Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (GameCube)
Silicon Knights' GameCube game was originally in development for the Nintendo 64 which is why the graphics look dated in spots despite fixed camera angles. The unique feature of this survival horror game is the sanity meter. When your character faces forsaken creatures, their sanity drops and they may start to see things that aren't real. At the same time the game ups the amount of disturbing sounds the lower your sanity goes. There are about 50 different insanity effects in the game, so there will be plenty of surprising or outright shocking moments during your playthrough. The downside is that this novelty wears thin rather quickly and becomes more of an annoyance on additional playthroughs.
At the beginning of the game Alexandra Roivas gets a call from the police. Her grandfather has been murdered in his mansion in Rhode Island. Since the police is clueless, Alex takes it on herself to solve the murder mystery. Soon she discovers the Tome of Eternal Darkness, a book with plenty of history that spans two millenia. There is a total of twelve characters that you get to play as, each one with different amounts of health, magic and sanity. Characters with low health or low speed make things notably more difficult because at less than half of the health it's not possible to run anymore. This can lead to tricky situations where you have a hard time to get enough distance between yourself and enemies to cast a healing spell. Magic requires spells as well as runes to be found and you build a bigger arsenal as the game goes on.
The combat features both guns and melee weapons, and allows you to target specific parts of the enemies' bodies. Needless to say, a headless enemy is less dangerous because it doesn't see you anymore and flails its arms randomly, so the priorities for attacks are figured out quickly. The only thing that carries over between the individual characters is the Tome of Eternal Darkness with its runes and spells. Items and weapons are unique to each protagonist.
The biggest shortcomings of Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem are too few locations - only four - and pacing issues that occur towards the end of the game. The order of repeats for locations could have been better and chapter 10 and 12 in particular drag on because their main objective is quite a tedious and lengthy task. To add insult to injury, the true ending of the game - which is actually only one cutscene that is a couple of minutes long - requires three full playthroughs with only marginal differences between them. The choice of "your" god that you make with Pius Augustus at the beginning doesn't have significant consequences. Whether you pick Xel'lotath, Ulyaoth or Chattur'gha, the only things that change are the colors of enemies and puzzles, the order in which you obtain the gods' specific runes and one boss fight. It's because of these shortcomings that my consideration between a 6 or 7 for this game gravitated towards the lower score.
|Controls||10||Clunky controls seem to be a staple of the survival horror genre,
but that doesn't mean that developers shouldn't try harder.
|Gameplay||Kill zombies and monsters, discover new magic spells,
solve puzzles and keep your sanity.
|Story||An interesting plot that ties a dozen of individual stories together.
More locations would have been welcome.
|Single-player||The combination of the various gameplay elements motivates,
but the pacing is less than ideal towards the end.
|Graphics||The Nintendo 64 roots are visible. Fire in particular looks
bad. Stable framerate on the plus side.
|Sound||Atmospheric music that gets substituted with disturbing
sounds and effects when your sanity drops.
|Value||Takes about twelve hours to finish. The true ending
requires three playthroughs with different choices.
|Replay Value||The novelty of the sanity meter wears off after the first playthrough.
The uneven pacing makes things tedious.
|Score||6||Eternal Darkness comes with a unique twist on the genre, but
lacks in replayability to make the true ending worth it.