Amnesia: Rebirth trades 'sanity' for a strange illness inspired by Soma

(Image credit: Frictional Games)

Yesterday we got our first look at gameplay in Frictional's upcoming 1930s horror adventure Amnesia: Rebirth. Today, Frictional creative director Thomas Grip revealed some of the ways the studio has updated Amnesia: The Dark Descent to make it feel like "a fresh experience."

The action in yesterday's gameplay trailer looks very Amnesia-like, with too much darkness, horrific things hiding in it, and doors that just will not open quickly enough. But small changes to gameplay can have "a lot of benefits" to the overall experience, Grip wrote on the PlayStation Blog

Instead of using tinderboxes to light torches, for instance, the player will use matches, which enables multiple light sources to be lit at the same time. They can also be used in a pinch, briefly, as an additional light source. But that opens the door to all sorts of interesting and fun (well, "fun") new twists.

"For instance, when you are in a dark tunnel, players need to choose whether to use their precious matches in order to easier find your way or save it for a light source further ahead," Grip said. "Matches will also blow out faster if you move quickly, so the player is forced to slow down and think hard about their next move.

"A match might also go out at the wrong moment—just when you hear menacing footsteps approaching. This also allows us to simulate, without using scripted events, the player lighting a match only to stand face to face with some sort of horrible creature. A moment straight out of a Poe story, but all built by dynamic gameplay."

The sanity system from The Dark Descent is being updated to make it "more reactive," and also to change how it impacts the player: Instead of simply blacking out and falling to the ground, heightened fear will increase the symptoms of a mysterious ailment that lead character Tasi Trianon is suffering from. Grip said that approach drew on lessons learned from slow-burn horror of Soma: Trianon's worsening condition is built around "core narrative motivation," although naturally details on that aren't going to be revealed.

Her condition also ties into Amnesia: Rebirth's "failure system," which determines what happens when the player is overcome by a monster. In The Dark Descent, players were teleported back in the level a little bit, the environment was changed slightly, and the action resumed. That eliminated frustrating repetition, but it also fell apart to an extent once the player figured out how it worked—and, more specifically, that they could just power their way through it.

In Rebirth, failure is tied to the fear system. "If Tasi becomes too frightened, her affliction will take a harsh turn for the worse," Grip said. "There will be very visible changes to her appearance, and worse still, it will have immense narrative significance. If the affliction goes too far, not only will it threaten the life of herself, but also of her loved ones."

That's vague, but Frictional was cagey about Soma too, for obvious reasons, and it paid off brilliantly. I'm still not sure that I actually want to play Amnesia: Rebirth, but I have no doubt that I will. It comes out on October 20 on Steam, Epic, and GOG.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.