Review: Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
Posted 12 Dec 2002 at 20:45 by Marco
The Darkness has finally come. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem was first revealed for the Nintendo 64 at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) of 1999. The Canadian developer, Silicon Knights, had been working on the title for about six months before that time so Eternal Darkness was started in the later months of '98. What this reveals is that Eternal Darkness was in the works for three and a half years. And it shows. Although, some of the time was spent on 'porting' the game from the Nintendo 64 to the GameCube it is obvious that the majority of the time was used on making Eternal Darkness one amazing experience. The game is very polished and the flaws are few and far between. The story, which I will reveal as little as possible of, is truly well thought out as are all of the characters, cinematic scenes, FMVs (Full Motion Videos), and especially the camera system.
As long as you don't go into this game expecting Resident Evil calibre graphics then you won't be disappointed. The graphics are actually quite good. Some areas are quite impressive and others are just good, but wherever you are exploring you will be treated to some excellent eye-candy. Character animations are also quite good and all of the characters, major or minor, are all well detailed. I think that some of the minor characters may be constructed of more polygons than the major ones. The running animation seems to be a bit off, but it won't take you out of the game. The enemy animation is also quite good. Heads and arms are chopped off and sometimes the enemies can even be cut in half. The bodies stay on the ground for a limited time until they finally disappear in an actually fairly impressive electrical sort of zap that starts on one side of the body and as it goes across the part of the body it has crossed disappears. It looks better than it sounds.
Silicon Knights paid a lot of attention to detail in Eternal Darkness and it is seen when you are reloading a projectile weapon or even when, after running for a long distance or fighting for long periods, the character grows tired. This sort of detail is seen throughout the game. The camera system is not fixed, but is controlled by the CPU, and can create some very dramatic scenes. At some points you get a limited control of the camera to take the opportunity to appreciate some of the graphical achievement in some environments. Depending on your TV the game may be too dark to make out doors and enemies in some rooms. You can either adjust the brightness through your TV or your game and these problems will be annulled, but then at least one FMV won't look as good as it does when it is darker.
And now we come to the FMVs and in-game cinematic scenes. For those who do not know an FMV is a game movie using custom graphics. A good game for examples of FMVs is Final Fantasy (the ones on the PSX). The FMVs, though there aren't too many (there is one at the start, a couple of short ones during the game and I expect one at the end) are well scripted and, as can be expected, graphically astounding. For those who love cinematic scenes you are going to love this game. There is a huge amount of in-game cinematic scenes. In-game cinematic scenes weren't overly amazing on the N64 due to the static nature (lack of being able to move) of character models. That is not a problem in Eternal Darkness. The faces and facial expressions are extremely well done, as well as the voice acting (the way the lips move when speaking), and the range of movement of the characters isn't limited enough for you to be wanting FMVs instead of in-game cinematics.
One last thing I want to comment on about the graphics is particle effects and fire. Some of the particle effects, seen mostly when using magic are quite nice, whereas some are fairly poor. The fire isn't overly well done and in one place is quite poor, but again not bad enough to put you out of the game.
I know that I have spoken a lot about the graphics, but there is one last thing that I have to say about the graphics and that is, though many places are dark to create mood, and it is done well especially with some nice fog effects, if you have a torch and there aren't any monsters around, use it. There is some excellent architectural eye candy that you will miss otherwise.
Sound was one of the things that I expected to be excellent when I came into the game. There is a surround sound option, but unfortunately I haven't experienced it. The voice-overs are excellently, flawlessly done and I have absolutely no complaints with. The music is also well done and sounds, at times, similar to what you would hear in Resident Evil. Unfortunately, at times, the music can become repetitive and I think it is due because Silicon Knights ran out of space on the disc. Another, sort of let down, was that when you speak to the minor, and more or less insignificant, characters there isn't any speech. I think that that is also a result of the lack of space on the disc.
The sound effects in the game, such as thunder, the crackling of candles, the scrape of your sword across the flesh of an undead creature, are all well done and add to the atmosphere. The moans of some enemies can be bone-chilling at times and I all of a sudden feel safer that I don't have surround sound.
All in all the music won't disappoint.
Solving puzzles and chopping up the undead to stop the darkness. Sounds pretty boring ehh? Well it's anything but boring. Most of the puzzles throughout the game are certainly decipherable, but there are definitely some mind-bogglers thrown in by Silicon Knights. All of the puzzles so far have made sense. The difficulty of a puzzle may also be determined by your willingness to explore and read. There are many times in the game, and I mean many, when the B-button icon appears in the top right corner and says "Examine" and then "Detail" which gives background information on what you are looking at and may later on help you with a puzzle. Magick also plays a big part in puzzle solving.
When it comes to fighting Eternal Darkness doesn't disappoint. The combat system is not only integral for winning, but also makes the game more fun. You can go through the game mindlessly tapping the A-button, but you won't get too far. Finding an enemy's weak spot, which one of the characters can help you with if you do autopsies on enemies with them, and then attacking that weak spot goes a long way to ensuring success. The combat system allows you to either target the head, the arms (one at a time) or torso of an enemy and limbs are often lost. On the weakest type of enemy, if you chop of it's head it will walk around aimlessly swiping at the air or whatever they bump into, including their own kind, while you can watch in amusement and finally get behind them and deal the final blow. Magick plays a HUGE part in combat as you progress through the game. Recovery spells as well as enchanting spells are very necessary and using them or not will decide whether you die or not.
The Sanity meter: promised to be one of the most interesting things in a game to date. It is just that. As you are spotted by enemies you start going insane and as your sanity lowers strange things happen. I will tell you two of the insanity effects. One of them was that the camera starts shaking and, although it is bearable during the first little while, it does start to mess with you. The sanity effects are not limited only to gameplay and do not always directly affect your character and the environment. For example one of the effects was that the word MUTE came up quite convincingly in the top right corner of the screen, and the game was muted for a short period. In hindsight, the insanity effects have been more funny than scary, but I am sure that some will really freak you out, and they definitely have play a welcome part in the game.
I was a bit disappointed in Eternal Darkness for it not being as scary as I thought it would have been. There are definitely a few scary points, but I haven't really been disturbed yet. Without giving anything away though, many unexpected things are sure to turn up in your adventures...
There are three endings to the game, but NOT three paths. Depending on something that you decide near the start of the game, which you will probably figure out when you are there, the cinematic scenes will differ slightly, but the game itself is the same. If you beat the game all three ways, all very similar, you will also get a fourth "super" ending. Although the game may be the same time each time you play it the spells (which you can create many I am told and I have created a couple already) as well as the great game will probably be enough for you to play it three times.
As I have said before there are many in-game cinematics and a couple FMVs and for those of us (like me) who love them you will be glad to hear that there is a cinema option where you can replay pretty much any movie you have seen so far.
Eternal Darkness is a very easy game to get into. The control system has been designed with the gamer in mind - it is very easy to grow accustomed to. Fighting using the lock on function becomes second nature. The B-button is context sensitive and is very similar to the A-button on OoT for the N64. It's use will vary depending on what you are doing. The sneak action is useful and you will find yourself using it quite often. The Quick Spell buttons are a great addition. They really cut down the time you would use to find the spell.
The camera, at first, seems a bit too much like Resident Evil and doesn't seem to give you enough freedom, but that notion will soon be gone. The camera moves, controlled by the CPU, and is quite an advanced system. Depending on the circumstances the camera will follow a different path to give the player the best possible view of their environment at that time. There are very few times that you can't see what is happening, and in those times it doesn't cause too much trouble. Like I said before there may be a problem with the brightness of the game, but that is easily changed.
This game isn't for people who can't stand cinematics because there are lots of them. But for those of us who do, have your popcorn, and maybe a chamber pot, ready before you start playing because you aren't going to want to stop playing to get them and it's so messy to clean up afterwards.
I said earlier that Eternal Darkness may be as short as 15 hours, but this game is truly fun and those who want to see the super ending and see all of the slightly different cinematic scenes are in for at least 45 hours of gameplay (15 hours per time through the game times 3). These same people will also spend hours just watching and watching again the cinema scenes. The difficulty level is also pretty well balanced for this game. You will die in this game, but it's not so often that it puts everybody except for the extra tenacious people off of this title. I think that people will, in about four years from when they first finish the game, come back to it and relive the experience just like we do now with the great N64 games.
The first must-have game for those who are looking for an adventure type game for the GameCube. It may not exactly be an adventure game, but there is enough exploration and puzzle solving for it to feel the void. The only place that this game falters, if it does, is that the GC disc was too small for Silicon Knights to fit everything on it and there are just some small details that add that little bit more to a game. Apart from a few, more or less insignificant, flaws this game shines or rather consumes all light and delivers an epic story and an experience that hasn't been seen yet on the GameCube and one that hasn't ever quite been realised on any other console. Definitely I must have for everybody craving adventure and story and definitely at least a rent for all other GameCube owners.
I cannot wait for Too Human!
N-Europe Final Verdict
One extremely unique and satisfying experience. You won't want to miss it!
Excellent Voice Acting
Repetive music at times
Not for everyone