's a number of interesting, creative environments: shadowy bedrooms, hallways lit only by mystical runes, shimmering portals, and other eerie, enchanted places you might expect to find in a school of magic. You can recharge your mana in interesting ways: at one point, upon finding several dead pigs, I was able to enchant them back to life, refilling my magical batteries. Makes sense to me: seeing some pigs snorfling happily around, even re-animated zombie pigs, is a general mood-lifter.
There's still a bit of horror in Mana: a zombie-like hall monitor chased me around for a bit, slashing at me, and there are other ghouls and creatures lurking here and there, though some are harmless and others only bite if you're stupid enough (like me) to walk right up to them and peer into their faces. Mostly, though, Mana is more enchanting than scary.
To install one or both of these mods, download them here and here. Navigate to your main Amnesia: The Dark Descent installation folder, and drop the downloaded files right in there (they're named fullconversion_1 and fullconversion_2). To run them, open those folders and click the full_launcher .bat file contained within. There are also readme files in the downloaded folders if that's not clear.