Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is a psychological horror game developed by Silicon Knights, released in June 2002 for the Nintendo Gamecube. Despite its Gamecube release, Eternal Darkness was originally planned for the Nintendo 64. The game is similar to many third-person adventure games and draws a lot of inspiration from the works of H.P Lovecraft, in both its creatures and its plot.
One unique feature of the game was the inclusion of "sanity effects," where the game would spontaneously react to in-game events when the characters sanity depleted. This usually happened when the player character sees monsters and is hurt by those monsters. Some sanity effects included the character spontaneously dying, the screen going black, and the sound muting. Many will never forget when they thought the game had deleted everything on their memory card.
These effects, while quite revolutionary, also led to criticism that the way to see the "coolest" stuff in the game was to play the game "poorly".
It is rumored that the game will get either a sequel or a spiritual successor sometime in the future. Silicon Knights, the game's developer, announced a psychological thriller in 2007 (potentially the sequel), and has expressed desire to make a sequel to Eternal Darkness. It is questioned whether or not they could make the title for a platform other then the Wii, as the rights to the franchise are owned by Nintendo, but a spiritual successor for another console is possible. It is highly likely that any work on a sequel will not begin until Silicon Knights completes their Too Human trilogy, though Nintendo does not necessarily have to give the project to them. Regardless, if not a sequel in name, the game will likely be a spiritual successor.
On May 3rd, 2013, a spiritual successor called Shadow of the Eternals was announced. It will be crowd-funded, with a goal of $1.5 million. It will be developed by Precursor Games, which is made up of former Silicon Knights developers, including Dennis Dyack. It is set to be released on Wii U and PC.
Eternal Darkness' gameplay is very puzzle centered. The player controls their character using the analog stick, and using the L button, they can make their character run. The analog stick also controls the direction that the character attacks. The D-pad is used for quick spells, a system that allows players to assign magical spells to certain buttons in order to use them whenever they desire, without having to pause the game. The Y button serves this same purpose. The C-stick is used to manipulate items in the inventory screen. The X button allows the player to sneak. Combat is done with a targeting system. A is used to attack, while R is used to target enemies. When an enemy is targeted, the player can use the control stick to manipulate where the blow will land. Finally, the B button is a context sensitive button that performs specific actions.
Characters have three bars, a health bar, a magick bar and a sanity meter. Damage taken by enemies will lower your health, but when enemies are alerted of your presence; you lose sanity. The magick bar diminishes from each use but replenishes over time. Certain spells can replenish health and sanity instantly or over time. Each character have different amounts for each bar.
The game centers around the Roivas estate, which acts as the central hub of the game. The game begins here, and goes here each chapter. In the modern day Roivas home, players control Alex Roivas. With Alex, players travel around the large, dark mansion, searching for pages of the Tome of Eternal Darkness, as well as uncovering the secrets of the mansion. Collecting pages will allow players to access new scenarios, and progress through the game.
Throughout each environment, players will find a number of puzzles. Players must solve these puzzles to advance; for example, lighting the correct candle. Items play a very important role in progression, and players must collect keys, weapons, and other artifacts to continue. Some areas require a torch to burn through things that block the way. Much of the game involves the collection of artifacts to place and solve puzzles, as well as finding keys to open doors. Spells play an important role in puzzle solving and progression, and some are specifically used at certain points in the game. Players must search each area thoroughly to ensure that they have everything needed to progress.
In the game, trappers will transport the character to another place if they hear you or are touched by you. When this happens, the player must traverse an alternate universe before they can progress in the game. Fortunately, these areas have health and sanity replenishing fields, but unfortunately only one can be accessed at one time and your sanity will be drained over time.
Combat in the game is simple. Players lock on using the R button, can select limbs to attack, and use the A button to execute an attack. Throughout each chapter, characters collect different weapons to use in combat. Some characters use swords, some use guns, and others are limited to their fists. What weapons are available is contingent on the time period. One major part of combat is spells, which can be used to attack and protect the character currently under control. The game has a handy quick spell system, where players can assign desired spells to the d-pad and the Y button. When a player is equipped with a gun, they must conserve ammunition, as it is limited.
A key aspect of Eternal Darkness' gameplay is the sanity meter. Simply seeing an enemy will drain the sanity meter, which has an effect on the players perception. As the sanity meter is drained, the character goes insane. The screen will wave, characters will hallucinate, and nothing will go right. There are a great variety of sanity effects, all of which will cause the player to jump. Sanity effects are a piece of Eternal Darkness that helped make it a cult classic.
Another feature of the game is the branching storylines. Early in the game, the player makes a choice that affects the story across the entire game. There are three different possible ways for the story to play out, each with an emphasis on a different ancient. This choice will subtly affect gameplay, as well.
The controls are quite similar to Capcom's Resident Evil Franchise. When using a blade weapon you can attack freely without using the R button's aim function but you are not allowed to move while swinging the blade. The guns cannot be fired without the R button's aim. Part of the aim ability is when you hold R you can move the joystick to highlight which part of the body you would like to target. You can choose from the two arms, the head, or the midsection. All have different effects. If you chop off both of an enemies arms they can do no harm to you but will just walk around you. When you remove an enemies head it will not automatically kill them like in other video games but it will blind them and cause them to fling their arms (if they are still intact) wildly. If you take off both arms and the head then the enemy dies. If you go straight for the midsection you can kill them but risk getting hurt a lot. A common thing to do when you learn the heal spell (it heals whatever color you use, so if you use green alignment it will heal your green/sanity meter, red/health, blue/magick and purple/all). If you walk around enough you gain more and more mana left to cast magic with. This is useful for if you are low on health or sanity, just walk around a lot.
Eternal Darkness follows the story of twelve characters brought together over several millennia to fight the power of a an ancient evil referred to simply as 'the Ancients'. Three gods lived within the earth for millions of years, waiting for an opportune moment (and person) to come about their return. The game spans several time periods and civilizations from a Roman controlled Persia to a monastery in France, to an old temple in the jungles of Cambodia to a colonial estate in Rhode Island. The sequences of the story are bound together by the characters and their confrontation with the plights of the Ancients and an ancient text entitled the 'Tome of Eternal Darkness'.
The central character in the story, Alex Roivas, is a descendant of the Roivas family who is called to her grandfather's estate in Rhode Island after police find her grandfather brutally murdered. In an investigation of the house she comes across a secret study where her grandfather, Edward Roivas, was deeply involved in the study of the Ancients and their plot to one day emerge to conquer the earth. In her search she finds the Tome of Eternal Darkness and reads the accounts of those before her that had fought against the 'Ancients'. Over the course of the game more back story to the characters and their roles against the Ancients is unveiled. Alex learns that not only have the Ancients been the cause for every major war and conflict since the dawn of time but that she must also help to continue the fight that those before her had waged to prevent any of the Ancients from ever returning.
A university student from Washington, and the main protagonist which the story is centered around. When she is called late one night by Rhode Island police she is asked to come to the mansion to clarify the identification of her grandfather who has been brutally murdered. After reading the stories of the Tome she is chosen to carry on the fight against Pious and the Ancients to prevent them from taking control of the world.
A Roman centurion and commander stationed in the Middle East fighting an on going war against Persia. He is the first to find the essences of the Ancients and in doing so becomes corrupted by their power, becoming the main antagonist in the game. He plays a recurring role in the game, visiting several of the characters over the ages and successfully preventing them from interfering with the Ancients' return.
A Persian swordsman who travels the desert seeking treasure. He falls for a beautiful queen, Chandra and begs for her to love him. She says she will if he retrieves for her an ancient treasure, an essence of one of the Ancients. She is killed however and visits Karim to warn him of the danger. Karim accepts responsibility to help in the guarding of the essences and sacrifices himself.
A Frankish messenger for Charlemagne, he is sent to receive and deliver a message to him. Unaware of the danger and the urgency to do with the messages delivery he opens it and is hit by a corrupting spell which slowly begins to rot him, turning him into a zombie. Anthony realizes this was an attempt at Charlemagne's life and attempts to save him but is too late. He is found a century later by a Franciscan monk, Paul Luther, who finally kills him.
A young Cambodian slave girl who desires to seek adventure after reading several passages from the Tome. When exploring the temple she gets trapped in she comes across Mantorok and is given his essence to protect. Pious later finds her and kills her when she refuses to give up the essence to him. She remains partially alive however with the essence inside her, giving it to another explorer, Edwin Lindsey, 700 years later.
A Venetian architect who is taken prisoner by a warlord in the Middle East. He is sent down to survey some underground tunnels for the building of the 'Pillar of Flesh.' Whilst surveying he is confronted by Karim's ghost who gives him the essence. When he leaves the tunnels the warlord, who is revealed to be Pious Augustus takes the essence and throws him into the pit to be a part of the Pillar of Flesh structure.
A Franciscan monk on a holy pilgrimage to see the holy relic, the Hand of Jude. On his way he is detained in Amiens by monks of the Inquisition under suspicion of murder. Whilst he is detained in the monastery he explores and finds the Hand of Jude to be a hoax to draw victims for sacrifices to 'The Black Guardian' which protects one of the essences which resides below the church. Upon finding the Black Guardian he is killed instantly.
An early ancestor of Alex and Edward and a prestigious doctor living in the same mansion in Rhode Island several centuries before. Max is the first to find one of the remaining cities left over from the times of the Ancients underneath the mansion. Upon venturing in he slowly loses his mind to hysteria and returns to the mansion killing his servants on the suspicion they were demons disguised. He then sets out to warn the world of the city but no one believes him and he is committed to an insane asylum where he later dies.
A field reporter during World War I, staying in the same cathedral Paul Luther had been detained centuries before. The cathedral has now been converted to a field hospital but the soldiers are aware of people going missing and cries in the middle of the night. Peter investigates and finds the Black Guardian. This leads to a boss battle where Peter kills the creature and takes the essence it was guarding.
Alex's grandfather who is led by the ghost of Maximillian to find the Tome. When his servants start getting slaughtered he investigates, finding the ancient city under the house that Max was originally trying to warn people of. He destroys the city by using a powerful Dispel Magick curse. He is however later killed by a Lesser Guardian.
A modern day archaeologist exploring the ruins of an ancient temple in Cambodia. His assistant on the expedition, Paul Augustine exposes himself as Pious Augustus before attempting to kill him. He fails and Edwin escapes into the temple, stumbling upon Mantorok and receiving the essence from Ellia. He later takes the essence of Mantorok to Edward Roivas.
A Canadian firefighter stationed in Iraq to assist in extinguishing the oil fires ignited by Iraqi troops during the Gulf War. After an explosion he falls into a secret chamber where he comes across the Pillar of Flesh. Journeying through the underground city he meets Roberto, who gives him one of the other essences he recovered centuries before. Michael then sets about destroying the underground city using plastic explosives. Years after the war Michael travels to Rhode Island and delivers the essence to Edward, fearing that he may be next and that the essence can't fall into the wrong hands.
One of the most interesting aspects of the game is how each player can have a different experience based on choices early on in the game. The ancient which the story will revolve around is contingent on this early choice. Depending on the player's actions, the game will either follow Ulyaoth, Chattur'gha, or Xel'Lotath. If the player completes the game each of the three ways, they can access a secret ending.
The God of Magick, Ulyaoth is an elegant, but powerful god with the power to exhaust heavy damaging magick effects upon his foes. Along with having control over 'dimensions' his magick gives him the ability to overcome strength easily, giving him power over the god Chattur'gha. His colour alignment is blue.
The God of Strength, Chattur'gha is a god of absolute physical power and matter. He expresses the least intelligence amongst the Ancients but is still physically very powerful and able to destroy his enemies easily. His intelligence makes him less susceptible to the maddening affects of Xel'lotath giving him power over her. His colour alignment is red.
The Goddess of Madness, Xel'lotath is an Ancient that has control over the mind and in doing so has the ability to inflict insanity and madness over anybody. Her power also appears to reflect her own eccentric thinking but she is powerful and can drive even the most stable and intelligent minds into insanity. This gives her power over Ulyaoth. Her colour alignment is green.
The God of Chaos, Mantorok is the creator of the Tome of Eternal Darkness and is considered the ultimate and most powerful Ancient amongst them despite being inferior in power and strength. His capabilities lie in his power over the forces of Order and Chaos and the equilibrium he created between the other Ancients so that no other Ancient could be powerful enough to defeat the rest. His plan is to ultimately have the other Ancients destroy one another, leaving him the sole position of control over the earth.
Arguably the most unique concept of this game. Each effects being very creative and never failing to surprise and shock the player by breaking the fourth wall.
While Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is not directly related to H.P. Lovecraft's Chthulhu mythos, there is no denying that it draws heavy inspiration from the author's work. For starters, the game's Tome of Eternal Darkness is an obvious double for Lovecraft's Necronomicon. The game's Ancients are a replacement for Lovecraft's Great Old Ones. The Ancient Mantorok, who lies underground and waits, is a substitute for Cthulhu, who lies dreaming in a sunken city.
Aside from these basic renamings of Lovecraft's ideas, there are also plot concepts that take inspiration from Lovecraft's stories. The game's sanity system draws heavily from Lovecraft as sanity is recurring theme in the author's work. Many of Lovecraft's characters go insane from the horrors they witness, the idea being that the human mind is not capable of handling the true nature of the universe. This concept holds true in Eternal Darkness: as the games protagonists are exposed to horrific sights, the player's sanity level decreases.
Another recurring theme in Lovecraft's work is the protagonist visiting, or in some way being affected by, an old friend or relative. Many Lovecraft characters visit (or receive a visit from) an uncle or old professor. The story of Eternal Darkness begins with Alex visiting the estate of her departed grandfather.
The game's various tales relate how the Tome of Eternal Darkness made its way from person-to-person. The story is told in a similar fashion to Lovecraft's classic tale "The Call of Cthulhu." This long, winding story-within-a-story method is one of the most recognizable features of Lovecraft's work.
The ancient city under the Roivas mansion is another Lovecraftian concept. It is drawn directly from the Lovecraft story "The Rats in the Walls," in which the narrator finds an underground city below his family's estate.
The game's soundtrack was made available through Nintendo Power Magazine. The disc had 14 tracks, several of which were extended versions of music heard in the game and featured voice-overs from the actors.