Amnesia Vs Outlast
I seem to remember that ‘Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs’ came out around the same time as Outlast, and as such I’ve seen many comparisons being made between the two. Being a fan of ‘The Dark Descent’ I naturally chose to stick with Amnesia at the time. I wasn’t too sure about trying Outlast as the whole mental asylum theme is a little overdone. I kept waiting for the price to drop to give it a go. Well a Steam sale finally came by and I no longer had an excuse not to try Outlast, and I’m really glad I did. Now that I’ve finished both Amnesia games and Outlast I can finally make my own comparisons.
I found Outlast more fun than Amnesia. The hiding mechanics felt better and I also liked the fact that I had the option to run, squeeze through gaps and leap over obstacles. In a lot of horror games you tend to move through excruciatingly slowly – peering nervously around every corner – and so I like the odd chase scene to add variety to the pacing and to utilize my adrenaline (I particularly enjoyed the chase in the male ward.) On the other hand Amnesia has better puzzles. Quite often Outlast repeated the same formula of pull so many levers or find so many objects in the same area while avoiding the enemy. Formulaic mechanics can sometimes break my immersion because it becomes more apparent to me that I am just playing a game. Rather disappointingly, ‘Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs’ oversimplified some of the mechanics, like not needing fuel for your lamp any more. I think it’s good to have some sort of important collectable as this gives you a reason to thoroughly search the environment and also adds tension when you start to run out.
Both games look great aesthetically. I personally have a preference for Amnesia simply because I like that old-fashioned Victorian style; There is a lot of interesting detail and atmosphere to the game. The environments in Outlast got a bit samey at times and it also felt a little bit too gross and obvious – it does do a good job of portraying a disturbed mental asylum though. I think the enemy models do look better in Outlast and I didn’t find the pigs in Amnesia particularly scary.
Without the soundtrack horror games probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as scary as they are. I think Amnesia has the better soundtrack as it feels incredibly atmospheric; I loved it so much that I actually bought it. The pig sequels and how they mingled with the sound of machinery were also terrifying. The soundtrack in Outlast isn’t particularly memorable, but it does do its job well in adding to the tension of the game.
I like horror because it tends to have an element of mystery to it that makes you want to continue facing your fears in the hopes of finding answers (Unfortunately many don’t get this right.) I don’t actually like games that are created just to scare for the sheer sake of it. I need to have a reason to want to continue playing and so the storyline is a very important feature for me. Amnesia and Outlast use similar techniques to tell their stories through the finding of documents, the occasional dialogue and character thoughts. Both games managed to maintain my interest throughout. Amnesia can be a little difficult to follow but it also feels more original and less contrived than the plot in Outlast. I still don’t really understand why you would willingly go to a mental asylum on your own in the middle of the night. I’ve noticed that many people seem to be disappointed with the ending of Outlast but I didn’t mind it too much myself. The ending section did feel a little cut off from the rest of the game though.
I suppose you can’t really compare two horror games without mentioning how scary they actually are. I frequently see disputes among horror fans about which game should take this trophy, but really both games feel quite different and I think it depends on what frightens you as an individual. Amnesia has a supernatural/psychological flavour to it and really plays with the fear of the unknown (Lovecraftian style.) Outlast feels like it relies more on jump scares and body horror (i.e. gore.) Amnesia is a lot slower in revealing the enemies and contains much less encounters. Outlast reveals the enemies quickly and contains a lot of encounters. Personally, I desensitized to Outlast much more quickly than I did to Amnesia. This could partly be due to the fact that I didn’t have as much experience with this genre when I first played Amnesia, but also to do with how my own tension builds while playing. I tend to feel really tense before my first enemy encounter as I don’t know what to expect from the A.I. After a few encounters – and some deaths – I then start to realize that there’s not really anything to be scared of. I suppose it’s the not knowing part that has a greater effect on me, but once Amnesia starts to reveal more the tension fades away and it doesn’t really pay off. I will also admit here that the surgeon in Outlast is probably one of the freakiest moments I’ve ever had in a game.
I’m slightly biased towards Amnesia simply because I have a preference for Lovecraftian/psychological style horror (I’m not so keen on body horror.) While the mechanics were a bit disappointing in ‘A Machine For Pigs’ I really enjoyed the deep atmosphere and plot. Outlast was better than I expected it to be and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would recommend trying both to any fan of this genre. One thing to bare in mind is that both games are a little on the short side.
Since playing the Outlast Whistleblower DLC I now have to say that the groom is actually one of the freakiest moments I’ve ever had in a game. :O