Monday, 16 February 2015

Beings from before time, and their human playthings

Greetings, Dreamers!

This week I've got a game that might be a bit difficult to access, but still well worth the effort.

Let's talk about

Eternal Darkness is a game created by former studio Silicon Knights, released for GameCube in 2002. It is an action game with some survival horror elements.

It follows the story of heroine Alex Roivas, who travels to Rhode Island after receiving that her grandfather who owned a mansion there had been murdered.

After exploring the mansion she finds herself in possession of a very peculiar book, the Tome of Eternal Darkness, detailing the story of several others that had become involved in the schemes of ancient beings, and how this affected their lives.

The game is subdivided into chapters, where each chapter tells the tale of one person throughout history. The first is a Roman centurion, a man who, accidentally or not, releases one of three elder gods into the world, and becomes their lich. He plays the part of the main antagonist, and it is through the actions he takes while you play as him that the rest of the game takes shape.

At the end of his chapter, you can choose between three different deities, Ulyaoth the ancient of Magick, Chattur'gha the ancient of strength; or Xel'lotath the ancient of mind.

At this point, the game becomes a back and forth between "reading" the book as Alex (where you play as other characters) and exploring the mansion to find more pages of the book, allowing you to read another chapter and progress through the story.

What's interesting is that each chapter is not in strict chronological order. One chapter you'll be playing a slave around 1100 AD, then the next you'll be playing a page in 814 AD.

You even get to play a badass archaeologist
Gameplay is one part survival horror, two parts puzzle solving and one part exploration. With tank controls (which can be a pain to deal with, particularly in rooms full of enemies), hidden stamina meters and combat slightly reminiscent of 3D Zelda targeting, the strong card of this game is the Sanity Meter.

As characters see enemies for the first time, the Sanity Meter drops slightly. It will recover by performing finishing moves on downed enemies, but should the player not do that, as the meter drains more and more, peculiar effects start happening. It starts with the camera tilting increasingly as the Sanity Meter drops, and at a certain threshold the game starts drawing from a wide variety of "Sanity Effects", such as exploding when trying to use magick (followed by a flash of light and the character yelling "This can't be happening", and a reset of the current room), enemies that disappear after a single hit and even the room being upside-down upon entering.

What's fascinating is that the Sanity Effects aren't just limited to things happening to the character. The game also begins toying with the player, showing empty inventories on menu screens, "Deleting" all content on the memory card (it never does, it just says it does), and my two personal favourites, a blue screen of death and a fake ending screen that reads "Please buy the sequel: Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Redemption!", amongst MANY, MANY more effects.

Truly, the only way to play this game is with a low Sanity, if anything for the hilarity some of those effects provide.

While the company that created this is shrouded in controversy, and the kickstarter-funded spiritual sequel failed to reach its goal, the truth is that this game will most likely remain a standalone story, and that is good.

If you can find a way to play it, I highly recommend you do so. Its story influenced heavily by the works of H. P. Lovecraft, along with its Sanity mechanic, make it a game well worth experiencing.

It is a cosmic horror story, and as such there are some gruesome elements, implied violence, enemies designed to be uncanny and nightmarish, as well as many morbid moments. Discretion is advised.

 I hope you find this game as enjoyable and intriguing as I did!

Oh, and if you play? Make sure to go through the game three times, once with each Ancient. There might be something at the end for your troubles.

Hope you have a fantastic week, and keep on dreaming!


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