Originally developed for the N64, Eternal Darkness has been in development for quite a number of years. It was canned when Nintendo realised that for one the N64 was good as dead *sniff* and two that the developer's ideas where more suited for the GC. In fact Eternal Darkness for the N64 was close to completion when the plug was pulled and it moved onto a then unknown format.
Everything was enhanced: every texture, every character, every idea and every effect and it shows. The entire game reeks of TLC. You may of thought that this was a clone of Resident Evil, but this game is almost a whole new genre. It plays with your mind and at points has you contradicting everything you see. Believe us when we say this is a very clever game. It even had us fooled, amazing eh? Especially when you consider that we are very intelligent people. No really we are...
Unlike most games in the adventure genre ED is truly inventive and dare we say it, original. What was considered to be a very stale area of gaming has been bought to life with a number of quirky tricks and ingenious gameplay ideas. The whole thing starts off in a pretty mundane fashion with, yep, you guessed it, a murder! It just so happens that a man is the grandfather of Alex Roivas (you) but the body is proving hard to identify. They can't even check the dental records because he doesn't have a head. So off you go to the mansion and the game begins. In a dark room you struggle to work out what button does what as zombies shuffle around you murmuring brains. Then thank-god it was only a dream and here you are at night exploring the mansion where you grandfather was murdered. At this point disappointment flooded into our blood hungry veins, and then rather unexpectedly the game explodes (not literally, it just gets better a million fold). You are thrown back to 26BC when the evil happenings begin to unfold and now is the time to find the nearest sofa. It really is very hard to put a finger on what it is that makes ED so good. We just can't quite work it out so stick with us as we ramble on about why this game is great and then you can go and buy it, that sound OK?
Eternal Darkness takes on the form of a full blown third person adventure. Unlike in Resi everything is 3D and the camera can move freely panning out and rotating around to get the perfect view of the action. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game is the fact that ED is in all truth a really good book. It has a story so compelling and voice acting so believable you just cant put the controller down as you always want to find out what the next wist in the plot will be. The game travels through history and each chapter has weapons and characters relevant to that time. But you dont just travel through time as one person oh no, for each era there is a new set of pixels to control. When in the Roman times you get a slightly twisted centurion to control and he can use knifes and swords to kill the enemy. In the modern times you can use guns, which is very handy. But you have far more deadly means of killing at your disposal. Magik (not magic but Magik) Runes, these spells can be allocated to a direction of the D-Pad but you dont just get them for nothing, oh no. You have to traipse through thousands of years of history and risk life and limb for everything making the game quite a demanding one. With each character you must learn their strengths and weaknesses. Certain ones are good at combat and others are good at running. You have to be constantly aware of who and where you are to apply your tactics accordingly.
This game makes you think about what you are doing and thus take split second decisions on what to do when faced with a problem. As usual the entire game is coated in a more than generous layer of battling and puzzle solving. In most instances the puzzles must be solved in order to progress. Some involve you finding a key in order to open a door but most are far more complex and require some serious cranial power, let us explain...
Towards the end of the game you will find a ghostly enemy that is attacking a servant in the mansion. Every time you damage it the ghoul simply legs it down the basement (being a ghost it can go through the locked door- and you cant then it returns fully charged up and ready to fight and no matter how many times you do this it will never die. The puzzle sees you first finding two pieces of the key to the basement. The ghoul must be challenged in order to get one half and then again to receive the final piece. You can now use an enchantment spell to mend the key and venture into the basement (sofa at the ready). But still you can't defeat the git. This is where another very cool part of the title comes into play. Using your flashy magical powers you can summon an all-powerful monster (that's on your side). This Horror Monster can be sent downstairs and with one powerful swipe will destroy the pillar that enables the ghost to regain health, thus solving your problem. As you can see the problem is not always easily solved and the solutions sometimes so not obvious that you'll have real trouble working it out. Insanity plays a major part in the game and is a feature that we have never seen implemented within a game. Each character has different ways of dealing with going mad and once again you must learn these in order to prevent them from hiding in the corner rocking like a mad man! The whole sanity idea is so subtle that it starts making you question what's real and what's a simple illusion.
Some things are obvious; you'll walk into a room and without any prior warning your head will explode like a nuke. But some are far subtler. Now we don't want to spoil it for you but just to give you one example. You walk into a room enemies gather round you reaching for a weapon you discover that it has gone. Panicking you turn and run back towards the door, but there is no door, in fact there never was. Now you can hear things voices in your ears screams then a flash and it's all gone. It really is a very cool little gimmick, but the sanity effect is more than a gimmick, the whole thing adds to the atmosphere of the game and brings the whole thing to life like no other game we have ever seen before. The only way to regain your sanity, say after killing something, is to lop of a certain part of this, say its head or legs. This decapitating idea can be employed in normal combat and you can target a certain part of your enemies anatomy and shoot or slice it off, hmm very Nintendo. The learning curve is very well crafted. There is no training level instead the game follows your steady progress and becomes more difficult as time goes on.
The first chapter allows you to get to grips with the controls and combat system before you enter into more difficult climbs. The unique Magik system is slowly introduced throughout the chapters as you discover more Runes and learn more spells. The good thing is you never feel overwhelmed. We have never come across a game that is as much like a movie as this (except MGS2 which is just a load of FMVs strung together and priced at £40). ED is very well plotted out; the whole thing is very well joined together. What happens to one character will directly affect what happens to another person thousands of years later. Everything that happens has purpose. The entire thing is very predetermined. When you solve a puzzle you just lead yourself one step closer to whatever happens to your character at the end of that chapter. Other games boast the fact that they have a million endings and are totally non-linear.
ED is the opposite and the linear style works very well. Simply finding out the destiny of the character you’re controlling, and what their place in the grander scheme of things is very clever and keeps you playing and makes the whole thing so much more interesting. The fact that what happens is bought to life by an amazing script and the best voice acting in a video game ever, just adds to the great atmosphere of the game.
It may not be the looker that Resident Evil is but what Capcom have done is cheating. Everything in ED is made in full 3D (hence the moving camera) and it looks great. The amount of detail is amazing and at certain points in the game you’re given the chance to look at areas of particular beauty with a viewing area. Items can be examined and you get a full description of what they are and what they do, the amount of attention to detail is mind blowing. You can pick up a diary and read the entries, look at crumpled up old letters that will offer you clues to help you and then there are the damn creepy autopsy reports. ED really is telling you a story all the time. With most games the story is not of huge importance but with ED it is imperative. The game plays very well but it needs that extra something to keep you playing and make it that bit more special. And Silicon Knights (the developer) have realised this. Everything is perfectly balanced: what you are told and when and what pieces of the puzzle are left to the end. Now that the game has your full attention it can start scaring you with the Sanity meter and there you have it the entire package is perfectly fitted together. No matter how scared you become and how many truly disturbing things you have seen you will still keep on playing. The fact that some of the things that happen are totally unexpected just adds to the feeling that if you keep on playing you’ll discover another twist in the plot.
No game is perfect (not yet anyway) and ED is no exception so now we will deal with the few minor faults. Remember we said that this started life as an N64 game well this still shows. Although on the whole the game looks and sounds superb now and again you see a poor texture or bad piece of animation. This detracts you enjoyment of the game very little and you wont notice most of the glitches. But the bad points are easily swamped by the sea of great achievements. The fact that this is a Nintendo game is very hard to believe but the entire thing is just as good as the more stereotypical Nintendo titles. The developer has done a sterling job and we look forward to playing the other gaming greats that they are no doubt working on as we speak....
A wonderful and slick affair that is helped aling by a great plot make this a title that keeps you interested. The new ideas and innovative little touches always light up the action and you always want to keep on going.
Even though the games N64 past do show through in places this is a solid visual affair. There are some stunning effects, but on the whole average.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this title. The amount of effort that has gone into making the sound work is fantastic. From vioces to sound effects everything is spot on.
Not of a huge length, but enough to keep you going. Once you've discovered the plot you'll want to go back a few more times to discover everything but once thats done you've seen it all, one of the downsides of the games linear approach.
A game that shows a huge leap for Nintendo and one that shows the amazing talent of Silicon Knights. A true labour of love with some of the most orginal and breath-taking ideas to hit the rather stale adventure genre in years. A huge amount of detail on all your surroundings and items you might find allow you to be totally submerged in this near classic.