Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem was released in 2002 on Nintendo GameCube. The development company Silicon Knights 1 promised psychological horror, a Lovecraftian plot, a blurring of the line between fantasy and reality, and ideas never seen before in a video game. It was originally set to be released on 24 October, one week before Samhain; however, it later got delayed to 1 November. Upon its release, the game had a mixed critical reception - while some magazines praised it extremely highly, others said it was merely a pale imitation of the Resident Evil games. Some American magazines and websites actually said it was bad, citing a poor control system 2 as the main flaw; however, many British magazines said the system was excellent. The public opinion was similarly mixed, though people who like it regret the fact that it did not sell better. Whatever one's opinion, Eternal Darkness does contain a number of original ideas, a few of which have recently been copied for other games. For one thing, the lip-synching is done for each character's own language, rather than the English the player hears; this gives the game the impression of being dubbed. Pious Augustus, being a centurion, actually does speak Latin.
Eternal Darkness is the first of two games developed exclusively for GameCube by video game company Silicon Knights. The other is a remake of the classic stealth game Metal Gear Solid. This game, called MGS: Twin Snakes features a few references to Eternal Darkness, such as posters on the wall and Alex in a girlie magazine (oo-er!) which can be used to distract guards.
Deep into that darkness peering,
Long I stood there, wondering, fearing,
Doubting, and dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before"- Edgar Allan Poe.
This is the quote that greets the player when they first switch on the game. From then on, it is a heady mixture of Ancients, degenerate cults, blasphemous tomes, and heroes who gradually descend into insanity, as one might expect to find in a story by HP Lovecraft. The story begins with Ms Alexandra Roivas, last member of the Roivas family, having a nightmare in which she encounters the ghost of her grandfather. She is awakened at 3.33am by a call from Inspector Legrasse 3 of the Rhode Island Police, who need her to come to the family estate to identify the body of her grandfather. The police turn out to be rather incompetent, and so Alex decides to unravel the mystery on her own.
What she discovers is that the murder can be traced back to an undead centurion, Pious Augustus, who, while leading an advance of the Roman army into Persia, became possessed by the Essence of one of three Ancients, almighty beings who ruled Earth before the last Ice Age. The player actually has a choice in which one it is, and that choice has an effect on the FMV 4 they see, which magick spells they can cast, and which monsters they fight.
After this, the player plays as various characters from different periods of history, incorporating many real-world events such as the Roman Empire, the Reign of Charlemagne, the Spanish Inquisition, World War I, and the Gulf War 5. Unusually for a game, the good characters tend to end up dead or defeated despite noble intentions, with all of them ending up insane, dead, or both.
The Tome of Eternal Darkness
This ancient and blasphemous book lurks at the centre of the game. It is made from human skin and bone, and is 'wrought together with the oddest magickal[sic] incantation,' according to Edward Roivas. Obviously based on the Necronomicon, the Tome contains the experiences of al those who have fought the Ancients, as well as magickal lore and autopsy notes compiled by Maximillian Roivas. For the most part, each character gains some knowledge of what happened to the previous characters upon finding the book. Alex, however, must search for individual chapters which Edward has scattered around the family house. As Alex reads it, she gradually goes insane.
Ancients and magick
'A devil who had unity would be a God' - Aleister Crowley
There are four Ancients: Chattur'gha, which represents the power of physical force, Ulyaoth, which represents the power of magick, Xel'lototh, which represents the power of the min, and Mantorok, which represents chaos. The Ancients are inspired by Lovecraft's Great Old One and Elder Gods, and Mantorok in particular bears certain resemblences to Cthulhu. According to the story, Mantorok imprisoned the other Ancients in a realm beyond the Universe so that It could live as a god in Cambodia; however, when Pious Augustus unwittingly reawakens the other three, Mantorok is entombed in a temple that was once its greatest monument.
magick is derived from the Ancients, whose power operates on a rock-paper-scissors system; Ulyaoth is more powerful than Chattur'gha is more powerful than Xel'lototh is more powerful than Ulyaoth. Mantorok's magick is neutral, but since Mantorok is imprisoned, its magick cannot be used for summoning.
Magick in Eternal Darkness is based on a system of runes and circles. In order to cast a spell, the player first selects an alignment rune, representing one of the Ancients. This determines its effectiveness against different spells; for example, an Ulyaoth 'dispel magick' spell will dispel a Xel'lototh magickal barrier. The player then selects two other runes, one of which functions as a verb and the other as a noun; for example, combining 'nethlek,' dispel, with 'redgormer,' area, produces a magickal attack. The runes are then fitted onto a 'circle of power,' which may have three, five, or seven slots. Only three slots are required to cast a spell; into the remaining ones may be placed 'pargon,' power runes, which increase the effectiveness of a spell (and allow the 'summon creature' spell to summon more powerful demons). The player will find scrolls of spells when they need to know them but it is also possible to experiment with various combinations and generate spells yourself.
Before any magick can be cast, each must first find the Tome of Eternal Darkness. Then the runes must be found, though the Tome automatically grants use on runes other characters have already found. Runes are typically recovered from the bodies of dead monsters. It is also a good idea to get the codex for each rune, which takes to form of a stone which translates it. The codex is not necessary, but without it, the player will have to guess what the rune does.
Sanity and Monsters
'The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the mind to correlate all its contents' - HP Lovecraft
Sanity plays a major theme in Eternal Darkness . It is primarily lost by encountering monsters, though killing non-possessed humans and casting some spells also drain sanity. Sanity may be regained by performing a 'finishing move' on a recently dead enemy. The finishing move convinces the character that the monster is dead. As sanity gets lower, the character will hallucinate more. This does not actually change the game much, but is the main source of the horror. When sanity falls to zero, the character will lose health instead. Many insanity effects are aimed directly at the player; for example, phoney crashes, or a false deletion of all save games. Other effects include bleeding walls, knocking on doors, and flies crawling around the inside of the television screen. Sometimes, it is difficult to tell what is an insanity effect and what is not; for example, when the display turns monochrome and Maximillian kills a horror to get a rune. The display then snaps back to Maximillian before entering the room, but he still has the rune...
The game features a selection of very weird, gory, and anatomically impossible monsters. There is one form of each, corresponding to each Ancient. The monsters hate each other more than the character, and so if the player ever encounters monsters of two different colours in one room, it is often safe to leave them until one is dead. The rock-paper-scissors style relationship of the Ancients also applies to their minions.
- Zombie: Slow, lumbering, and stupid, the zombie is the most varied monster. Mantorok zombies are very weak and flammable, but require more loss of limbs than Ulyaoth and Xel'lototh versions. Chattur'gha zombies are incredibly strong, and the loss of a head will only make them more aggressive. They can also regrow heads and limbs if they are cut off. Ulyaoth zombies can self-destruct if the head is not cut off. If a Xel'lototh zombie loses a head or limb, it will regrow in a ghostly form that causes even greater insanity.
- Trapper: This small, scorpion-like creature will not attack, but will instead teleport the character to another dimension full of zombies and horrors where magick cannot be used, though any spells which were still in effect upon entry to this dimension will not be cancelled. It can be escaped by simple use of teleporters, and has runes in place for restoration of sanity, magick, and health. Though blind, trappers have excellent hearing.
- Horror: A huge, lumbering beast with three heads/eyes/mouths, which are its weak points. The eyes are ringed with teeth, ad there are few internal organs. Can discharge electricity.
- Guardian: Though the different guardians vary a lot in appearance, they are actually almost the exact same. They teleport around, summon zombies, and let loose magickal attacks. They have no weak spots. A double-barrelled shotgun is particularly effective against them.
- Gatekeepers: Skeletal winged serpents, whose wings form an extremely tough carapace capable of deflecting any and all attacks. Vulnerable in the chest area, which is only exposed when they attack. Instead of attacking normally, they will attempt to summon horrors or zombies. When a gatekeeper is present, there is a dense fog of its colour covering the room.
- Bonethief: Small, vaguely humanoid demon with scythe-like claws for hands. Capable of jumping high and of possessing human hosts. There is no sanity penalty for killing a possessed human. The weak point of the Ulyaoth and Chattur'gha bonethieves is the head; the Xel'lototh bonethief has no head. Swords are more effective than guns at combating bonethieves.
Fortunately, the characters are quite well-armed. Each has historically and geographically-accurate weapons (as well as clothing and background music). As time advances, new weapons become available, as older technologies become obsolete. Weapons include Roman gladia, medieval scramasaxes, tulwars, rapiers, fire-axes, blowpipes, crossbows, pistols, rifles, shotguns, and OICW assault rifles. Each of these may be found in musea, with the exception of those used towards the end of the game, which are used by firemen and NATO respectively.
Characters and Locations
'Do you know what your 'heroes,' your 'martyrs,' and your 'men of character' are? Creatures of vanity, nothing more' - Julius Evola.
Eternal Darkness is perhaps unique as a video game in that its characters are generally not warriors - the greatest number all of them are scholars of some description. Pious Augustus is the only definite warrior, while Ellia and Anthony were the ancient version of civilians who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. None of the characters are famous, either in reality or in fiction. Nor do they acquire great fame or drama in their lives; they are just ordinary people trying their best to survive in a world not gone mad, but which has been secretly insane for millennia.
- Alexandra Roivas, 2000AD: A final-year college student, investigating the murder of her grandfather, Edward.
- Pious Augustus, 26BC: A Roman Centurion, leading the Empire's expedition into Persia and searching for an artefact for the Emperor. Becomes possessed by the Essence of an Ancient, and attempts to bring It into this world.
- Ellia, 1014AD: A Cambodian belly dancer, who gets lost in a tomb and discovers Pious and Mantorok. An undead being gave her the Heart of Mantorok, a lethally powerful item which she must protect from Pious at all costs.
- Anthony, 432AD: French peasant who discovers an attempt on the life of Emperor Charlemagne. Unsuccessfully attempts to warn him.
- Karim, 560AD: Persian noble searching for a mysterious artefact in order to win the favour and the hand in marriage of a Princess Chandra. They later become guardians of the temple where it is housed.
- Dr Maximillian Roivas, 1760AD: A recently-bereaved surgeon whose health is declining, and whose children think the same of his sanity. Believes his servants are up to no good. His father, Aaron, knew something of the Ancients and their plans.
- Dr Edwin Lindsey, 1983AD: An archaeologist who, though use of satellite radar imaging, discovers an unknown temple in Cambodia. When he reaches it, he faces a desperate struggle to get to the treasure before his sponsor, Paul Augustine. What he finds is most disturbing.
- Paul Luther, 1460AD: A Franciscan monk of the Inquisition, wrongly accused of murder while on a pilgrimage to see the sacred relic, the Hand of Jude (which actually does not exist, either in the game or in real life). Discovers a coven of evil inside a cathedral instead.
- Roberto Bianci, 1483AD: Renaissance architect, captured by a Persian warlord and ordered to design a temple to his (the warlord's) greatness. Encounters Karim's ghost.
- Peter Jacob, 1916AD: Journalist close to the front lines of the Battle of the Somme, stationed in Oublié Cathedral, now a field hospital, which he discovers is not the holy place he though it to be while investigating wounded soldiers' reports of strange noises.
- Dr Edward Roivas, 1952AD: Psychiatrist investigating his family's 'sordid, bizarre past.' Alex's grandfather.
- Michael Edwards, 1991AD: Canadian industrial firefighter, sent in to stop the oil field fires which Saddam Hussein lights at the end of Gulf War I. A malfunction in his equipment leads him to a buried temple.
Eternal Darkness takes place in four different locations, with different characters exploring each. As the game progresses, each area changes, becoming more built up or run down as time passes. New doors, rooms, and passages are built, and others collapse. Electricity is introduced in some places.
- Roivas Family Estate, Rhode Island, USA: The stately mansions where the Roivas family has lived since settling in America, built atop a great staircase to the underground city of En'gha. This city was destroyed by the Ancients, and is now a colony for their slaves and monsters.
- Forbidden City, Persia/Iran: Actually a temple, it was originally a shrine to the Ancients, it is expanded greatly over the centuries, partly as a result of the engineering skills of Roberto. However, as it becomes larger, the inner rooms and chambers become dilapidated.
- City Temple, Ankor Thom Region, Cambodia: Built by the ancient Khmer people, functioned first as a monument and later tomb to the corpse god Mantorok, who functioned as fertility god to the Khmer.
- Oublié Cathedral, Amiens, France: A hotbed of heresy, corruption, and devil-worship. Purported resting place of the nonexistent relic, the Hand of Jude, which is in reality a devise used to lure victims in for a sacrifice. 6
Alone in the Dark Series on various consoles. The first horror game. Initially a detective style game which gets very weird very quickly, and leaves the player and the main character just desperate to escape.
Resident Evil Series - All available on GameCube, various games available on PlayStation, Playstation2, Dreamcast, and Nintendo64. Scary in a different way, zombies jumping out rather than weird stuff happening. Seem to be inspired by George Romero's Night of the Living Dead movies. At the time of writing, two new games are in development: Resident Evil 4 on GameCube and the online Resident Evil Outbreak on PlayStation2.
Silent Hill Series on PlayStation and Playstation2. Follow somewhat similar plots - ie, character gets transported from the real world to a freaky place. Requires solving of riddles, and features some very freaky monsters. Has some similarities to Eternal Darkness
Clock Tower on PlayStation and PlayStation2. Similar to Resident Evil but has a schoolgirl for a character instead of cops for a playable character. The third game had a 'panic meter,' which is very similar to the sanity meter.
Project Zero on PlayStation2. Based on an allegedly true story. The only weapon the character has is a camera that can stun or trap ghosts.
That is the game. While there many who love it, there is also a small minority who hate it. It is advisable to rent or borrow it before buying.
- Age Rating: 15
- Formats: Nintendo GameCube.
- Developer: Silicon Knights
- Publisher: Nintendo