Every survival horror series has its way of frightening players. Resident Evil boasts biologically deformed monsters, Silent Hill’s hulking Pyramid Heads are unforgettable, and the countless hoards of zombies in Left for Dead are overwhelming. But none have created an experience quite like Silicon Knight’s Gamecube exclusive title Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, whose storyline spanned millennia.
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering… fearing… doubting…”
-Edgar Allan Poe
Before the game begins or the publisher’s logos even pop up on the screen, this excerpt from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven appears and is read aloud, setting the tone before the player even hits the start button. Like most other survival horror games, this one has zombies and other creatures that will creep through darkened hallways. But these staples of a great horror game aren’t what place it apart. The storyline is highly different from any other game, though it seems to start out normally enough. Alexandra Roivas is called by police, asking her to return to her family’s mansion in Rhode Island upon the sudden death of her grandfather. But she finds out that his death was not so peaceful, leaving his mangled body missing a head. Fed up when the police all but abandon the investigation due to the lack of clues, she begins to look into it herself. What she uncovers goes farther back than she could ever imagine.
Different chapters give players control of a dozen characters, each story expanding on the overall plot that reveals the world to be in terrible danger from ancient powers that are reawakening. But the most mind-bending aspect is the patented sanity meter that sits right next to the health and magica bars. Encountering creatures and other frightening situations causes it to drop steadily, and when it gets low, the game begins to mess with the player. Disembodied voices cry out, mysterious footsteps can be heard, and the screen tilts slightly as the background sounds change. But the effects are always random, catching players off-guard. One can walk into a room and suddenly be walking on the ceiling, or have their limbs disappear in a bloody cloud for no apparent reason. The most sinister effects are the ones that lead players to believe there is something wrong with their system or television. Volume will increase or decrease, flies appear to walk across the television screen, and controller errors pop up when the character onscreen is surrounded by enemies, leaving them to be massacred. It provides a survival horror scenario like no other that Nintendo continues to hold a patent for.
Sadly, the initial sequel was cancelled, but according to the Eternal Darkness wiki, a new game is in the works:
“Shadow of the Eternals is the spiritual successor to Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. Though not a direct sequel, Shadow of the Eternals inherits the psychological thriller atmosphere and deep, many-perspectives storytelling of Eternal Darkness. Shadow of the Eternals is currently in development by Precursor Games for Wii U and PC, though Denis Dyack has hinted at possibly porting it to other formats.”
Shadow of the Eternals is still in development, but hopefully this new title will bring back the elements that made Sanity’s Requiem such a memorable experience, all while finding new ways to frighten a new generation of unsuspecting players. In the meantime, the original Gamecube classic is worth a look as well as more than one replay. Depending on a decision made early on in the game, scenarios will change throughout the rest of the story. Eternal Darkness offers a unique and well-rounded experience that continues to frighten players to this day, making it a true classic in the survival horror genre.