Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem – Game Review

Similar: Resident Evil

Luigi’s Mansion

Silent Hill

Undying

 

Platforms: GameCube

Genre: Horror Action-Adventure

Length: 15 hours

 

Positives:

  • Creative horror mechanics.
  • Great atmosphere.
  • Varied levels.
  • Impactful audio design.
  • Grand story.

Negatives:

  • Dated menu structure.
  • Slightly cumbersome controls.
  • Final level is repetitive.

Eternal Darkness is the sort of game you should go into knowing as little about it as possible. If a third-person action-puzzle game with some of the most unique, brilliant horror mechanics in gaming sounds appealing to you, then stop reading and go play; if not, then read on.

After Alexandra Roivas hears of an attack on her grandfather, she goes to his mansion to investigate, except, his head has gone missing! The police at a loss for words and leads, Alex investigates for herself around her grandfather’s mansion, an atmospheric, oppressive place seeped in mystery and danger. Alex soon realises her grandfather’s death spans the Roivas family line, centuries into the past, ancient magic at play. More than her life, she must place her sanity on the line.

Eternal Darkness’s setting alternates between the Roivas mansion and various locations in history. After each level, Alex returns to the mansion, opening extra sections of the building. The story unfolds in a similar manner, starting with a large mystery that you uncover piece by piece over the grand adventure. This sense of discovery for both plotting and exploration compelled me to keep playing. I always wanted to know where the story would go next, how everything had changed over time.

As for gameplay, Eternal Darkness is similar to Resident Evil in its use of a semi-fixed camera and slow moving enemies to corner Alex in dark rooms. The controls are much better than those in Resident Evil, though still a little clunky in the aiming department. When attacked by several enemies, targeting the specific enemy or body part you want to hack off can be a pain. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen often – not as punishing as Resident Evil either. You have a choice of melee and ranged weapons and magic spells – enchantments, offense, summons, etc. Magic is your most important tool in combat and can become overpowered in the later stages (more on that later).

Complementing combat, Eternal Darkness throws plenty of puzzles at you. They aren’t difficult, for the most part, but are fun and a couple take deep thought. However, Eternal Darkness’s greatest gameplay mechanic isn’t the puzzles or the combat, but the sanity.

Why Essential?

A solid story, good puzzles, engaging gameplay, and tense atmosphere make for a great game, but not an essential game. Add in the sanity meter, and Eternal Darkness elevates itself above others of its kind.

As you face enemies, Alex loses sanity – finishing blows and magic recover sanity. The lower the meter falls, the more the world changes around Alex, messing with you, the player, in creative ways. The game truly messes with you. Without spoiling anything, it’s difficult to detail exactly what happens, since it’s best to discover for yourself. Horror mechanics has never been so meta.

The magic, however, as alluded to earlier, puts a wrinkle in this mechanic. At a certain point in the story, Alex learns a spell to recover sanity, effectively rendering the game’s greatest mechanic useless. Thankfully, this is easily remedied: don’t use the spell. It’s a lot more fun that way, trust me.

Recommendation: If you still have access to an old CRT television, use it for Eternal Darkness, as it will enhance the sanity mechanic. Still plays great on modern HD sets, either way. Remember not to use the sanity magic for maximum fun.

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