Pig Brother is Watching You
The Nightmarish Industrial Dystopia in Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Words by Andy Roberts
Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, Frictional Games’ cult hit Amnesia: The Dark Descent was released on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS and Linux OS in 2010 to a whole world of ravenous survival horror fans. With most horror video game franchises focusing on a more action-oriented playstyle, such as the contemporaneously produced Resident Evil 5 in 2009, the Swedish-produced Amnesia decided to evoke a much more terrifying experience, removing combat entirely and installing a fear system that debilitated the player if they dwelt in the shadows, looked upon grotesque sights or unluckily encountered enemies, sending the player character into fear-induced panic.
Focusing on the exploits of a young man called Daniel, the game chronicled the amnesiac’s awakening in Brennenburg Castle in Prussia in the 1830s, finding himself defenceless with only a lantern to guide him. Evading the castle’s mutated inhabitants and supernatural dangers, Daniel finds himself pursued by a gargantuan otherworldly force known as The Shadow, remembering that its pursuit was the result of an intense encounter with a mysterious spherical artifact in Algeria, known as The Orb. Seeking help from Alexander of Brennenburg, Daniel perpetrates a whole catalogue of tortures and sadistic experiments on innocent victims in order to stay the hand of the ominous Shadow, unaware that Alexander is using these vile acts for his own purposes. Having finally realised his status as a pawn, Daniel drinks a tonic that wipes his memory and guilty conscience, with the singular objective of seeking vengeance for his base manipulation at the hands of Alexander…
The game has consistently received high praise from players and critical acclaim from reviewers for its continuously tense atmosphere, frightening game mechanics and well-developed narrative. It was popular enough to receive an official expansion entitled Amnesia: Justine, whereby a young woman awakens in a basement filled with macabre traps, restrained victims and mutilated madmen hunting for her by sound. It even had a small modding community based on Frictional Games’ decision to include a level editor with the base package, and thus, the game still enjoys a healthy cult following even today. The focus on evasion of enemies, puzzles and strict economic handling of resources have cemented the game’s status as a return to form of the survival horror genre.
Fast forwarding to 2012 and there was huge anticipation for a sequel to The Dark Descent. Naturally, internet musings and public demand eventually led to some speculation that a sequel was indeed already in progress. By June of that year, a trailer had dropped for the new sequel, revealed to be Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, developed by Brighton-based company The Chinese Room. Previously stylised as thechineseroom, the company sprung to life in the crucible of the Half-Life 2 modding community in 2007, where a small team led by Dan Pinchbeck made experimental games while resident in the University of Portsmouth. Two games in particular stood out among their copybook; the contemplative and narrative-driven Dear Esther as well as a psychological survival horror entitled Korsakovia, following a protagonist suffering from Korsakoff’s Syndrome. When their mods drew quite a bit of attention for their popularity, the team decided to produce Dear Esther as a fully-fledged standalone game due to that particular game’s positive reception. The game had completed development by 2012 and was released via Valve’s Steam service, netting a whole array of nominations and awards for its narrative and art style. It eventually won the award for Excellence in Visual Art at IGF, putting The Chinese Room on the map and scoring them a hefty success with over 50,000 purchases within the first week of sales.
After the big reveal of the Amnesia sequel, it became quite apparent that this instalment would be quite different from its original incarnation. Moving a considerable amount forward in time, A Machine for Pigs is set in London at the turn of the century on December 31st of 1899. The main character, Oswald Mandus, awakens in his bedroom after suffering an intense fever, to the sound of his two twin boys playing and laughing nearby. Without any semblance of memory other than his children, Mandus searches his mansion, finding nothing except scraps of his diary and illusions of his boys Edwin and Enoch.
While the game starts in almost the same way as its predecessor, with an amnesic protagonist led forward in an empty residence by a single retained memory, A Machine for Pigs is almost immediately a different farmyard of swine. While The Dark Descent featured an intrinsic feature of a sanity level, which decreased when looking upon frightening imagery or looming in the dark for too long, the sequel makes an enormous change in this department and omits this feature entirely (with only a few cinematic instances for plot), allowing the protagonist Mandus to look upon his enemies freely, witness grotesque events in front of him and even stay in the darkness indefinitely with no penalty. While he does acquire a lamp-style lantern towards the beginning of the game, this has no function in terms of staying sane; instead, it is used purely for lighting the way in the murkier areas, and as an alert for nearby monsters as it flickers when nearing them. Since potential insanity is no longer a threat and because the lantern is powered electronically due to the later time period, gone too is the constant fraught looting for tinderboxes and flasks of oil to keep the protagonist from being encumbered by umbral danger. The lantern is instead powered indefinitely and any light sources encountered are electric, activated by pressing a simple switch. There’s almost an “Oh!” moment as you first encounter these differences, which had become so deeply ingrained after the first game.
On the same subject however, the inventory system itself is scrapped, omitting the point-n-click puzzles that dominated The Dark Descent in favour of more physics-based solutions, such as fetching and carrying items to certain locations, or pulling the right switches in order. While this is arguably more immersive in the game’s world, it also feels a little less like survival horror in that it lacks that inventory-led management of your resources and the logical thinking when finding a solution forward.
What is retained however is the journal system, whereby Mandus will collect various scraps of his torn diary and piece together his memory from these papers, as well as collecting other documents that similarly colour the blank canvas that his memory has become. At the same time, Mandus will also periodically write his own current thoughts in a notebook, to allow the player some semblance of what he is thinking at the time. Also retained is the game’s structure of being able to pick up most objects in the environment and move them around, such as rocks, chairs, toys, bottles and even cupboards and drawers. Considering the huge detraction from puzzles and procuring resources, these serve little function other than solving the obligatory problems that you encounter along the way and occasionally mess around with the environment.
While experienced Amnesia players will find themselves opening every drawer they see or picking up anything not nailed down, they may be dismayed by the fact that the game features very little to actually acquire with exception of the game’s trove of documents. To that end, it’s a fairly streamlined experience that allows the player to focus on the world’s detail and only worry about evading the various enemies that litter the playing field, but players used to a more demanding, adrenaline-charged experience may find the experience lacking somewhat. A Machine for Pigs is certainly more in vein with the ‘walking simulator’ feel that The Chinese Room had already established with Dear Esther, though arguably, their take on Amnesia is still highly effective at creating a horrifying tale. Since the player’s only real responsibility is ensuring Mandus proceeds further and doesn’t perish, you find yourself automatically heightened to any fluctuation in sound, movement or flickering lights, poised to run away at the slightest hint of a nearby monster. To that end, there’s a lot more emphasis on the sound design, with a greater variety of aural distractions, disturbances and warnings of danger.
To be frank though, some of the panic of being attacked is somewhat diminished by the loss of the inventory system; phials of laudanum are no longer required to restore any lost vitality and similar to contemporary experiences, simply awaiting Mandus’ health to naturally regenerate is the way to go. Even if Mandus does succumb to the attacks of his porcine opponents, he will simply respawn slightly before the encounter to try the section again. This leads to yet more focus on the atmosphere of the environment and the flow of the game’s narrative, without too much fear of losing your progress or incurring penalties. Again, this will please casual gamers and those who desire a deeper investment in the story, but it might fall way short of what hardened survival horror enthusiasts expect, especially those well-versed in the mechanics of The Dark Descent. Regardless, it still manages to effectively portray a cloyingly oppressive atmosphere, only reinforced by the isolation of the industrial warrens, the invasive darkness and the hazy hallucinations that plague Mandus’ fraught memories.
As Mandus explores his vacant estate, he answers the telephone to a mysterious voice known as The Engineer, who beckons Mandus to travel underground to ‘the Machine’, explaining that due to a saboteur’s actions, Edwin and Enoch are trapped in the contraption, facing certain death unless Mandus reactivates the mechanical behemoth. Suggesting that Mandus should clear the bilge pumps to save his children from drowning, The Engineer keeps assisting the player character throughout the areas of the game via telephones. After spotting what looks like a humanoid pig dashing through his home, Mandus heads to his cellar and exits to the streets of London outside. After encountering more of the strange pigs, he rushes through the nearby offices and warehouses, discovering that they are in fact owned by him as part of the Mandus Processing Company, an efficient and lucrative industrialised meat processing facility. Breaking into the nearby St. Dunstan’s Church, also a subsidiary of Mandus’ company, the amnesiac father finally reaches the factory itself, towering above him like a grandiose citadel. Pursued still by the malevolent pig creatures, Mandus travels miles underground through tunnels, sewers and eventually, the factory’s bilge pumps which the Engineer had explained were flooded, putting Edwin and Enoch in peril. Managing to drain them of wastewater, Mandus descends into the deep dark bowels of London where he finds a reactor, the heart of a mammoth Machine of frightening proportions that lies dormant and silent, awaiting reactivation. Desperately, Mandus reactivates the Machine with renewed hope, attempting to save his children from their imminent fate. The Engineer however laughs triumphantly as the awful truth is revealed…
Edwin and Enoch are already dead, by their father’s hand no less. Piecing together all of the diary scraps and documents and the Engineer’s calculated betrayal ultimately fills in the gaps of Oswald’s faded memories. After the death of his wife in childbirth, Mandus threw himself into his work as an industrialist, revolutionising a way of processing meat as the CEO of his London-based company. As the processes introduced by the Industrial Revolution were left in the dust by Oswald’s new methods, he found himself becoming distant from his children in favour of his work. The new machinery quickly ate up Mandus’ fortunes, leaving him with no immediate profit but a lot of creditors harassing him, leaving him in a desperate state. In a call back to the plot of The Dark Descent, Mandus discovers his great uncle Daniel’s paperwork concerning the mysterious Orbs; artefacts containing untold power. Believing this power could reverse his fortunes and amass financial success, he took the two children on an expedition to Mexico, rumoured to hold one such Orb in an Aztec temple. The twin boys come across it first and when Mandus is able to touch it, he is struck with an overwhelming premonition of the future. Harrowing phantasmagoria floods through the entrepreneur’s mind, showing the upcoming atrocities of the 20th century: World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, the Russian Revolution, the fascist rise of Stalin, Mussolini and Franco, China’s Great Leap Forward, and worst of all, the deaths of his own sons on the muddy river banks during the Battle of the Somme. Flooded with despair and pain, Mandus murders his two children to spare them their grisly fate, though in effect, sacrificing them on the steps of the temple. Gathering the Orb and the remains of his beloved children, Mandus returns to London.
Now obsessed with the visions granted to him by the Orb, Mandus begins to actively hate his fellow man. Seeing their loathsome behaviour in every action, the entrepreneur likens them to filthy swine and vows to do something about them before calamity arrives at the dawn of the new century. Suddenly not the man he once was, Mandus experimented further with materials from Brennenburg Castle (due to his connections with Daniel) and created the Manpigs; foul hybrids concocted from human victims and the slaughtered pigs from his meat factory. He expanded the factory’s machines to burrow deeper into the Earth, creating the mighty Machine for an even graver purpose; his own Aztec temple, to industrialise the art of slaughter and sacrifice. With a small army of mutant pigs, failed experiments and a bloodthirsty machine, Mandus was ready to annihilate the world in order to prevent human disaster, fueled by the death of his children and an otherworldly misanthropy. The once kind man became predatorial and devious, hiring child labour to fix his machines, only to sacrifice them to his Machine. He would host exquisite dinner parties and charitable events, all to lure unsuspecting socialites and altruistic workers to be murdered like chattel. All of the depravity was aimed at eventually unleashing the army of Manpigs upon the world, where mass sacrifice would be finally attained and the world spared in the maniacal Mandus’ eyes.
Then, it struck. Some unknown event occurred, and Mandus awakened. Not recognising his own actions and seeing the horror of what he had created, he hurriedly tried to sabotage the Machine, pulling wires and smashing circuitry, powering the behemoth down. Beginning to suffer from malady and exhaustion from his time in Mexico, Oswald drags himself back home and falls into slumber, delirious and developing acute amnesia. When he hears the familiar tune of his twin boy’s voices, he awakens at the beginning of the game, explaining everything up until this point. Realising that the Engineer is in fact the sentient Machine and has deceived him into reactivating it, Mandus tries in vain to play saboteur once more, attempting to smash the machinery controls. It fails however and the Machine wastes no time in dispensing the foul Manpigs upon London, where they round up innocent citizens to be chattel for the mass homicide. Oswald himself takes an elevator and takes to the streets himself, witnessing the brutal carnage that the ungodly swine are wreaking upon the city. Deciding to descend once more to stop the Machine’s plot, Mandus makes his way through the Pigline, a crucible which gave birth to the porcine horrors now attacking London and eventually makes it to the base of the Orgone Towers in his factory, where a literal beating heart of the Machine lies.
As the Engineer begins to panic as his plan is about to be halted, Mandus sabotages the heart by electrocuting it, unlocking another painful truth; the Engineer is actually part of Mandus’s soul, supernaturally infused with the gargantuan Machine when his spirit became inexorably darkened. Presumably, this is the point where Mandus became aware of his actions and tried to stop the Machine, but due to actually being a part of Mandus, the Engineer used the man’s amnesia and love for his children to seduce him into activating it all over again. Upon this realisation, Mandus perceives the machine to be a dreamy recreation of the Aztec temple in Mexico, his ascendancy of the stone steps assaulted by the Engineer’s vicious words:
“They will eat them Mandus, they will make pigs of you all and they will bury their snouts into your ribs and they will eat your hearts!“
Ignoring his dark half’s bluster and anger, Mandus sits down alongside the dead illusions of his sons, allowing the Machine to rip his own heart out and sacrificing himself, ending the Engineer’s reign, shutting the Machine down permanently and dooming their swine offspring to certain death as London’s church bells ring out loudly. The new century has begun…
Compared to the Gothic portrayal of a European castle with semi-Lovecraftian elements, A Machine for Pigs paints an equally disturbing but culturally different setting for its story. Set at the turn of the 19th century on New Year’s Eve of 1899, Mandus’ world consists of a fictionalised version of the city of London. It’s heavily reminiscent of the history books’ depiction of the British Industrial Revolution, featuring a great many steam-powered mechanism, archaic systems of transportation, a heavy reliance on levers, machinery and electrical switches and an overwhelming presence of industry processes (such as meat grinders, conveyor belts, coal burners, etc). It’s an almost steampunk dystopia type of world, especially with the prominence of the Mandus Processing Company in the game’s story and world. With the exception of Oswald’s mansion, the majority of the game’s trajectory is delving further and further into various technological institutions, such as the factory offices, sewers, engine rooms, storage facilities and the heart of the Machine itself. Apart from making the player feel undeniably stuck in a different technological period of time, the fact that Mandus is often descending down into the ground also gives the impression that the player is in fact travelling deeper and deeper into the bowels of the formidable Machine. By the reveal of the Engineer’s true identity, this is actually a fitting metaphor, as the player is unable to proceed further without conceding to the Engineer’s shady machinations.
Because of the game’s focus on industry and profit (in Mandus’ character, actions and the game’s setting), there’s a particular absence of humanity in the game. Oswald encounters no other living human beings throughout the entire game, and there’s a distinct lack of any evidence to suggest that there is any human sentimentality in the game’s locales; the offices are bare, containing only the essentials of business with little semblance of character or personalisation. The industrial areas are bereft of any warmth despite their rich earthy tones of bronze and metal, with Mandus mainly traversing areas with high amounts of refuse such as bilge pumps, sewers and storage areas. Even travel outside on the streets is limited to back alleys and pedestrianised rear areas, with perfunctory stacks of crates, vehicles and industrial apparatus clogging up the thoroughfare. Nothing feels like human beings have dwelt nearby any time recently; even the place of worship (St. Dunstan’s) is devoid of much sanctity, actually being corrupted by Mandus’ shady business practices. The only location which has some fragments of fuzziness is the starting one: Oswald’s mansion is understandably contemporaneously furnished and decorated, containing armoires, ornate sets of drawers, four-poster beds, elegant bathrooms and even an attic nursery with Edwin and Enoch’s toys and playroom. Of course, with the exception of Mandus (and the Manpigs), the place is deserted which lends a chilling feel to these otherwise nostalgic markers of better times. The positive nature of this home is almost quickly undermined however by the strangeness that Mandus uncovers, mainly that the house is full of concealed passages behind the walls, which mostly seem to function as one-way mirrors to bathrooms, peeping holes to the corridors and in one instance, a hideaway to stash a maddening set of drawings and doodles. Apart from the den of his children, little other sentimental elements are present; most of the locale’s paintings are generic (or somewhat haunting) Renaissance style portraits, Romantic-era landscapes or ambiguous technological sketches. There’s an interesting curiosity in the form of several encased taxidermied animals, hinting that Mandus may have been a hunter of game, but the dead stare of the stuffed menagerie do little to endear you to the feeling of ‘home sweet home’. In fact, the latter image is effectively distracting enough that players often miss the fact that this area conceals a lever, allowing the player to progress forward.
It’s hardly surprising that the game offers little soul or comfort in this regard; the world that Mandus occupies is clearly not warm and fuzzy, with the means of production and mechanical efficiency valued above all else. The entire explorable game is in effect, the extension of the Machine; all mere infrastructure to achieving the grand plan of mass sacrifice. The Machine, and the Engineer by proxy, are metaphors for this ‘evil’ of prioritising profit and efficiency over human life, with the corruption of church, charities and socialite donations being prime examples of its actions in-game. Having grown tired of how inefficient and defective the world is, the Machine conspires to make the world a better, more efficient place by exterminating human life en masse. It’s very symbolic of British history too, as the Industrial Revolution brought its own problems of child labour, human rights abuses and dangers to health and safety of workers. Of course, this travesty was made possible by the Orb’s influence on Mandus, with a terrible vision of the future ruining his faith completely.
After Mandus’ experiences in Mexico, he understandably loses his interest in the human race, building up to a maniacal apathy where he deems everyone else ‘a pig’; mere animals to be slaughtered to be put to use as resources. There’s a distinctly British flavour to this too; the class system here is still an issue today, with our society breaking people down by class depending on input to the economy, society and community. Mandus clearly hates people of all classes, victimising both the poor and the rich in his quest, and his use of pigs has an almost ironic conflagration with the slur ‘gammon’, used today in reference to profoundly vocal nationalistic Brits. His newfound madness combines with his natural business acumen and he begins to experiment in the same way as Alexander of Brennenburg did in the first game; he toys with creating humanoid pigs to serve as his underlings and the way that these manpigs are created and viewed echo Mandus’ attitudes towards his fellow men. Brought to life through experimentation and electricity (a la Frankenstein) he cares little for their welfare, only that they do as they are told. The player only encounters fleeting glimpses of the creatures in the game primary areas but they soon become a threat to the player when they are noticed patrolling the secondary areas. Due to their origins with electricity and the fact that they contain light-reactive compounds not of this world, their immediate presence interferes with Oswald’s lantern, causing it to flicker. This allows for some very tense moments where you can’t even hear a nearby Manpig but the lantern is indicating a close proximity. They behave similarly to the enemies of The Dark Descent, though they are slightly more crafty when it comes to pursuit, able to notice if you are hiding nearby. They’re ultimately sorted into four categories: the Wretches, the Brutes, the Teslas and the Failed Experiments.
Wretches are the most common enemy encountered, looking like bipedal pigs with hunched gaits, long human arms and a child-like mentality, often seen playing with loose objects like toys and boxes. Their whole body is grotesquely malformed and mottled due to the extreme nature of their creation with volatile substances, leading to their form being held together with crude stitching and leather straps. It’s almost a nod to the old British maxim of ‘make do and mend’; the creatures are clearly not pretty, graceful or constructed expertly but do serve their function, which is often to carry out the will of the Machine. What they lack in intelligence, they more than make up for their voracity; they can often outrun Mandus and catch him if pursued unimpeded. They have however inherited the gluttony of their pastoral progenitors and are frequently seen gorging themselves on food. This is a relatively accurate reflection of how Mandus views the human race, as animals who only exist to eat, take from others and serve their purpose, with the child-like tics and antics an ironic commentary on how they are now Oswald’s children.
Engineers on the other hand are much more sturdier and violent than their Wretch underlings. They appear almost exactly the same as the Wretches, though with metal configurations such as pipes and metal plates fused into their porcine flesh, augmented with bandages and straps. Considering the fact that they are named after the sentience of the Machine, it’s possible that these Manpigs represent the ideology of the antagonist to an extent; their much burlier and aggressive appearance and behaviour are indicative of the Machine’s more insidious plots, effectively acting as the machine’s agents, rounding up victims in the streets of London or trying to kill Mandus on their master’s orders. The addition of metallic components into the animal carcass are also symbolic of the Machine’s influence, as is the increased damage that these creatures deal to the player when encountered. Engineers are even seen to be abusing the Wretches at various points of the game, indicating that even the monsters have adopted their ‘father’s’ disgust of those beneath them and embrace the callous manipulation that the machine demonstrates.
The Tesla by comparison is an extremely dangerous monster, appearing like a large overgrown Wretch that walks in a simian fashion. While the Wretches and Engineers retain a fully recognisable pig stature and appearance, the Tesla is almost completely enveloped by electrical assemblage, ranging from lights, pipes, lanterns, pistons, fuel tanks and circuitry, resulting in a frightening cacophony of electricity, bolts and neon blue lights in its presence. Being supercharged with the otherworldly Compound X, the Tesla frequently surges with this energy and phases temporarily out of existence, allowing it to reappear in another location instantly. This makes it the most dangerous threat to the player in the game and is presented as one of Mandus’ earlier experiments with the Manpigs, too unstable to use effectively and banished to certain areas where it could serve a defensive purpose. Due to the connotation between the machinery and the creature’s resultant instability and aggression, the Tesla seems representative of technology and power and what happens when it is left to fester unsupervised; it indifferently destroys everything, even itself.
Lastly, Oswald’s first incarnation of his Manpigs are known as the Failed Experiments; pumped so full of the mysterious Vitae and Compound X, the creature’s entire structure was splintered across dimensions, leaving them almost entirely invisible and unable to interact meaningfully with anything in their perception. Save for the occasional flicker of electricity, these invisible creatures fled into the Sewers, wandering for eternity in filth and refuse. At the bottom rung of this ladder, this version of the Manpig doesn’t even have the benefit of being put to use by the Machine; it’s the lowest of the low. Their only purpose is to potentially harm Mandus if he comes close to them during his descent to the underground bilge pumps. They essentially function as the Kaernk did in The Dark Descent, though they are grossly underutilised in this game compared to its predecessor.
Though the Machine utilises the Manpigs for his own nihilistic vision, it’s hardly a unique motivation; eradicating the human race for the benefit of the world is a relatively common ideology adopted by power-hungry despots. We are often told that those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat the past; the fact that the Machine is so focused on avoiding the terrible vision of the future granted by the Orb, he doesn’t realise that he’s adopted an already draconian approach. Mass human sacrifice was certainly practiced by our ancestors, usually in the pursuit of granting blessings to their tribes, civilizations or resources. Hearts were ripped out on the apex of the Aztec temples and sacrificed to the unseen gods, all to ensure survival of their fellow men. The fact that this tradition is translated into the Industrial Revolution era with a Machine trying to use it to eradicate mankind rather than ensure its survival says a lot about how we as a society, constantly repeat the mistakes of our past by filtering it through different means. In fact, the Orb’s premonition may have been simply warning Mandus that humankind never changes, and even today in our world, we still have the same issues that have plagued us for centuries, now fought in online forums and social media rather than the trenches and No-Man’s-Land. Conflicting ideologies, cancel culture, ‘virtue signalling’, snowflakery; all of this is just warfare, propaganda and hatred. We’re still fighting wars and hurting each other, merely the battleground has been switched.
This is what makes Oswald’s actions all the more tragic; in an effort to spare them of their gruesome fate at the Battle of the Somme, he kills his children on the steps of the Aztec temple, believing that if they are dead by his hand, they will not suffer the agonising death in war. By not allowing them to live life and experience Man’s brutal and destructive nature, he has avoided precisely nothing. The Battle of the Somme would still happen, as would the subsequent conflicts. Oswald’s objective may have then switched to trying to ‘save’ all of humanity in the same way, but is this the way you save someone? Protecting children is almost always cited as the moral reasoning behind some diabolical action, especially in Britain who wanted to ban horror films from sale, make it illegal to acknowledge that gay people exist in the school curriculum and even today, blocking access to puberty blockers for trans kids, all in the name of ‘protecting’ them. Mandus took away the lives of his children and also any decision they would have wanted about their life. No longer could they choose to fight for their country. No more could they enjoy growing up with their father. No way could they now have their own families before dying in combat. By making a choice for them, Mandus took everything from them. Protecting children doesn’t mean preventing them from making a wrong choice; it’s about being there to help should their choice go awry. Mandus’ final sacrifice at least saved all of us from the Machine’s ‘redemption’.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs was released and sold pretty well, scoring 120,000 sales in its first week alone. Reviews were a little more mixed when compared to the previous game, with particular praise at the game’s atmosphere, setting and narrative. Unfortunately, reviewers also felt that the game was too linear unlike the original, with less emphasis on survival horror gameplay as well as a lack of enemy encounters. While this is essentially echoing what has already been said, the fact is that the game is definitely a more subtle experience for survival horror fans, with a particular emphasis on sound and atmosphere. It’s not quite the visceral disturbance of Silent Hill, nor is it the action of Resident Evil; it’s quiet, contemplative and deep horror, much more in line with The Chinese Room’s projects as a whole.
After their Amnesia project, The Chinese Room began work on their next game, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, a science-fiction narrative-driven experience that was released in 2015 to critical success that earned it several nominations and a few wins at the British Academy Games Awards. After reducing their staff down to the group’s directors only (Dan Pinchbeck and Jessica Curry), the company was acquired by Sumo Digital in 2018, moving onto pastures new with the release of Little Orpheus in 2020 and an as yet unannounced new title. We can only imagine what this little British company has next in store for us…
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