I am a huge Eternal Darkness fan. I have written about it extensively, and it remains one of the most beloved titles in my collection – one I return to and replay frequently. I have an in-depth knowledge and intense admiration for a title that employed a unique storytelling method and remains a memorable and engaging title each time I play it. It was this narrative detail that I appreciated about Eternal Darkness most of all, combined with the rare inclusion of a intelligent and powerful female lead character.
But the announcement of Shadow of the Eternals feels like a direct challenge to me and to those of us that admire Eternal Darkness so highly. As if after all our years of bleating for any sort of followup, we are now challenged to put our money where our mouth is.
Now the day has finally arrived, it’s left me feeling distinctly uncomfortable though.
Eternal Darkness nostalgia as a tool
Any crowd-sourcing attempt to generate funds relies on an element of trust. This is evident in any equivalent Kickstarter project. I’ve been asked frequently upon the announcement of Shadow of the Eternals if I trust Precursor Games with my money. Fans of Eternal Darkness are left to wonder if proof of concepts and videos are enough given the history of the team and the complexity regarding Precursor’s creation.
While I agree the episodic format does suit the narrative structure of Shadow of the Eternals in some way, the project has probably been justified in this way in order to minimise the risk and cost of development, it’s not likely to be about the narrative structure at all, without wishing to be too negative. I’m not thrilled with many examples of episodic game content, but that’s just my personal preference talking.
What I’ve seen of the game so far seems to retread the path of Eternal Darkness homage too carefully. In its demo I recognise moments from Eternal Darkness in a way that almost disappoints. Concepts, sounds and scenes lifted straight from the original game rather than building on the ideas it inspired in any measurable way. Hints of moments that look exciting or promising, brushed away by another detail too close to what I know already.
This repetition contradicts my adoration for Eternal Darkness in some ways. Some people would be content with more of the same with its spiritual successor. I worry that Shadow of the Eternals will rely too heavily on the nostalgic content of Eternal Darkness rather than the potential of how the ideas it inspired could be expanded on further.
Can Shadow of the Eternals really capture what made Eternal Darkness so great?
It wasn’t so much of the psychological horror elements of Eternal Darkness that I really enjoyed (such as the much-lauded sanity effects) it was actually the unique story telling method. The idea of story as legacy, told in relay. It was all about messages and warnings passed through history from character to character. The moments that broke the fourth wall to use the player as the vessel for the narrative were also particularly dazzling.
This is why the premise of Shadow of the Eternals on paper is intriguing, even if it the idea has been a little tainted unintentionally. Interestingly, Nintendo still hold the original IP rights to Eternal Darkness, so it remains to be seen quite how much of the original title’s concepts can realistically be filtered through, and how much will have to be recreated from scratch, I imagine it’ll pan out to be a game laden with a reliance on knowing references, and fit for purpose renaming conventions, but I only have what I’ve seen so far to go on.
This whole idea boils down to brand recognition, by name checking Eternal Darkness, Precursor Games have opened up their title to the intensity of fan fervour, by distancing themselves from their previous employer they alert the attentions of those same devotees who grow quietly suspicious of a good concept soured by a lack of explanation of how this all this came to be. A very tricky combination to conquer.