Eternal Ring marks From Software's first attempt at the first-person action-RPG genre for the PlayStation 2. Like From's other titles, it's being published in the US by Agetec. The game's opening sequence begins with the main character - an adventurer named Cain Morgan - walking through a palace surrounded by water. He notices a glowing object on one of the pedestals and picks up a ring. A dragon immediately swoops down out of the sky, preparing to attack. Cain raises his arms high above his head to ward it off, and the ring blasts the dragon with tremendous force, destroying it utterly. Yes, you're going to want to get more of these rings.
The game itself begins with a narration introducing the character Cain and a background story using a series of pictures that are drawn in a style reminiscent of medieval art. After the narration, you see Cain on a sailboat heading toward an island. Cain and the boatman begin a brief conversation, which you expect to be voiced-over since the narration featured voice, but unfortunately they aren't. Instead you just see characters opening their mouths and moving their lips as the dialogue text scrolls on the bottom of the screen. Despite some lackluster sound effects and the absence of voice-overs, the game's soundtrack does manage to set the appropriate mood and atmosphere for the game.
Eternal Ring runs at a faster frame rate than From Software's previous first-person RPGs (King's Field, King's Field II, and Shadow Tower), which clocked in at 15 to 20 frames per second. In the beginning, your movement is relatively slow, but once you obtain a special object from the first boss, you're able to move faster, and the rate becomes satisfactory.
The graphics in Eternal Ring are a leap from its PlayStation predecessors, but there is still room for improvement. Considering that some of the most recent PS titles (such as Vagrant Story) have been visual marvels, one can't help noticing that the graphics on this PS2 game could've been better. For instance, the faces on many of the characters are very plain. On the other hand, the environments, though not incredibly populated, are really well done. The waterfall inside the caverns and the transitions from daytime to sunset to nightfall really are very impressive looking. The biggest mistake in the game's graphics is the collision detection. When enemies throw projectiles like a stone or even magic spells, your instinct is to hide behind a wall or an object to avoid getting hit. Unfortunately, these projectiles or magic spells go through walls, so you still get hit by them. If you have played From Software's previous first-person RPGs, you'll have an idea as to how Eternal Ring plays - for the most part. The game uses a first-person perspective, and you, as Cain, use a variety of weapons and magic spells to defeat your foes, though more of the latter than the former since the only weapons in this game are swords and you will not come across a whole lot of them. Instead, the game focuses more on the usage of magical spells. While you had a gauge for both weapons and magic spells in King's Field, only magic spells are available in Eternal Ring. The gauge indicates the charge time to cast spells. Magic spells can be obtained by equipping up to ten rings. More than 120 different kinds of spells can be created by producing different combinations of the rings' elemental jewels. Other rings may not provide you with magic spells but instead may enhance your abilities, such as increasing your stats. There are countless combinations for creating rings that have magic spells, and you could spend endless hours trying to complete the entire set. In that sense, there is potential for replay value. The Dual Shock 2 controller features analog buttons, including the D-pad. The default setting in the game has the analog buttons turned off, and the sensitivity is on five (on a scale of one to ten). It's really quite necessary to have the analog button turned on and the sensitivity at one. This makes movements much smoother and faster during gameplay, and you don't have to press the buttons as hard as you do in the default setting. Tapping the attack button during a fight supposedly induces lesser damage compared with pressing the attack button, but the difference was hardly noticeable.
The gameplay has not changed much since the creation of King's Field, and if you are an expert at the game, then the usual routine of strafing around enemies in a circle and slashing enemies as you approach them still works in Eternal Ring. If you have experience with previous From Software titles, you will probably finish the game in ten to 15 hours. As you may expect from this genre developed by From Software, there is a good story integrated into the game, but somehow your character, Cain, lacks personality and the ability to interact with the rest of the characters in the game. For instance, in one case Cain watches a man getting killed by a monster and doesn't react in any way.
Eternal Ring is definitely a leap from its previous title Shadow Tower and is promising what King's Field IV may offer in the future, but it's certainly not the type of game that pleases every player. Avid fans of King's Field and Shadow Tower will likely love Eternal Ring, but others may want to try the game out first.