Games like this make the GameCube a wonderful system. Since the N64, Nintendo has delivered sleeper hits alongside the in-house favorites. This game is not only surprisingly good, but it also managed to deliver some new ideas to the video gaming world. Games like this make video games worthwhile. It reassures players that not all games are the same, and it’s good to know that there are surprises once in awhile. Nintendo took a chance with a game like this, and it worked wonderfully.
Eternal Darkness competes on every level a video game has, graphics are not an exception. The human models are smooth, and their movements are life-like. The monsters and creatures look and move realistically too. All the characters in the game are detailed, even historically (just look at the Roman Empire clothing when you start the game), to resemble their real life counterparts. You don’t see this often in video games (as it happens sometimes in movies too) because historical detail is not that important in many cases. The graphical prowess doesn’t stop there.
Environments are rich. Though there are no open areas, the places you play in help you get more involved in the game. You feel that you are in an ancient temple. You feel you are in an old church. The mansion is a great achievement in design. It actually looks like a mansion from Rhode Island, and it is eerie without being absurd. Each new level amazes you once again. When you thought you saw the best the game had to offer, Eternal Darkness surprises you again, especially if you can make it to the last levels.
Solid lighting and particle effects are a must in this type of game. They are essential to the paranormal and suspense effects. Windows shattered, fire, vases broken, ghosts and the like that you find throughout the game are done with the same quality as the rest of the graphics.
The experience doesn’t stop in the graphics department. The sound is one of the best we’ll see on the GameCube, and highly competitive compared to other systems. All the sounds make the experience much more realistic. Sound always plays a big part in suspense movies or games. It helps add to or relieve the tension and the mood in certain situations. You can always hear weird sounds coming out of unknown places, and that’s the idea, it is a “haunted mansion.” When you fight, the sounds of the swords clashing, the guns shooting, and the sounds of flesh being attacked are engaging. Again, they help you believe in the world created for the game. There’s nothing like performing a finishing move on a zombie and hearing its flesh being cut, and there’s nothing scarier than hearing the unseen monster that lurks around the next corner. Eternal Darkness is truly an incredible visual and audible experience.
Before you play the game you don’t really expect for it to have such a responsive control scheme and addicting gameplay. It’s no arcade game but it’s very fun to play. Just fighting is fun. The idea of targeting certain body parts is clever and it’s pulled off nicely. You can target the body, head or extremities (arms). Cutting off the head of a zombie will obviously blind him, so it gives a little strategy too because you can choose to cut off an arm or both to prevent him from attacking you. Plus, some enemies need to be hit in certain areas to kill them.
As mentioned before, the movement of the characters is smooth and life-like. Luckily, they “feel” smooth and life-like. You have complete control over the character and you feel the smoothness of movements. Since there are many different playable characters there are different characteristics to each one. Some are slower and less agile and you’ll feel this difference when controlling them. There’s a button for running, but running will make the character get tired and start breathing heavily until he/she can only walk, and some characters get tired faster than others. That’s the type of attention to detail that can be enjoyed throughout the game.
The fun doesn’t stop there, not only are the melee and ranged weapons fun to use, you also get to use “Magik” (spells). The Magik system works by combining runes that have a specific effect to produce a spell. There are different alignment colors: green, blue and red (well, there’s another one?). Also, there are different “powers” for each spell, the three point power being the smallest. Some spells come in scrolls, but others can be found when you acquire different runes. Mostly, you combine two runes to give a certain effect and the third usually is the one that adds power to the spell. So, as you can see, it’s fun to play with the alignments and runes to find powerful spells, and alignments play an intricate part of the strategy in the game. Take heed though, because spells take time to take effect. Every time you summon one, each rune appears on the ground and are called one by one through a coarse alien voice which gives a very cool effect, and again, it affects strategy. Advice: time your spells.
The runes, weapons, spells and alignments are fun to use, but they also serve as a catalyst for future replays of the game (it is fun going through the game more than once, changing alignment.) At the beginning of the game you get to choose your alignment. There are three possible alignments, and finishing the game in all three will give you some rewards (look in a walkthrough or better yet, find out for yourself.) One good thing (or bad, whatever your feelings are) is that you don’t need to perform any acrobatics, it all comes down to exploring and finding artifacts to keep going and fighting using either weapons or spells. So you don’t need to worry about doing the jump right.
The exploring part of the game is actually fun, think Myst, The Longest Journey or any exploration game for that matter. The “B” button (red) is the one you use to talk, take, play and other actions. Its function changes with the situation you’re in so be aware of your surroundings. You will have almost the same fun exploring as fighting and using spells.
This is another department where the game shines like crazy. You’ve probably already heard of the Insanity meter, and believe me, it’s way more fun to have it full (it’s not a good strategy but try it). I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll just say this: Be careful with your surrounding when the meter is full; you WILL be surprised more than once and don’t let anyone tell you what it is, just play the game.
There may not be anything original about having many playable characters in the game, but the way they are linked in the story is rather interesting. As with everything else in the game, the storyline is full of surprises and all the characters are involved, although it doesn’t always seem that way. Maybe you have heard of the resemblance to H.P. Lovecraft novels, and that’s exactly how to describe it so it isn’t completely original but if you’re going to copy, copy from the best. It’s not a copy anyway, but more of an homage to H.P. Lovecraft stories.
All the cutscenes are incredible and do their job of telling the story very effectively and also set the tone for the game. Because the story unfolds every time you discover something new or use a new character.
There are many details that are very worthy of mentioning, but it could spoil the experience, especially the first experience. It’s better to start playing this game knowing short to nothing about it. So instead of spoiling it, this review serves the true purpose of a video game review: to give the potential player an idea of how good the game is in its different parts and as a whole. It’s safe to say that Eternal Darkness is going to go down as one of the top five GameCube games the system had, and one of the best all time. Do yourself a favor and try it. Feel the experience.