Hello all! Last week, we took a look at a criminally overlooked horror title, courtesy of H.P. Lovecraft.
Today’s game is similarly influenced by Lovecraft. It’s a gem you can find only on GameCube.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is a horror game exclusive to GameCube. Taking place over 2000 years, the game technically takes place in 2000 AD. Here, you play as Alexandra Roivas, who is investigating the murder of her grandfather. Discovering the Tome of Eternal Darkness, a book made of skin and bone, she reads from it, reliving a bit of the life of a Roman Centurion named Pious Augustus.
Pious finds one of three artifacts, and whichever one you choose turns Pious into an undead lich and binds him to an Ancient (basically a god). Pious attemts to bring the Ancient into the real world over two millenia, and you relive the lives of several people who have encounters with the Ancients/Pious/both.
It’s an incredibly epic plot. The story takes place in the same locations but different time periods, and hence, different weapons available to the player. And although you see the same places repeatedly, there’s still a wonderful sense of place. Even by today’s standards, the environments in Eternal Darkness still feel detailed and alive.
Particularly the Roivas mansion, which feels lived-in, and there’s always something to find around every corner. There’s some of the most fully-realized environments in gaming right here.
You spend a lot of time exploring, solving puzzles, and you spend a bit of time in combat, too. Combat’s pretty basic; you can target specific limbs of enemies, so you can behead zombies (which doesn’t stop them anyway). There’s also spells, which you perform by combining runes you find in the game. Spells do stuff like heal you and power up your weapons, provided you find all the runes and codices (you pretty much will). They also take time to cast, but you’re rarely overwhelmed by enemies, so it’s not a problem if you plan accordingly.
There’s all this basic survival horror gameplay, and it works great. But the main attraction is the Sanity Meter.
This dude’s Sanity Meter ran out, for example.
The Sanity Meter is the centerpiece of Eternal Darkness; it’s the one thing everybody remembers. Basically, any time you see an enemy, your Sanity Meter drains. A low meter leads to basically every fun moment in the game. Sometimes you’ll walk into a room to find yourself on the ceiling. Other times, you’ll suddenly explode. The game even turns the volume down on you (complete with a VOL- or MUTE icon) and, in one awesome, hilarious joke, abruptly ends, promising you a sequel. Or asks you if you’d like to delete your save files, “deleting” them no matter how you answer. Or, the game will revert to the opening Edgar Allan Poe quote, making you think the game spontaneously restarted.
There’s something like thirty different sanity effects in the game. The “game-breaking” ones always revert after a bit, with your character screaming, “This can’t be happening!” Other effects are minor but no less creepy, such as bleeding walls, statues turning their heads to look at you, or a pleasant mountain painting transforming into a hellish landscape.
In short, the game understands horror. It can be a profoundly scary game, mostly because it spends a lot of time screwing with you, the player. There’s a certain amount of trust players put in games. Especially back in the time of Eternal Darkness’ release, we trusted certain aspects of games, like the environment, the narrative...Eternal Darkness exploits all of this. It breaks the rules, and therefore catches you off guard at nearly every turn.
Also, the game is full of giant nopes-uh, I mean, bugs-like this.
The sanity effects are one of the big reasons I love Eternal Darkness-hell, it’s why everyone loves it. But I also love the fully realized world and plot. It follows twelve playable characters across 2000 years, but you’re never really lost. The Lovecraft influences are strong (the city of Ehn’gha level could easily be ripped from his writings) and the characters are well developed, even though you only follow them for around an hour each.
Eternal Darkness remains one of the most detailed, full games around. It’s got replay value (you need to finish it three times if you want to see the full, real ending), the voice cast is superb, and really, like last week’s game, it’s just one of the best horror titles around. It’s a personal favorite of mine.
Next week’s game is gigantic, epic, and a bit tough to play nowadays. It’s part of a series of “do what you want” open-world games.