Eternal Darkness - Sanity's Requiem
The old saying "don't judge a book by its cover" applies perfectly to Eternal Darkness. It doesn't have the graphical flash of the recent 'Cube Resident Evil remake or the cinematic shock value of Silent Hill 2. Instead, ED is a horror game of a different cloth, centered on a carefully constructed, thirteen-chapter story spanning hundreds of years and following 12 characters bound together by fate.
It begins like a good mystery. You, as Alexandra Roivas, have been called to your grandfather's Rhode Island mansion to help investigate his unusual demise. You have as many clues to go on as the local police--in other words, nothing. But as you wander the mansion, you stumble upon a secret room that holds a mysterious book-- The Tome of Eternal Darkness--and (as if there's anything else to do in Rhode Island) you start reading.
From there, you relive the tales of 11 other individuals that build eventually to your own. As you meet new people and see events from different perspectives, the story unravels, coming back together in an epic climax. And while the game focuses heavily on its story, let us put your mind at ease: ED doesn't get lost in meandering, boring exposition and talking heads. The plot that's here is streamlined and important, even if you don't fully understand it as it's happening.
The game doesn't rely on cheap thrills like monsters bursting out of windows (although there are a few moments like that) to make it scary, either. Instead, its creepiness sneaks up on you as you unravel details of the story, take in eerie, ambient sounds and become the victim of countless insanity effects (see side-bar). May we suggest you turn out the lights and turn up your audio system for the maximum effect?
With 12 characters you might think you have to start from scratch with each one --but that's not the case. Each individual has his or her own unique set of weapons, and you start each one without the use of "magick" (your player's gotta find the Tome first). But you never feel like you're starting completely from zero--the spells you discover with each player carry over to the next character in the gameplay sequence ED's deep magick/weapons system is ambitious, especially for the horror genre. You have lots of options when determining the best way to defeat enemies. Maybe you'll slice off their heads so they can't see you anymore. Or cast a barrier or shield so they can't get close to you and their magickal attacks won't affect you. Or (most importantly of all) enchant your sword or gun to counter a foe's strengths (see sidebar).
And despite what screenshots might make it look like, ED is not a Resident Evil wannabe. It shares the puzzle-solving that series made famous, but it thankfully sheds the need for ammo conservation (you're encouraged to kill everything) and checkpoint-based gameplay (you can save almost anywhere). Silicon Knights' first production under Nintendo's umbrella is a pleasant surprise--a mix of gripping story and addictive gameplay that will be difficult to match.
My experience with Eternal Darkness prior to playing the final release came in the form of a limited demo shown off at last year's Nintendo Cube Club events. Back then it was slow, clunky and the story (that I'd later discover is the most important of its ingredients) was nonexistent. I expected Resident Evil and because it wasn't that, I dismissed it. That was a mistake. ED's not RE, but it endedup being a fantastic horror game regardless. It's like a good book; it starts off slowly, but once it has its claws in you it doesn't let go. Each episode is different enough to hold your interest and advance the story before whisking you back to the present time. The only complaint I have about its pacing is that the game starts out too easy and doesn't get really difficult until the last quarter. And even though the story hooked me by the time I finished the third chapter, my opinion of the graphics hasn't changed from the time I first played the demo--they're unimpressive and the characters are still too cartoony for my taste. But because ED is so deep and engrossing, the gameplay is so varied, and the magick system has so much technique, looks don't matter so much. That's the weird and cool thing about ED--it's one of few games that doesn't need to rely so much on its visual prowess to keep you interested. Nintendo's first stab at the horror genre is a strong one, and it sets a new benchmark for storytelling in video games.
I'll see you in hell, Eternal Darkness. You thought you had me with that insanity effect that made it look like I was sinking into the floor. I forgot you liked to pull that junk when you froze my game --I was about to restart when it came back up and I realized I'd been had. But when you made it look like my inventory was totally cleared, I knew this was war. Just for that, I'm gonna buy you and beat you three ways from Tuesday. That's right. I can look past your repetitive combat, formulaic structure and sometimes misleading game design. It's your stylish presentation, puzzles and ability to mess with a guy's head that's gonna make me own you. Literally.
I'll say this about ED: It's no Resident Evil...and that's a good thing. The last thing the world needs is another survival-horror clone, so I was happy to see plenty of original ideas here. The unique spell system stands out, especially as it's worked into puzzles later in the game, along with a deep storyline that owes more to the disturbing writings of H,P. Lovecraft than the quick thrills of the Living Dead movies. Too bad combat is so awkward, filled wfth cheap hits and enemies you're usually better off running past (which also activates the game's best feature--the creepy insanity effects). But despite that and a few dull patience-testing hours, ED is worth a play.
Download Eternal Darkness - Sanity's Requiem
Nintendo critics who accuse the company of valuing kid gamers over the mature crowd are going to have a lot less to complain about this summer, just two months after Capcom's Resident Evil remake hits the stands, Silicon Knights' Eternal Darkness will prove once and for all that Nintendo's cute purple box has one hell of a dark side.
Eternal Darkness comes from the same team that gave you Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (PS1, PC), so it's no surprise that the plot is first-rate, with a storyline that integrates its 12 playable characters into a meticulously detailed epic. ED's protagonist is Alexandra Roivas, who starts the game with an early-morning phone call informing her of the grisly murder of her grandfather. When she arrives at the Roivas mansion, she discovers that the true story of her grandfather's demise is only one chapter in a 2,000-year struggle against the macabre forces of the Eternal Darkness.
Yes, it starts off in a mansion, but ED is no Resident Evil clone. As the game progresses, you play through the stories of the 11 other personalities in environments ranging from a French cathedral to a subterranean Persian city. You revisit the same areas in different eras with various characters, which include a female Cambodian dancer, a Franciscan monk from the Dark Ages of the Inquisition and a Revolutionary War-era gentleman. The unique abilities of each character and the changes over time in each environment create a nice sensation of deja vu rather than tedium.
The gameplay itself is fresh and fast, and easy to pick up and play. Move the control stick in any direction and you'll move in that direction. Target enemies with the right trigger and press A to attack. The B button is the action button, used for examining items, finishing moves or other unique character abilities. And that's really all you need to know. In many respects, it's the anti-Resident Evil: You're supposed to destroy all enemies, not run from them, and instead of abruptly switching angles as you move through a room, the camera zooms and pans flawlessly, tracking your player and giving you a clear view of the action.
Eternal Darkness has been three years in the making, and the time was well spent. Originally planned as a Nintendo 64 game, ED certainly benefits from the GameCube's graphical might, smoothly handling multiple characters in detailed environments with several light sources. Other touches, like fog that flows realistically through corridors, provide the parsley garnish for the game's gourmet meal. The graphics don't slap you across the face like Resident Evil's, but they're rock-solid, and the superior camera work only enhances them. The game also sounds as good as it looks--can you say topnotch voice acting and soundtrack with Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound?
All of Eternal Darkness's elements fit its style really well--you won't find yourself thinking, "Why does a biotech research company lock its doors with amulets?" Some gamers might be turned off by the rather linear plotline, but the solid 25-plus hours of incredible story and gameplay should give naysayers a reason to keep going, especially when they can replay it to face different types of enemies the second time through.
Eternal Darkness has more atmosphere than Mars at the end of Total Recall, and it's not afraid to borrow from the greatest of the classic horrorists, from Poe to Lovecraft. Best of all, it delivers a very different experience than your typical survival-horror game, expanding the genre with some fresh ideas and great execution.
Nintendo June 24,2002 -- It may be a mature-rated GameCube adventure with zombies, shotguns and item-fetching puzzles, but according to the president of developer Silicon Knights, Denis Dyack, Eternal Darkness is absolutely not Resident Evil And after finally getting some quality time with the game, we see what he means. The emphasis here is more on a huge storyline and a theme of insanity than the slasher-flick thrills of the Capcom series. Less survival horror and more psychological thriller, as Dyack calls the game.
In ED you travel through history, playing as 12 characters in different times and places, all improbably but eventually connected. Dyack says more than five hours of cinemas weave the various stories together, including branching paths and more than three endings. And Denis promises one other thing: Eternal Darkness will not be delayed again. As to why it's taken this long, he offers an honest excuse: "We (at Silicon Knights) were happy with the gameplay, but in talking with Nintendo, we realized it could be a lot better."
Since when did Nintendo get into the Resident Evil market? After all, this is the same company that handles graphic gore like it’s anthrax. Somehow, developer Silicon Knights has overcome that taboo to deliver something even more improbable this April: survival horror without B-movie cheese. Or so they say.
The game’s serious tone is highlighted by a psychological twist that makes the game harder as your characters get more spooked. You’ll have to keep an eye on a “sanity meter” that measures how freaked out your knight, wizard, gun-toting heroine or other playable characters are. Too many teeth-chattering experiences will send them over the edge, making them unable to see their inventory, or worse yet, hallucinate that their body is falling to pieces. The best way to calm your hero’s nerves is to hack and blast with abandon. But if your aim is bad, maybe you’ll just have to resort to a big case of Valium.
This is by far the hardest game I have had to score since going to our new format. On one hand, Eternal Darkness is a fresh game in the otherwise predictable 'Survival Horror'? genre, with its clever story, intriguing plot and overall fun. But on the other hand, this game deals with mature subject and contains visuals that would undoubtedly disturb some players. So before we get to the meat of this review I want to make one thing clear, if you are a fan of horror video games or enjoy a darker themed game, then this is a must buy. If you are a 12 year old, then you have no business playing this game.
Eternal Darkness (ED) is a refreshing change in the horror genre, not only does it contain the required scares and surprises that seem to be harder and harder to come up with in these games, but players will see that Nintendo spent some dough on the story, which is one of the games strongest points. It is well written and decidedly mature as it involves the main character Alexandra Roivas living out chapters of an ancient book that chronacles her ancestors struggles with the occult.
Graphically, when you first fire up ED, more than likely you won't be that impressed, but what I noticed was, as the game continues along, the graphics improve immensely. It's almost as if the descriptions from the older times were poorer and therefore reflected a grainier (visual) translation. As the time periods get more recent the game's graphics also seem to get sharper. I'm not sure if this was all done on purpose or was some sort of fluke, but it all comes together nicely.
Additionally, ED has some of the finest audio effects that I have heard in a long time. All of my surround sound speakers got a great workout and I really enjoyed the ambiance that it seemed to evoke.
Lastly, I think it is important that I mention the combat aspects. Although relatively simple, while fighting bad guys with melee weapons, you can select where you want to strike, which is increasingly important when you find yourself surrounded by several monsters, since a head shot typically decapitates the enemies. Plus with the introduction of magick, this game really does have it all. It is truly a fully versed game.
This game is for the hardcore horror fans. I literally got the bejeebers scared out of me when I played it during the midnight hour. Any game that gets under my skin like this one gets my seal of approval.