Eternal Darkness
Game Info
Platform(s)
GameCube
Publisher
Nintendo
Developer
Silicon Knights
Genre
Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Violence, Blood and Gore
 
Grade
The Good

• Excellent story and voice acting
• Great detailed environments
• Sanity and Magic add depth to combat

The Bad

• Character models look blocky
• Linear

 
Grade
B+

Alex Roivas is woken from a nightmare to find out her grandfather has been brutally murdered. She travels to Rhode Island to identify the body and when the police fail to turn anything up, she begins to search through the ancient Roivas mansion on her own, turning up a secret study and the Tome of Eternal Darkness. She reads the Tome, discovering the history of ancient beings in conflict and the forces in the past that are set to free them or to fight them. Through a series of chapters littered around the mansion, Alex reads the stories of a number of individuals who have had a hand in the series of events that have led up to this point. For fans of H.P. Lovecraft and the Call of Cthulhu Mythos, this premise sounds surprisingly familiar. In fact, Eternal Darkness is as much a carbon copy of many of Lovecraft's concepts and locales that any one could argue that Silicon Knights should have just changed the name.

While the basic premise of the gameplay is primarily moving from room to room, fighting monsters and discovering items to solve rather simple puzzles, Eternal Darkness does manage to add some aspects that add depth to the game. First and foremost is the Sanity Meter, which depletes when enemy monsters see you and can be refilled by performing finishing attacks on monsters that have been defeated. If your Sanity Meter falls too low, you begin to suffer from adverse effects. The sanity effects that Silicon Knights has included are exceptional and prove to be the highlight of the game. Anything can happen, ranging from statues watching you, blood dripping from the ceilings to your character literally falling apart. The game does it's best to throw you curves, even trying to make you think the game is broke.

Also added is the inclusion of Magic, which is gained by finding runes and codexs. The variety of spells - including protective barriers, healing spells and item enchantment - adds a level of depth to combat that allows for customization in battle. And combat itself has a level of strategy to it in that you can target certain body parts on enemies. Decapitating some enemies will make them unable to see you and, while others don't rely on vision, so removing their arms will be in your best interest.

Graphically, Eternal Darkness sports fully detailed polygonal environments that look excellent. The lighting and magic effects are also nicely done. While some of the more organic items look a little rough, the various environments are well done and impressive in their own right. Texture maps add a realistic flavor to the locations. After seeing what Capcom did with the character models in Resident Evil, though, the models in Eternal Darkness just look archaic. It's not to say that they aren't well detailed. They are, but the facial models and hands are clunky and stand out compared to the environments. The monster models, on the other hand, are well crafted. Fans of Lovecraft will surely enjoy the details of the more archaic locales, which tend to mimic places mentioned in some of his tales.

The audio portion of the game is spectacular. Sound effects and voice acting are at a premium. With a story that's a well-written as this one, bringing in poor voice acting would surely be the death of the game. Not only is the voice acting well done, but it gives real personality to the characters and adds to the overall story. The audio effects used when Sanity is lost are as masterfully done as the visual effects. You tend to hear knocking, ringing or just a disturbing chorus of voices.

With so much that seems to work for the game, there really is only some minor issues that fault Eternal Darkness. First and foremost, the game is so story-driven that it becomes excessively linear. This is not to state that other action titles are so much more non-linear, but Eternal Darkness tends to have only one path through the whole game. Puzzles are very simple, and most can be solved by just picking up items along the way to the puzzle or by searching a few rooms ahead. And, for a game that's supposed to be survivor horror/psychological action, there seems to be very little here to cause the player any degree of fear or anxiety. Monsters are presented plain and out in the open and outside of their effect on the character's sanity, you won't really feel much terror about them.

Eternal Darkness is a structurally sound game that manages to infuse a number of new ideas into a genre that could be growing stale. As I've said before, fans of Lovecraft should check this game out. You'll find a lot of familiar themes and concepts. For those not sure about this game, rent it first. You may find it too easy and straightforward to really warrant multiple play-throughs.

- - Kinderfeld

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