If you were to ask a group of people for examples of a classic horror video game, one of the most common answers would be Amnesia: The Dark Descent
. It was easily a ground breaking game and codified many of the things that would become commonplace in later horror games. Naturally, when the second Amnesia game was announced, people were very excited.
That excitement quickly turned into disappointment however. A Machine For Pigs set aside many of the gameplay features that made the original unique. You can now stare down the monsters, as there's no sanity meter to deplete and cause your character to panic. There's also hardly any penalty for getting caught by those monsters -- now, instead of killing you, they simply knock you out and drag you off to a nearby cage or crate, and you're free to try again right away. Another, rather blatant, change is that there's no limit on how long you can use your lantern. The first game had you scrounging around for more tinderboxes and lantern fuel every time you came to a new area, but here you're only in the dark if you want to be. There were many other changes besides these examples, and as a whole, it's not very scary anymore.
Ultimately, what you're left with is a lot of walking around in a dimly lit dystopian world and some minor fetch quests to keep you occupied. There's about six hours of story and lore to discover and experience, so if you prefer a somewhat creepy take of a man falling into a Hell of his own making, you'll probably still enjoy it. But if you're looking for something with more meat on its bones, go for the original Amnesia or the Penumbra series.
Solid story with some unexpected twists
Lots of clever wordplay
A lot of horror games these days use jump scares
and other fairly cheap tricks to scare the player. A Machine for Pigs goes a different route, bring the majority of the horror from the player's slow revelation of just how far their character had been willing to go to create their "perfect world". Think about it: you watch him descend into madness through his own eyes, and experience it with him. That's creepy enough all on its own.
Callbacks to the previous games
Speaking of madness, one of the symptoms the protagonist developed very early on was a disturbing fixation on pigs and the popular children's nursery rhyme, "This little piggy". This results in just about every conversation he has in the game being sprinkled with references to pigs. Occasionally he needs to go out of his way to get the words in, but it still adds a little depth to the story.
Unfortunately, it can also come across as narm
, breaking your immersion completely and preventing much of the game from being unsettling or spooky.
Steam community features
A Machine for Pigs is meant to tie in to the same world as the Dark Descent, but the events of the two stories happen in different times and places. Chronologically, this game takes place long after the events of the first game, so it makes sense that Brennenburg, the Orb and the infamous Vitae get mentioned here. However, the reference is very brief and easily missed -- in fact, it's so brief that you don't need to have played the first game to follow the events of this one.
On the other hand, there's a very unexpected easter egg
in the trophy room: one of the spider monsters from the Penumbra series makes a cameo in one of the trophy cases.
There are seven achievements
to earn while you go about undoing your own massive project. Interestingly enough, these are hidden from view until you earn them. The developers apparently configured it this way to hide the story's plot points from you, as most of the achievements
are earned simply by completing chapters of the story. The last achievement
is a bit more difficult to earn, as you'll need to track down all of the notes scattered around the game's world.
The biggest complaint the gaming community has with A Machine for Pigs is how much the gameplay was dumbed down and simplified. The changes from the first Amnesia were pretty substantial, and rather than create a new challenge for the players, they removed most of the risks and made the puzzles much easier.
Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with a game having simple puzzles or risk-free gameplay. Here, the problem is that Amnesia: The Dark Descent was a tough act to follow, and the changes in gameplay makes it a lot harder for A Machine for Pigs to live up to the brand's name. It also doesn't help that it's $20, which is asking you to pay much more than you would for a similar horror game.
Blood and gore
As much of the story takes place in and around a pig processing plant, it's not real surprising to discover that there's a fair amount of animal remains strewn about. This makes up the majority of the gore, and it's pretty much limited to the bodies of pigs and rats. Bizarrely, the pig corpses can be picked up and manipulated, yet they don't play a role in any puzzle's solution, making them the one exception to the way this game normally handles props.
Aside from this, blood can be seen in three situations. The first, and most common place to find it, is on the floor where it forms a trail showing where a victim was dragged away. The second place would be the gashes seen when you've been attacked by a monster or hurt from a fall. These slashes only appear on your screen for a moment, but they're rather detailed. The last place might be missed if you don't often look around with your lantern out -- during the climax, the sewer channel runs red with the blood of the townsfolk.
There are more monsters this time around, and they will attack you if they can find you. During the climax, they'll also be unleashed upon the city of London, where they'll go after the townsfolk in a brutal surprise attack. While the player is only knocked out and thrown in a nearby crate or cage when the monsters catch him, the unfortunate townsfolk are grabbed, killed, and dragged away.
Sexual perversions and crude references
As the player progresses in the story, the main character begins to recover their memories, and some of these include violence events, including the murder that began his dive into insanity.
Lastly, at one point your actions will directly result in the death of one of the monsters. You won't see them die, but you will hear them scream and pass by their dead body.
The mansion at the beginning of the game is decorated with classical paintings. If you take the time to look at them, you'll notice that their content is a hint of what's to come. Many of them depict naked people (which is pretty commonplace in classical art), but more than a few show violent events taking place. It's soon revealed that several of the paintings are actually one-way windows, including a few paintings found in private bathrooms. The narration outright states that men (including the protagonist) would often use these windows to watch the women bathe.
There's a defaced church and some insulting references to Christianity
Later, the notes found strewn around occasionally refer to gross sexual conduct in very frank and descriptive ways. Unsurprisingly, many of them compare the less dignified people of the day with depraved and rutting animals. Obviously, there is some hypocrisy mixed in too, considering the way the protagonist enjoyed those paintings.
Fairly early on in the story, you'll be visiting the town's church. This isn't going to be a pretty sight, as the place has been rather heavily altered (maybe you'd even say desecrated). Some of the major changes include statues of the Virgin Mary altered to resemble swine, the stained glass windows now depict something along the lines of a sacrificial ritual, and for some unexplained reason there are pig corpses spread out on the altar.
Of course, no journey into madness would be complete without the deranged man claiming to be bringing his own version of "salvation" to the masses, and you'll find some of the details of his plan in his notes. These notes also go on to mention how the Christian God needs to be replaced with a "better", mechanical god.
Lastly, there are some comments about how his simple-minded creations will worship whatever they are told to worship. This may just be a throwaway line about how naive and childish the creatures are, but there is some implication that he feels much the same way about how the common man acts on their faith.
Although the protagonist managed to convince himself that mankind, the richest men and women in particular, are the real monsters defacing our world, the things he created aren't exactly beautiful either. They were created by using mad science to force a certain type of animal, you can probably guess which one, to evolve into a more manlike race. The results are twisted and filthy, not to mention that the failed experiments are left to wander the sewers of London as though they were discarded waste themselves. These freaks are the monsters you spend the entire game trying to avoid.
Compared to the rest of the content in this title, it seems silly to call attention to the presence of a few rare swear words, but yes, there are a couple of swears among the swine.