The Fifth Day of Crossmas

In this seasonal series, the good people of Crossfader detail what they want pop culture to get them for Crossmas this year. This time around it’s…

Shadow of the Eternals

crossmas shadow of the eternals

The fact that more and more old video games are being remade with amazing graphical updates has done wonders for the gaming community. Even games that merely had a cult following are being reinvigorated with life and sometimes entirely new fanbases. If one were to have asked Tim Schafer in 2010 if any of his older point and click adventures were to have their day in the sun again he would most likely have laughed it away as a cruel joke. Yet there have been so many positive responses to GRIM FANDANGO REMASTERED that we have another iteration of both DAY OF THE TENTACLE and PSYCHONAUTS on the way. Sadly, not all revivals have gone so well. A reimagining of a truly fascinating game experience was so very close to realization in the scrapped project that was SHADOW OF THE ETERNALS, and my only wish is that it get another chance.

Canadian game developer Silicon Knights had a lot going for them in the early 2000s. After kicking off the fairly successful LEGACY OF KAIN series, the good folks at Nintendo were quick to offer them an exclusivity deal. What would soon come afterwards from Silicon Knights would be one of the most ambitious game projects to date. Before the leadership of the infamous Denis Dyack was questioned and the studio found themselves amid mountains of controversy, ETERNAL DARKNESS: SANITY’S REQUIEM sneakily hit store shelves with little to no fanfare.

 

Originally slated for the Nintendo 64, one of the few truly violent games for the often overlooked Gamecube, ETERNAL DARKNESS was a unique offering in the survival horror genre in that it pushed so many boundaries in terms of player interaction. Taking great influence from the work of H.P. Lovecraft, ETERNAL DARKNESS follows Alexandra Roivas after investigating the mysterious death of her grandfather at her estranged family’s estate. When searching through the library she comes in contact with a book bound in human skin very similar to Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. Dubbed “The Tome of Eternal Darkness,” Alex lives through the memories of every single person who has come in contact with the book, spanning the globe throughout human history, from Franciscan monks to Cambodian slave dancers. Through the course of the game Alex slowly discovers their connection to a war amongst omnipotent beings older than the universe itself.

The game definitely has a plethora of creative ways to torture the player. Remember in the very beginning of the first KINGDOM HEARTS where Sora chose a few symbols that would give you a head start when it came to attack, defense, and magic stats accordingly? This game does something similar but in a much more twisted, malicious way. The first person Alex lives through is Pious Augustus, a Roman Centurion in 26 BC who eventually becomes the main antagonist. Pious finds three peculiar artifacts when venturing into the Persian desert. Depending on which artifact you choose when playing as him, he will succumb to the will of a particular god-like immortal that will spawn creatures that are either immensely strong, will easily drain magical will power, or put your character’s sanity at greater risk. But this only scratches the surface of this game’s mystique.

 

The real hook of the game, and an incredibly nuanced mechanic that has yet to be replicated to the same degree since, were the various sanity effects players would encounter. Whenever a character sees an enemy creature, a green bar on the HUD, known as the “sanity meter,” will deplete. Once that meter gets low, strange things start happening. Not only will walls start bleeding and characters start exploding into fountains of blood, but the player themselves will be subject to plenty of fourth wall-breaking tricks. Favorites include the game muting its own volume, pretending to be the demo, and the classic deletion of the player’s save file. Rather than subjecting the characters to horror, ETERNAL DARKNESS managed to break the fourth wall and scare the player. Even ten hours into it, the game kept throwing me for a loop with sanity effects I hadn’t seen before.

 

It seemed completely logical that in our new generation of gaming, one would want to expand on these novel concepts. And it nearly happened! Despite the below average press ETERNAL DARKNESS received from the (then still budding) gaming community, Dyack and his new company Precursor Games were intent on creating an updated version taking full advantage of modern technology with SHADOW OF THE ETERNALS in 2013. Sadly, several crowdfunding campaigns failed. A contributing factor in this might have been the horrible reputation the developers faced concerning several legal debacles ranging from abuse of game engine licenses with the giants at Epic Games, to unsavory charges of sex crimes on a member of the team, to hefty loans that remained unpaid. People were just not ready to give Dyack and his cohorts more money, even after seeing several promotional videos showing what SHADOW OF THE ETERNALS might be able to pull off. However, in late 2014, Quantum Entanglement Entertainment, a company claiming to specialize in the production of games, as well as film and television, supposedly agreed to help complete the project, with Dyack still at the helm. But only time will tell if this dream will ever become a reality. For the sake of gamers everywhere, I hope that it does.

Mr. Alexander Ignacio Larios used to own a Sega Dreamcast. Follow him on Last.fm at: http://www.last.fm/user/KeroseneBath. on RateYourMusic at: https://rateyourmusic.com/~KeroseneBath. on Letterboxd at: http://letterboxd.com/Phallixander/.

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