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Eternal Darkness

   
A Lovecraft-inspired tale of the mundane rising up against the magnificent - against a backdrop of horror and intrigue. With a cast of twelve playable characters from throughout time, it pits the complexity the human mind against against those of Gods and demons.
Alex stands on the magic circle at the city of Ehn'gha.

Eternal Darkness was created for the Gamecube by Silicon Knights, continuing their reputation for well-scripted and wonderfully voice acted video games.

An uneasy truce

Eternal Darkness features not one massively overpowered hero, but twelve ordinary people from different time eras and backgrounds, who must come together to struggle against ancient Gods who are foretelling the end of the Human race. Each character is plucked from their respective surroundings and placed within a sequence of mind-altering events developed to give humanity a fighting chance.

“I was once as you were, confused and without answers, yet they came in time.” – Karim

These challenges were created by four ancient beings each wanting to reclaim the world for their own. Eternal Darkness’s story is a convincing tale of the importance of normality, the right to existence and how tenacity can prevail over great evil.

The influence of these four ancient beings means that they have expanded their version of reality into every facet of human existence, epitomizing all that is truly wrong and decadent in the world.

“Without me you are mere flesh and bone. Remember that.” – Chattur’gha

Chattur’gha is the God of brute strength and power. Ulyaoth is concerned with the spirit, corrupting faith and honour. Xel’lotath’s influence effects the mind, and the ability to reason. With each of the three having a weakness to the other, in a precise and balanced circle – there is no clear victor, and a delicate truce exists up until the time humans began to intrude on the ancient’s world.

“How the knowledge changed me, it will also change you.” – Pious

The first chapter of the game introduces Pious, the fallen centurion who will ultimately become the player’s enemy. In relating his tale near the beginning of the game, the player is placed in the unique position of deciding the alignment of the enemy for the final act.

Pious enters a circular room and filled with zombies.

Eternal Darkness rewards repeated playthoughs, which is just as well as it will take three full completions to see an extended ending. However the changes in cutscenes depending on the God chosen, and the different sanity effects do make this worthwhile.

Know your enemy

The influence of Pious’ ancient creeps into every part of life for over two thousand years as the moment of it’s arrival approaches. Our future has been choreographed throughout time and space. Humanity must therefore depend on a few individual’s tiny efforts working delicately through time, in tasks passed from one generation to the next, combating against their machinations of evil.

“Without your sacrifice, the world will fall into Eternal Darkness.” – Chandra

For example Ellia the Cambodian dancer from 1150 AD is destined to a life of sacrifice. Guarding the essence of the enormous God of balance within her tiny, fragile body, as she waits two hundred years for the next fated individual to stumble upon her.

This is the first of what becomes a series of handed-down purposes from one stranger to the next. Each person’s delicate actions increasing humanity’s chances against the demons by a tiny increment.

“The human race will not go quietly into the Darkness. For as long as you have spent summoning your Lord, people have struggled against you.” – Alex

The main part of the game follows Alexandra Roivas as she discovers the dark background to her family history. The Roivas family and the ancient beings are intrinsingly linked, and much of the game narrative follows her beginning to unravel the details of her grandfather’s dark inheritance(1). Each chapter detailing the people who have struggled before her is narrated retrospectively within the annals, of an ancient and mysterious book.

The Tome rests upon Edward's desk.

The layout of the chapters of the game are quite linear, which means there is only ever one way to progress. However there are a handful of optional surprises that can reward the most persistent of treasure hunters.

The Tome of Eternal Darkness

This book is created from the flesh and bones of unknown victims, and becomes the single window into the world of the ancients, translating past events and helping Alex to understand the actions and impacts of each of the previous guardians of light.

“Sometimes the fates of Gods and mortals intertwine and legends are born.” – Edward

On a practical level when the game describes past characters it allows these flashback based characters to understand the arcane arts of magic in order to defend themselves. It also becomes humanities primary source of power, and the tool they need to rebel.

The events of the game are in essence Alex’s interpretations of the people who have struggled against the Gods before her. It is an introduction of what is to come – the knowledge contained within the Tome prepares and trains Alex.

“I realized that I was not the only one. That there was many others like me in other places, other universes. Fighting the same fight.” – Alex

Each chosen character – at some point in their lives – is delivered to a room containing the Tome of Eternal Darkness, they must walk past a line of statues representing each of the chosen that has fallen before them.

As they walk over a carpet of tortured screaming souls and faces. A giant beckoning hand holds the tome aloft, as the realisation of the tragic efforts of everyone that has suffered flashes before them in almost empathic touch.

“Wherever disaster and death lurk, there is likely to be an ancient just beyond our senses – waiting. They pray on our misfortune and exploit it towards their own twisted ends.” – Edward

The characters are only able to attain the tome once their mind has been opened up to the idea of something dark and sinister going on in their world – they are almost entirely oblivious before this.

Pious stands between the three artifacts.

Each God colour relates to their particular strengths, which in turn become another’s weakness. This circular co-existance forms the basis of the gameplay strategy and is worth remembering.

Mind over matter

The Elder’s desire to conquer and destroy life has led to Humanity’s precarious existence for almost two millennia. To combat this Edward has spent much of his adult life using his knowledge as a psychiatrist to examine the ancients plotting through time in order to educate his granddaughter.

“I’m somewhat of an expert on these things myself.” – Edward

Nearly everything in Edward’s mansion has some relevance to the other characters within the game. Highlighting the stepping stone like progress of the human race against their large and malevolent overlords. Such as the painting in the hidden room depicting a column of people buried alive, which remarks on Roberto Bianchi’s chapter (2).

“The ancients influence was incredible. From all walks of life to all parts of the world. Their tendrils crept and wrought their insidious damage.” – Edward

The game is split into twelve chapters, with each one detailing the process of informing and preparing Alex for her confrontation with Pious. Ultimately her role becomes something much larger. Each of the eleven peoples struggles before her are noted and detailed to help her hone the skills she will need to confront the realised ancient. (3)

“The veil of reality can only be pulled back so far mortal, take your stand and fight the darkness.” – Ellia

But there are also dark souls who desire the arrival of the Elders. These are the cult-like humans and bonethieves (4) you will discover throughout the game, making you dubious of the presence of any other humans within the game.

A typical menu screen, utilizing the look of the Tome of Eternal Darkness.

The menu is genuinely useful and easy to navigate, great care has gone into its practical design, which is based on the layout and textures of the Tome of Eternal Darkness.

Normal against the extraordinary

The narrative becomes a test for both the player and the characters that are making a stand. But there is a unique element to this game that emphasizes the difficulty of the chosen in completing this task.

Sanity effects catalogue the depth of reluctance this very ordinary person has in wanting to peel back their normal existence. Characters who are exposed to more of the ancients horror begin to break down seeing visions, imagining terrible things happening to them and building up a sense of dread.

“The fools cast away their hopes of salvation by casting me in this damned asylum.” – Maxamillion

As the player continues, and the character becomes more uncomfortable the camera angle begins to distort, lying at an angle to perpetuate the discomfort of the character at that time, blood will begin to gently seep down the player’s screen, and the normal earthly sounds of the level are replaced by something surreal and horrific. (5)

“His implication about the Ancient’s involvement with the war was hideous and so obvious.” – Edward

When their minds are suitably prepared for the idea of this other world, the tome starts to bear down on the thoughts of the characters, giving them a glimpse into the ancient world. There are numerous moments where the player becomes embroiled in the world Pious’ ancient remains in. The trapper (6) for example is a blind creature whose only attack is to capture the player in a beam that transports them into another dimension, a sort of purgatory where you remain in stasis, until you manage to escape.

“Of one thing I am certain, after a brush with the ancients our dreams metamorphasize into nightmares.” – Edward

Then as the game progresses you are able to better comprehend the power that Pious has wielded through the rest of the game, the cast of characters begin to collectively become a tiny threat to him.

Ellia stands partially lit by some candles.

The combat system provides you with a genuinely useful targeting system that can be easily picked up. Spell casting is imaginative and allows you to create spells a bit ahead of time (knowledge of the runes permitting) in order to improve your playthrough.

The fourth elder

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the moment of man has been observed and studied by the ancient race for many millenea. They seem to be keenly aware of the individuals that have the disposition to stumble upon them.

“From my research it is apparent that the endeavors of mankind are mere puppetry at the hands of the ancients.” – Edward.

The Tome passes on the knowledge gained through all previous players to the most recent adding their spirit to the next victim. But the Tome is the creation of a fourth corpse God, whose desire for vengeance over the smaller, weaker elders led to creation of the tome. This book of secrets provided knowledge and guidance needed to remove three Gods at the risk of opening the world to the possibility of a larger and worse one. (7)

“Evil is merely a perspective that no longer concerns me Luther” – Pious.

After nearly every chapter, with a sense of growing urgency a cut scene will reveal the progress of the planetary alignment needed for Pious’s ancient to return. It is a stark reminder that although Alex’s studies are of the ancient past, the threat that lurks over her and the rest of humanity is a very real and immediate threat that is looming closer.

“The darkness shall prevail.” – Pious

The ancients have waited behind the scenes of every great human conflict and event, feeding almost literally on the decay and despair that surrounds each of these wars and catastrophes, and yet somehow a small group have banded together, without really understanding why, or how they are able to do so.

Footnotes

(1) Alex’s grandfather, Edward knew that his murder was simply a matter of time and prepared his mansion in order to educate her in the dark purpose his family is vested in. Back to text

(2) This is a continuing theme. Ellia’s chapter is shown by the candles in the study, Michael’s by light puzzle in the library, and of course Pious is the Gladius hanging on the study wall. Back to text

(3) Each flashback chapter unlocks another part of the mansion by a new technique being learned. A reveal invisible spell shows the hidden basement door – learnt from Maximillian’s chapter Back to text

(4) A small skeleton-like demon which hides within the body of a human, reanimating it’s corpse in order to monitor other, normal humans. Will burst out of the body to attack when provoked. Back to text

(5) There are other worse sanity effects that are genuinely quite creepy or shocking, but they are much too fun to spoil any further. Back to text

(6) A small, blind three-legged creature, whose attack is rather bee like. After transporting you to the trapper dimension they fall down dead. Back to text

(7) This is later confirmed by the ultimate ending for the game which you will see by completing it three times over. Back to text

My twitter icon - currently Gum from Jet Jet Radio Future. This examination of Eternal Darkness was written by Michelle. If you enjoyed this article you may want to read about other games you might like. Don't forget to subscribe to my RSS feed or get updates by email so you can hear about my next game update.

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