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As the game starts you awake from a rather cool dream sequence to discover that your grandfather's had his clogs popped by some unspeakable monster of the night. While rummaging through his stuff (alone, at night, in his huge mansion, natch) you come across a jolly little hardback called the Tome of Eternal Darkness, and upon reading it you suddenly find yourself controlling a Roman centurion in Persia circa 26 BC. And this is how the game continues, with you finding and reading a passage of the book in the mansion and then controlling a series of 11 completely different characters over the course of two millennia.
Apart from the innovative structure of the game, Eternal Darkness' other big selling point is the sanity effects--every time you see a monster and fail to kill it your sanity will drop. If it drops too far you start seeing things: flies walking along the inside of your telly, messages telling you your controller is unplugged when it clearly isn't and all sorts of other clever freakery.
The game's not perfect, though; the combat is a little too fiddly and it's still not quite as scary as Silent Hill, but Eternal Darkness is an unusual and rewarding title that should finally shut up those annoying twerps that insist Nintendo only do games for kids.--David Jenkins
It all worked out well in the end - this was one of the most instantly impressive games I've seen. It's well thought out, and the attention to detail is startling. You'll have seen a lot of reviews on this site rave about the sanity system, which stands out as one of the things that the developers got absolutely right. As your sanity slips away the camera angles and soundtrack change, adding just an extra little edge to the whole thing. There are other effects as a result of this too, but you're better finding out about these yourself. I actually found that I preferred playing with the character quite low on sanity - it just added something to the whole experience (although - it turns out that there are occasions where this is a disadvantage - make sure you stay quiet when the trappers are near ;-)
The puzzles are not the most complex, but are balanced enough to not have you charging from one location to another frantically looking for some detail that was missed the first time.
Similarly with the combat - it's fairly easy to master, and I found that there weren't many things I encountered which had me reloading to try to kill again. Especially if the spells are used intelligently.
The magic system was nicely implemented, with various characters discovering the building blocks of the spells for you to assemble. This reminded me of an old Amiga game, but I admit that I may have just dreamt that.
This is a game which is totally accessible right out of the box. Superb use of the graphics capabilities, with a soundtrack that just somehow fits each chapter. I was completely drawn into it to the point of staying up too late for "just one more room", and that's not happened to me in a long time.
If you like the horror rpg genre (and I do), then I doubt you'll be disappointed by this. I really found very little to fault it, and so it must get the full 5 stars.
Did someone mention a sequel ?? Please ??
If this is putting you off already (and I don't blame you if it is), I would advise you stay away from Eternal Darkness. Before I began this game I was perfectly fine with the dark, random noises or the odd nightmare about satanic demons trying to disembowel me. Now I fear to sleep most nights. I haven't even completed the game, yet I'm afraid to play in broad daylight with friends, let alone at night by myself. This game forces you to ponder over every move, not just with its devilish puzzles and frantic action but in the way you react to your environment. This will become clear once the games' horror aspects are explained.
The story begins with Alex Roivas, a young and rather nice looking woman, who is rudely awoken by an inspector from the Rhode Island police, reporting that her grandfather has been murdered. Two weeks later and frustrated by the incompetence of police failing to discover precisely what happened, Alex decides to venture into her grandfathers mansion herself to find answers. What she finds though is the Tome of Eternal Darkness, a strange book that is bound from human flesh and bone. And thus begins the game and her nightmares...
The book is a starting point for the games levels and tells of a story that spans many years, containing events of heroes who have battled against the world's dark forces. Guiding Alex around the mansion prompts the discovery of chapter pages from the Tome, each with their own story. Upon reading it, you are transported into this chapter where you assume control of a new character, whether it is a Roman Centurion or a physicist from the 18th century. Natural preconceptions of this character shifting are obvious; "it's too rushed or random for players to get accustomed with their new hero". But surprisingly enough the characters are all interesting and the game mechanics remain similar throughout. Although the early chapters are linear and structured similarly to tutorials, nobody likes being thrown headfirst at the deep end, especially when the deep end consists of blood, zombies and giant...lets not spoil it.
Any fan of third person adventures with horror twists has every right compare this with Resident Evil, but as you delve deeper you'll discover this game is no carbon copy. What sets this above Capcom's survival series are the unique features that often lack in modern computer games. Firstly, the cinematography techniques are well executed as the entire game has a very cinematic style. Cut scenes are animated beautifully, acting from the characters is superb and this helps the games' impressive script receive more credit. The cut scenes are an integral part of the story so there are many, but not to the point where they dominate the gameplay like in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.
The narrative and attention to detail has been carefully considered by Silicon Knights (the game's developers). Influences from classical writers such as Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft are present, and the detail to weapons and armour, game environments and background history is exceptional, as they further reinforce the detail and interest of the games dark influences. The use of 'Magick' is included, as each character collects different artefacts during each chapter. The Circles of Power determine the strength of a spell, so the more points in the circle the greater the power. Codices decipher Runes and Spell Scrolls are essentially recipes for spells. It's nice to see unique spells that enchant items or reveal invisible passages, and it helps that the Tome of Eternal Darkness stores them for you so future characters won't need to re-learn them like in some RPGs.
But the icing on the cake is the Sanity system. Everytime you encounter an enemy, a portion of your Sanity meter is drained, depending on the wrath of the undead enemy. When a small percentage suffers, voices may come from nowhere and blood may ooze down walls or drip from the ceiling. About half way and only brave players will handle the screams of babies. The real mental challenge is when your meter is completely dry. I won't spoil it for you, but the effects are so subtle yet shocking, you'll be out of your mind with uncertainty and paranoia. Killing enemies recovers your Sanity, so being smart and running away is now the wrong thing to do. To get the most out of this innovation though, I dare you to purposely play while 100% insane, which you'll find even more rewarding if you own a Dolby Pro Logic II set-up.
Satanism, black magic, the dark arts, mental hallucinations; it doesn't take a brain surgeon to realise this isn't a typical Nintendo game. It has been a very brave gamble to rid the company of its supposed kiddie only audience and has thankfully paid off. The originality of the Magick and Sanity systems make Eternal Darkness terrifying, ingenious and a GameCube exclusive. It lacks the immense detail of visual graphic horror from Resident Evil, but the psychological horror more than makes up, as it is genuinely scary. Don't expect to be playing this game once purchased...it will only end up playing you.
Back then and up to its release many called it a Resident Evil clone. However from playing the game I can say that that is NOT true - Eternal Darkness is a completely different game. Although it's not as scary, the horror it presents in it's play is quite different. Whereas Resi worked with gore and jump-out-of-yer-seat scares, Eternal Darkness relies more on the subconcious of the player and how they are choosing their paths through the game.
The game starts with murder. Alex Riovas, of the year 2002, discovers that her grandfather is dead. But it's not just a simple case. Oh no. The corpse is headless.
What ensues is Alex exploring her Grandfather's mansion, uncovering a book (the Tomb of Eternal Darkness) and she starts to read. It tells a tale spanning 2000 years, and eventually leads up to the mystery of her Grandfather's murder. But as she reads, you play as the character she is reading about. You play as 12 characters in all, ranging from Pious Augustus of Ancient Rome, to Paul Luther, a 15th Century Monk. All these people's lives are linked and play a part in the massive plot.
To play Eternal Darkness is a lot easier than it's peer, Resident Evil. Instead of the turn 'n' run system emmployed in Resi, the analogue works much like Zelda, where you can run freely and change direction easily. The fighting is ingenious too, allowing you to target separate area of a monster's body to explot their weak points. There's a spell system as well, which is fully customisable and is used infrequently as the solution to a few of the games none-too-taxing puzzles. But they make a welcome change from the hack 'n' slash action play most of the time.
Something I had high hopes for but turned out to be mostly a gimmick was the Insanity Meter. Naturally, fighting hordes of monsters is sure to have some detrimental effect on your character - represented by a bar on the screen. Your insanity drops as you face monsters, but killing them restores your mental coaliegance. if you Insanity Meter drops too far, you become insane and what ensues is a series of nifty (and sometimes terrifying) effects. They can be hilariously obvious such as your character's head exploding, or more subtle like flies swarming over the 'camera lens' or your inventory emptying itself. Although it can be effective (I was fooled a good few times) I feel it could have been used to a greater effect.
Thanks to the stunning plot, the game grabs you and doesn't let go. This is as close to an interactive movie as you're gonna get, it really is that immersive. However the flipside is that you'll complete the game fairly quickly, not including the full game with all the secrets.
All in all, I would recommend this stunning game and although it IS flawed, you can appreciate that the four years of development have been used wisely.
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