Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is a survival horror game I wanted to play for quite a long time, and I’m glad I finally did. I love the work of H.P. Lovecraft, and it’s hard to find a game more Lovecraftian than this.
Eternal Darkness begins when a young woman named Alex Roivas is called to her grandfather’s mansion in response to his horrific, inexplicable murder. There, she decides to investigate and uncover the secrets surrounding his death.
At first, the mansion makes Eternal Darkness look like it has standard survival horror gameplay. While you can explore some of it, most of your paths are blocked by locked doors, puzzles, and other obstacles.
However, it has an atypical narrative structure that makes its progression unique. As you explore, you’ll find pages of the Tome of Eternal Darkness, each of which contains a chapter about someone connected to the mystery.
These chapters take place across the world and throughout history.
As such, Eternal Darkness has numerous playable characters and often feels like a collection of short horror stories… interconnected stories bound by a single plot that brings them together.
And that plot, which revolves around a character summoning one of the Ancients to cast the world into eternal darkness, is not only full of Lovecraftian themes, it’s also pretty interesting to watch unfold.
In each chapter, you learn some sort of skill or knowledge that Alex can then use in the present day. For example, early on you wind up with a broken key. The chapter’s character learns a spell to repair items, which you then use as Alex to fix the key, move on to new areas, and find the next chapter.
Unlike many survival horror games, Eternal Darkness has a strong focus on magic. As you explore, you’ll find runes that you use to cast different spells. Each spell is aligned with one of the Ancients, and it’s wise to keep in mind which Ancient is strong against which, to choose your spells accordingly.
Spells are used for puzzles, healing, and combat. You’ll also use melee weapons and firearms against the monsters you encounter, and you can target individual parts of the monsters’ bodies. There’s a stronger focus on action than you’ll find in most horror games, since striking the final blow against an enemy restores part of your sanity meter (which decreases as enemies see you). However, some enemies are powerful enough that it can be better to just run past.
And of course, what Eternal Darkness is really well-known for is its sanity effects. Unfortunately, the more you know about the sanity system, the less scary it is, since it’s designed to mess with the player more than the character.
While I knew nothing about the plot, I knew the sort of sanity effects I’d face, which diminished their effectiveness. Plus, since low sanity can hurt you–things that would drain sanity drain health instead if your meter is depleted–I tried to keep my sanity high whenever possible as soon as I learned the spell to restore it.
As a result, I didn’t find Eternal Darkness as scary as I’d hoped. It’s also hard for me to compare it to other games in the genre, because it’s so different from every other survival horror game I’ve played.
However, I can say this about it. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem might not be the best survival horror game, and it might not be very scary if you know what it’s infamous for… but if you’re looking for a game with a fun Lovecraftian story, it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.
If you want posts like this delivered straight to your inbox, enter your email in the box below to subscribe!