Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem was one of the first must play titles on Gamecube (behind Smash Bros.). Released on June 24, 2002, we were treated to a beautifully scripted third person action/adventure/horror game. Developed by the now troubled Silicon Knights (of Blood Omen fame) and published by Nintendo, Eternal Darkness told the story of Alexandra Roivas and her family across centuries.
Alex goes to her grandfathers mansion to investigate his death. Quickly you find a hidden room with a book, The Tome of Eternal Darkness, bound in human skin and bone. Reading this transports you to Pious Augustus, a Roman centurion in 26 BC. During a battle he falls in a hole, leading him to an underground temple. Beckoned by a mysterious voice, he’s brought to an altar where there are three mysterious artifacts. The player chooses one, transforming him into a Liche, slave of one of three demonic gods hellbent on returning to earth. The story continues with Alex finding more pages, each showing a different scene with one of 10 characters from over the last 2000 years. Each do their part to hinder, or unknowingly assist, Augustus in his quest. An interesting note, the player picks which god Augustus aligns himself with, determining which enemy types you face in the game (deal’s more damage, drains magic, etc.).
The story is well told and written, but what set this game appart is the sanity meter. Each character has three bars, one for health, magic, and sanity. Sanity is damaged when confronting the typical zombie like enemies. Sanity can be restored by performing finishing moves, finding a healing location, etc. As your sanity lowers, the game became more difficult to play, but not in a frustrating way. Your character would hallucinate; the camera would skew, floorboards creak, women and children screaming, blades sharpening. These became near constant and louder as the meter dropped. A character would walk into a room and be instantly decapitated. The screen would flash, returning to normal. Alex walked into the bathroom to see her body in the tub after committing suicide. Upon opening your item menu, you’d find all your supplies gone, only for the screen to flash and the items returned.
Many of these effects were interesting and creepy, adding to the atmosphere of the game. What really drove the point home were the 4th wall breaking effects. The volume would drop as a meter would appear on the television showing it being turned down. The screen turns black, as if the TV shut off. When attempting to save the game would offer you only the choice to delete all saved data. Upon selecting no, they are ‘deleted’ regardless. A funny one is a blue screen of death (read the info in the image below for a good laugh). One of my personal favorites is after a particularly difficult boss battle two-third’s through the game. If you vanquish the foe with low sanity, upon its defeat, an advertisement flashes up saying “To be Continued… The War Against the Darkness rages on in Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Redemption Coming Soon…” The list goes on. Someone painstakingly collected them all here. If you have the time to kill, it’s worth a watch.
Sadly, this was one of the last good games released by the once prolific developer. According to lead Designer Dennis Dyack, they did want to make a sequel (though the original was thankfully designed to be stand alone). Silicon Knights has had legal trouble with Epic Games over a license and now it doesn’t seem likely. Nintendo has yet to dip into their catalogue of Gamecube games on their downloadable service, but it’s only a matter of time. I can’t wait to play this game again.
What did you think of the sanity effects if you played Eternal Darkness? What’s your favorite horror game? Comment below!
“This can’t be happening!”