User Rating: 9.6 | Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem GC
As the title of the game suggests, Eternal Darkness is a story of the end of the world. Alex Roivas has inherited a mansion from her recently murdered grandfather. She must explore the mansion to discover the reason for his death, which has completely baffled the police. This is not your clichéd haunted mansion plot, though, since the majority of the game is spent in various eras of the past, not inside the mansion. Alex discovers the Tome of Eternal Darkness, and its chapters, written by the various people who have also come in contact with the book, are scattered throughout the house. As Alex finds and reads each chapter, a devious plot by Pious Augustus, a skeletal centurion from the Roman Empire, to summon an Ancient, a banished god bent on world destruction, is slowly revealed. When Alex finally understands what she must do, she determines to stop this Ancient from returning. The story of Eternal Darkness is integral to its gameplay. Each chapter that Alex finds could be considered a new level, in classic terms. As Alex reads the chapter, the player becomes the character in the chapter and controls him or her throughout. The general premise of every chapter is to first find the Tome of Eternal Darkness, which enables the character to use magick, and to solve all of the puzzles to eventually end the chapter. Many characters will meet gruesome deaths, and an unfortunate few will live to tell their story. When the chapter is complete, Alex will have learned all of the magick that the character learned, and sometimes an item from the chapter will be bundled with the page. Alex can use these new spells and items to find the next chapter page. This method of telling the story is one of the best I have ever seen in a game, and it will keep your attention throughout the game. Each character is gifted in different ways. Some will have strong bodies; they can run for long periods of time without having to catch their breath. Some will have strong minds; they can see very disturbing things without going insane for awhile. Some will have strong wills; they can use more magick. The strengths just mentioned are measured by on-screen meters. The health meter drains each time the character is harmed by an enemy. The magick meter drains each time a spell is used; this meter only appears after the character finds the Tome of Eternal Darkness. The third meter is the most unique, and it adds a whole new level to video games–the sanity meter. When the character sees a monster, or when a particularly disturbing event occurs, the sanity meter drops. As the meter gets lower, the character becomes more and more insane. Voices will start crying from the walls, blood will drip from the ceiling, the camera will tilt to a visually uncomfortable position. The sheer variety of sanity effects simply cannot be succinctly described. Some will mess with your mind as the player, others will mess with the mind of the character you are controlling. When the sanity meter is empty, the health meter drains instead, so it is necessary to keep the sanity meter at least a little full. Naturally, monsters roam the tunnels, cathedrals, and various other environments of the game. The weapon selection is very limited for each character, but you’ll find yourself using only one of the weapons anyway. The combat system of Eternal Darkness is unique and fun, though it may get repetitive after awhile if you don’t thoroughly enjoy it. Since the long range weapons, such as guns and pea-shooters, are generally worthless against these monsters, melee weapons will be your best choice. These range from rapiers to axes to double-scimitars. The ability to target specific parts of a monster’s body is what places this combat system far above any other. If you want to quickly destroy a monster, you can first slice off its head so it can’t see you, then take a few stabs at its torso until it falls right off its legs. If you want to have a little fun, you can cut off its arms first so it can’t harm you, then slice its head off for the final blow. Killing monsters has never been so fun. You can only mutilate a body in so many ways, though, so it could get monotonous. One particularly strategic element of the combat system is the finishing touch. When you kill an enemy, its body will squirm on the ground for a few seconds before it disappears. Standing over the body will enable an option to “finish him.” The character will shoot the body or take a nasty stab at its heart to finish it off. The reward for finishing a monster is the regeneration of the sanity meter which the monster originally took away when the character saw it for the first time. If there are too many monsters surrounding you, it may be impossible to finish them all. This will leave your character more delusional, and the sanity effects will eventually get to your head, too. The number of monsters is severely lacking, sad to say. Only six or seven types of monsters exist, although each one has three different variations. The variation you will encounter will depend upon a choice made early in the game between a red, green, or blue Artifact. The red artifact will summon enemies strong in vitality, green will summon mentally disturbing enemies, and blue will summon enemies strong in magick. The magick system could have been much better. It consists of about twenty different spells, most of which only need to be used on obvious occasions, such as dispelling a magick barrier or repairing a broken item. The most useful spell is a healing spell, which can be used on any of the three meters. Spells are learned by first finding runes throughout the chapters, then finding scrolls which describe the spells and which rune combination needed to use it. It’s all very basic stuff. More customization could have made this system extremely unique and fun. Eternal Darkness began as Silicon Knights’ first endeavor on the Nintendo 64, and the graphics reflect that. The character models are more polygonal than what is generally seen, and the environments themselves are not very large. The textures, however, are some of the best on the Gamecube. The design of all the locations is also very artistic, with the passage of time being well portrayed when different characters visit the same area during different eras. The few full motion videos in the game are highly compressed and very grainy, but their cinematic quality is acceptable. If any one area of this game should win some sort of award, it would be the sound. It is simply incredible. As the sanity meter gets lower, the voices inside the character’s head get louder and even more disturbing. The voice-overs are unbelievably well done for a video game, as well. You need to hear this game to believe it. One of the best games of all time is also one of the most detailed. Playing through this game only once does not do it justice. Three play-throughs is rewarded by a special ending. Although it is only a minute-long monologue, it ties the whole story together. The subtle details will eventually reveal themselves to you if you pay attention and think about everything you see and hear. The story of this game is better than most books, and it’s definitely more fun to experience. Who says that video games are a mindless form of pure entertainment? Eternal Darkness is one of the most intellectual games ever made, but it can be enjoyed be even the most simple-minded.