Have you ever had the feeling that there are forces at work that nobody can control? How about a feeling that everything isn’t what it’s supposed to be? Did you hear the one about some ancient gods fighting each over to control the world? Guess what: It’s all true.
Psychological Lovecraftian horror abounds in Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, one of the very few horror games on the Gamecube. Too bad it’s overshadowed by Resident Evil 4 so much that’s it’s practically unknown.
The setup here is Alexandra ‘Alex” Roivas is called over to her grandfather’s estate in Rhode Island by the police to identify his body. She finds him dead and the police have no leads. She decides to look around the estate to find answers. What she finds instead is a book called “The Book of Eternal Darkness” which, upon reading it, finds out that there’s an ancient conspiracy that goes back two thousand years. Even worse, her family has gotten themselves involved in it somehow.
If you think that sounds like a story H.P Lovecraft would’ve written, you’re not that far off. The story feels Lovecraftian, with ancient magic, weird monsters that have been around longer than humans and a former human, the Centurion Pious Augustus and its plans to bring these “elder gods” into this world.
It is well-written with characters from different points in time including Ancient Rome (Pious) Sixth Century Persia (Karim the swordsman); Even Colonial Rhode Island (Dr. Maximillian Roivas). Silicon Knights did a good job with intertwining each of the 12 character’s stories into one of the best Lovecraft-esque stories. Not to mention the voice acting is some of the best in the genre.
Graphically, it is one of the best looking games on the Gamecube. Each character has their own unique look, facial expressions and build. The estate looks like it could exist in real life to the point where you could’ve sworn you’ve seen a house like that.
One of the major complaints gamers have with horror titles is that the characters “control like tanks.” Here it is the exact opposite. The characters movement is fluid, as well as the controls. Silicon Knights added the ability to choose which part of the enemy’s body to attack. This adds some strategy in that some of the more powerful enemies can only be killed by destroying certain parts of the body- each time a limb fall off, it leaves the enemy open for another attack.
Magic is also another gameplay element that makes ED stand out from other horror games. There are many runes that you need to find which, when combined, create many different spells that do different things like make invisible items visible and even the ability to summon an enemy to fight for you. The only downside to the magic is that the more powerful spells take a while to cast and, since you can’t move while casting, you’re wide open to attack.
The biggest draw to ED is the “sanity meter.” This meter, as the name implies, displays the character’s sanity. This meter goes known every time a character sees an enemy or sees certain scary things. It can be healed by magic or by killing the enemy. The lower the meter goes, different “sanity effects” happen. There are plenty of these effects from something small like the screen goes crooked to something major like the TV “shutting itself off”. Some happen because they’re part of the story. It may seem like these effects may get old, but they can be scary no matter how many times you see them. The most well know effect is when Alex goes into the bathroom and sees herself in the bathtub dead and the tub filled with her own blood.
This game is fairly rare and it can be a bit pricy ($17.94 is currently the cheapest and goes up to $99.99 on Amazon.com). If you can find it you will be in for a great underrated and unknown gem that deserves more press than it had when it came out.
Your sanity will thank you.