These have been a long time coming.
Before today I hadn’t played GameCube at all since E3 (some of my stuff, including the AC adaptor, got stolen during the plane trip), but I just finished playing Eternal Darkness for about six hours, with just a couple of breaks for food and laundry. The game is captivating, to say the least.
My first thought upon taking control of Alex Roivas is that the game, despite its every intention and everything I academically know about it, feels a lot like Resident Evil. The control is of course a hundred times better, but especially early in the game, there are a lot of similarities. The puzzles are very much RE-style (I almost cried upon discovering the Pump Handle...ugh.) and combat is even reminiscent of Capcom’s series. The biggest difference is story; RE’s plots are always so convoluted and poorly told, I’ve never been able to get interested. ED practically forces you to get into the story, because the game IS the story. And that’s okay, because the story is really good. I’ve seen it fall into cliche once or twice, but for the most part the writing is sharp and the actors believable.
A few more hours into the game, I started to see ED pull farther away from its pedigree and come into its own game design style. Truth be told, ED is a far more linear game than RE and most other adventures. There are some good opportunities for exploration in the Roivas mansion, but most of the other environments have just a single path from start to finish, with perhaps one or two minor diversions. I feel like I’m being strung along through the game...I control the pace (usually), but that’s about it, and I’m still not sure whether I like that aspect of Eternal Darkness. The game has things, people, and places it wants to show you, there’s no doubt about that. How well you deal with the linearity is heavily dependent on how well you can accept and appreciate what the game is feeding you.
Hmm...I’m not sure what else to put here. The magic and insanity stuff is off-limits of course, although I will say that I've been very impressed and entertained with both of those features. Otherwise, I think I’ve written so much about this game that all the basics, like combat and control, should be covered already.
So about six hours into Eternal Darkness, here are my summarized impressions: I’m intrigued, and I can’t stop playing. It’s more intelligent than visceral, which is a weird way for a video game to be. But hey, we always knew ED would be unique. ;-) I have some doubts and fears about the game that aren’t going to be answered until I get farther and experience more, but so far my opinion of the game is exceedingly positive. It’s definitely one of the best GameCube titles I’ve played; whether it rises even higher into all-time accolades just remains to be seen.