Game Chang­ers: Eter­nal Dark­ness

It helped usher in an age of ma­ture gam­ing on Nin­tendo’s Game­cube and de­liv­ered one of the best twists on sur­vival hor­ror. Join us to cel­e­brate Sil­i­con Knight’s crown­ing achieve­ment

Games TM - - CONTENTS - Devel­oper: Sil­i­con Knights Pub­lisher: Nin­tendo Re­leased: 23 June 2002 Sys­tem: Game­cube

How this un­likely Nin­tendo ex­clu­sive helped to set the bar for a new breed of psy­cho­log­i­cal hor­ror ex­pe­ri­ences that con­tinue to thrive to­day

What Would IT mean to see be­yond the veil of our re­al­ity? To cut through shad­ows and peer into the souls of those that dwell in the dark­ness, just be­yond reach; the malef­i­cent feed­ing on the fragility of hu­man na­ture at the be­hest of an ar­cane force? It’s a tan­ta­lis­ing ques­tion, one that cult-clas­sic Eter­nal Dark­ness: San­ity’s Re­quiem presents to you in its open­ing hours. The jour­ney that fol­lows is an un­re­lent­ing one as you are chal­lenged to sac­ri­fice your own san­ity in search of an an­swer to what these dark forces re­ally want.

Eter­nal Dark­ness carved out its own space in the his­tory of in­ter­ac­tive en­ter­tain­ment when it launched ex­clu­sively for Game­cube in 2002, the re­sult of an un­likely part­ner­ship be­tween Nin­tendo and Sil­i­con Knights. It’s im­pres­sive, par­tic­u­larly when you con­sider that it was once in de­vel­op­ment for the Nin­tendo 64. It looked, for the time at least, as if it were lit­tle more than West­ern-de­vel­oped homage to Res­i­dent Evil – pit­ting an iso­lated pro­tag­o­nist against a derelict man­sion, a claus­tro­pho­bic build­ing with bloody his­tory soaked into its foun­da­tion and a su­per­nat­u­ral force haunt­ing its spa­cious hall­ways. Thank­fully, there was more to Eter­nal Dark­ness than mere homage alone, tran­scend­ing the sur­vival hor­ror moniker to be­come more akin to a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller, eschew­ing Cap­com’s


B-movie plot­ting in favour or some­thing far more com­plex and grip­ping in its ex­e­cu­tion.

Stu­dent alexan­dra Roivas is on the scene to in­ves­ti­gate the grue­some mur­der of her grand­fa­ther, be­com­ing em­broiled in a strug­gle against a pow­er­ful, oth­er­worldly en­tity whose fate is tied to an an­cient text. Through the Tome of Eter­nal dark­ness you pur­sue a force that tran­scends time – un­rav­el­ling this tale across 2,000 years of scat­tered his­tory, in­hab­it­ing the bod­ies of 12 playable char­ac­ters to un­cover how their paths are in­ter­twined with your own. It’s a clever sto­ry­telling me­chanic, whisk­ing the player to four dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions through­out the ages – the de­cay of time as clear to see in each as the hor­rors that haunt them.

It’s here where Sil­i­con Knights seems to ef­fort­lessly build at­mos­phere, cre­at­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence that’s as starkly in­di­vid­ual as it is un­end­ingly un­nerv­ing. It uses each of its lo­ca­tions and char­ac­ters – many of which are or­di­nary folk caught up in some­thing far greater than they are ca­pa­ble of com­pre­hend­ing – to cre­ate an im­pres­sive scope to the ad­ven­ture, sell­ing the con­cept of a hor­ror me­an­der­ing across time and re­al­ity bet­ter than most in the in­dus­try could hope to achieve.

While much of the mo­ment-to-mo­ment ac­tion can re­volve around fairly rote com­bat – push­ing you to hap­haz­ardly hack and slash your way through a cho­rus of the un­dead – Eter­nal Dark­ness more than makes up for its sim­plis­tic me­chan­ics in other ar­eas. In fact, prob­lem solv­ing is a huge part of the game’s struc­ture and han­dled in­tu­itively through­out, which is sur­pris­ing given how so many games of this ilk fall into the trap of near-non­sen­si­cal puz­zle de­sign. In­stead, its puz­zles com­bine ex­cel­lently with the op­pres­sive at­mos­phere that per­vades over the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence, push­ing you to con­stantly ques­tion your in­ac­tion and the de­ci­sions made along the way. a com­plex and ef­fi­cient magic sys­tem, built on a foun­da­tion of colour-coded runes and scrolls, pro­motes ex­per­i­men­ta­tion whilst still feed­ing into the com­ple­tion of var­i­ous chal­lenges and over­com­ing the game’s tough­est en­coun­ters. ap­proach­ing both prob­lem solv­ing and the use of magic re­quires a de­gree of lat­eral think­ing that isn’t usu­ally seen in these types of videogames;

it was a breath of fresh air in 2002, and it’s still sur­pris­ing to see all these years later.

Where Eter­nal Dark­ness truly suc­ceeds, how­ever, is in lever­ag­ing your san­ity as a com­mod­ity – one to be spent by an un­yield­ing force work­ing to quell your in­ves­ti­ga­tion by any means nec­es­sary. The fragility of the hu­man mind and its per­cep­tion of re­al­ity is laid bare as you be­gin to push through the chaos. San­ity is in short sup­ply – a re­source like any other for the char­ac­ters of this story – plum­met­ing as you en­counter en­e­mies, and only slightly re­stored af­ter you over­come one in a mo­ment of fren­zied ac­tion.

It’s here where Sil­i­con Knights es­tab­lished Eter­nal Dark­ness as a leg­end. The game con­stantly feels as if it is con­spir­ing against you, re­flect­ing the mind­set of the char­ac­ters as each teeters on the brink of in­san­ity out across the game world. The cam­era shifts around you, tilt­ing at ob­scure an­gles to throw off your per­cep­tion; screams echo loudly through empty cor­ri­dors and whis­pers wilt your con­fi­dence away in va­cant rooms, bleed­ing walls and hal­lu­ci­na­tions born from the char­ac­ter’s psy­che help to es­tab­lish a tone of near con­stant un­ease. San­ity af­fects so much of the ex­pe­ri­ence, ea­gerly taunt­ing you as more and more of it is stripped away as you push fur­ther through the tales found in the Tome of Eter­nal dark­ness.

The tease of cor­rupted save data, dis­con­nected con­trollers dur­ing in­op­por­tune mo­ments of fren­zied vi­o­lence, or your TV shut­ter­ing off en­tirely, Eter­nal Dark­ness took pride in shat­ter­ing the fourth wall to chal­lenge your psy­che.

Eter­nal Dark­ness failed com­mer­cially, shift­ing less than half a mil­lion copies world­wide, but it im­me­di­ately be­came a crit­i­cal dar­ling. Its clunky com­bat and com­bat­ive con­trols of­ten for­got­ten due to the strength of its at­mos­phere, its unique struc­ture, and play­fully ob­tuse ap­proach to shock and awe. Eter­nal Dark­ness never let you rest, nor did it let you set­tle into a com­fort­able rhythm – Sil­i­con Knights never suc­cumbed to the de­sire to hand the player the tools to sur­vive with­out fear of reprisal. This game is an amaz­ing achieve­ment, one that had a huge im­pact on the sur­vival hor­ror genre, even if its best as­pects ac­com­plish­ments have never been suc­cess­fully recre­ated.

Orig­i­nally planned as a Game­cube launch ti­tle, Eter­nal Dark­ness was de­layed at the last minute af­ter Sil­i­con Knights sought to change the vis­ual de­sign of a key lo­ca­tion fol­low­ing the 11 S e p t e m b e r t e r r o r at­tacks

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