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Chris Enjoys The Vidya, 2: Eternal Darkness

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 by CCJAD Blog

I had two games I really wanted to review for this post, but I'm gonna leave the other one (Megaman Battle Network) till a later date, cause I know I'll rant endlessly on it if I do it right now :P So, I'm gonna go with another favorite - Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem.

Loosely based on H. P. Lovecraft's works, Eternal Darkness is a survival horror that follows roughly a dozen character's experiences with the Tome of Eternal Darkness, 'a tome bound with human skin and bone'. There are a lot of little details in the story, but in broad strokes, the main character, Alexandra Roivas, goes to visit her uncle after he's had his head moved several feet from the rest of his body by some unknown force. She spends the night in his giant creepy mansion, and finds a badly hidden room full of strange artifacts - and the Tome, with only the first chapter still in it.

So, like we'd all do when we sense some great evil force in a book of human flesh, she starts reading, and starts re-living the lives of those in contact with the book before. The first character you play as - a Roman from 26BC - inadvertently gains the powers of one of the ancients of your choosing, and turns into Evil Bad Guy Man for the rest of the game. Once this happens, you zoom back to 2000 AD and Alexandra gets to explore the mansion some more. Rinse and repeat for all times in between, and you get an epic horror story. I don't really want to say much about the specifics of each time, partly because each story is well written on it's own, and you need to play it to really enjoy them. Mostly because the game is really long.

The important part of this game is the gameplay itself, which really sets it apart from others in the genre. I'll start with the main thing that was discussed when it was coming out: The Sanity Meter. Health and strength in this is measure in three bars, Health (obvious, something bites you, you get hurt, something big bites you, you die), Magick (magic with a k at the end, I'll go over this more later), and finally Sanity.

This little green meter measures how well your character's mental strength is holding up, and gets drained every time one of the creeps screams at you, or you get hurt, or some other event causes them to question their reality. What's really interesting is the effect this has on the character. Rather than just causing your health to drain when it's low, or your attacks to weaken, it causes them to literally go insane. They'll start shambling about, eyes darting from corner to corner, jumping at every noise, and then your TV will change channel because you sat on the remote. Except you didn't, and now zombies are eating you and you realise the insanity is affecting you too. The lights in your room start to flash, and the rain pounds against your window like something trying to get into the house... okay, this is a bit far, but the TV channel one really is in the game. Again, don't want to say much on the actual effects, but a couple of examples are needed - and these are far from the most effective ones at spooking the player
One, you walk into a room and the walls start dripping blood. Your character starts cowering in the middle of the room as demons break through and hover ominously towards you as you wrestle with the controller to move them on... and then they vanish, and you wonder what happened.
Two, you enter a room and it's literally FILLED with enemies. There's no space to move at all, and they all leap at once.
Three, you explode. Yes, really. Boom.

As you can hopefully tell, these effects are well thought out, and make up the crux of the games mechanisms. The magick system is also very well though out, with each ancient's allignment having dominance over another, and it all being done through a rune like system to make your spells. Runes for heal, damage, dispel and other effects, as well as target runes such as self, item, and creature all keep things interesting when you're trying to frantically fight off the hordes of enemies, really keeping up the nerve-rattling pacing of the game.

To conclude, this game is designed to thrill. It's dark, disturbing at points, and violent. It's also one of the best Survival Horrors out there, and certainly the best on Gamecube. Track it down, play it, and enjoy.