Before last week, Jonny had probably played the N64 version of ED more than the GameCube version. Now see what he thinks of the final version...completely spoiler-free.
Let’s get this out of the way immediately: Eternal Darkness is the best single-player game available for GameCube. Its quality cannot be overstated. From graphics to sound to gameplay, the whole game comes together in an excellent package that will have you glued to the controller for days on end. It’s worth the very long wait we all endured.
At first glance, ED naturally reminds people of the Resident Evil series. Yes, it’s scary, but the gameplay is actually more akin to Capcom’s other big adventure series...Onimusha. In other words, Eternal Darkness features a lot of close combat, usually with a sword of some kind, and you’re encouraged to kill most or all of the monsters you meet. Otherwise, ED is really unlike anything I’ve ever played; probably the fairest comparison is to the last Silicon Knights game, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. Both are focused on interacting with the enemies and with your environment.
The other major shared trait between Blood Omen and ED is the story. Make no mistake: the Eternal Darkness story is twisted, complex, and extremely satisfying. I really started to get interested in the story about halfway through the game, and it just got better and better from that point on. Now that I’ve beaten the game and started it over again, I can see that the early parts are perfectly woven into everything else...it’s honestly worth playing the game twice just to fully appreciate the story, some of which you won’t understand the first time through.
The control is simply not something you’ll have to think about much. Character movement is natural and smooth, targeting is easy to use, and you have five, count ‘em, five quick spell buttons you can set to anything you like. The camera cooperates with you almost perfectly. In fact, this may be one of the best game cameras I’ve ever used. After a few days with ED, you may never be able to touch Sonic Adventure 2 again. Eternal Darkness’s following view is not only practical, but it also allows for many creative touches that factor into everything from insanity effects to real-time cut-scenes.
At first, ED seems to be only average on the visual spectrum of GameCube software. There are a few brilliant touches, but overall the game isn’t mind-blowingly impressive. This all slowly changes as you get further into the game. Suffice it to say that some of the final areas are drop-dead gorgeous; if this was done with a mere chunk of the Too Human engine, I can’t wait to see that game in action.
The sound quality is far more consistent: it’s awesome throughout the whole game. Even on my TV’s stereo speakers, the music is haunting and beautiful, and the effects range from piss-your-pants screams to realistic reloading and cocking sounds for the game’s myriad firearms. Then there’s the voice acting...I knew it would be superb just like in Blood Omen, but wow. Even the one or two characters who sound just a tad forced, like Karim, are an order of magnitude better than the voice acting in practically any other game. It’s obvious that Silicon Knights went to great lengths and expense to make sure this aspect of the game was truly impressive.
Is this game perfect? Well, no. There are a couple of slightly annoying places (one very near the end of the game) that slow down the game’s pace. Although some of the puzzles do fit in wonderfully with the story, quite a few of them are just as silly and out of place as something you might find in Resident Evil. Why am I placing jugs on the floor to open this secret door? It’s ridiculous and takes away from the game’s overall serious nature.
Still, one or two relatively minor blemishes can’t taint this wickedly excellent game. Eternal Darkness is a must-own game for anyone old enough to purchase it and appreciate the depth of its story and style. It’s a treat even for people like me who usually don’t go for this kind of game. You’ll start playing and just won’t be able to stop for hours at a time. Go let Eternal Darkness take over your life for a few days...you won’t regret it.