Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem Review
Unexpected surprises and effects and a great story make up this underrated GameCube classic.
Silicon Knight’s Eternal Darkness is an often overlooked GameCube gem. Taking on the psychological thriller genre of gaming, it takes the player on a journey through generations of the Roivas family and the horrors they face to keep the world safe.
The story starts with Alexandra Roivas, the present day descendant of the family, receiving a phone call that her grandfather has passed. She travels to his mansion in Rhode Island to investigate the cause of his death and the secret behind the Tome of Eternal Darkness, a grim book she finds in his study that speaks of the three ancients longing to rule the universe; Xel’lotath, Chattur'gha and Ulyaoth. There is a clear Lovecraftian influence to the story and the visual settings but it’s done well and comes off as more of a re-imagining and not a straight copy.
The first thing that catches the eye is the beauty of the mansion; while the game may not boast the best graphics on the GameCube, the developers certainly did a good job of setting the mood with the eerie lighting and detailed antiques in the home. The further into the game the player traverses the more rooms Alexandra can explore and with each arrive some of the creepiest in-game moments. The use of sound is key here and performs wonderfully. Ambient sounds are used as hints that something ill-fated lies in wait before the player can even see it and often become a bigger source of fear than the actual enemies that are faced.
The mansion serves as an in-between stage of sorts; each chapter of the book Alex finds brings the player into different time frames, and allows them to control various descendants of the Roivas family. The story unfolds through the views of many and over a span of almost 2000 years; the detail put into each chapter is wonderful. From Ancient Rome to World War I, the atmosphere is enveloping and it’s clear a lot of research went into creating the levels.
The battle controls are fairly simple; there are no real combos or fancy moves, it’s all about the swing of a sword or shot of a pistol. You can focus on certain body parts of a shuffling zombie, for instance, which helps in quickly taking off legs to slow them down or even a quick decapitation.
Unfortunately, there are some issues with the camera getting caught in odd spots. Much of this is due to a forced camera perspective in certain rooms to add to the fear, but it just adds to frustration when it keeps game play from running smoothly.
Beyond physical attacks, the real power comes from the magic powers characters wield. Runes, scattered through the levels, can be discovered to teach new spells or strengthen old ones. The fun in this is taking the time to use different runes and alignments in your magic menu to discover new spells on your own. Often there are enemies that can only be defeated through magic and not force, so the more spells you learn the more of a fighting chance you’ll have.