Eternights is half dating sim, half action adventure, and it does all of it extremely well.
Eternights takes place as an anti-aging drug is suddenly causing users to turn into monsters. These monsters of course create a world threat, but there is another layer of sci-fi superhero like characters that are on both sides of battle. Your everyday ordinary main character of course becomes one of the chosen and gains the powers needed to save the world.
Developed By: Studio Sai
Platforms: PlayStation 4|5 [Reviewed on 5], PCs, (Epic / Steam)
Release Date: September 12, 2023
While at its core the story might seem like your basic sci-fi story, it has a lot of depth by becoming a dating sim as well. The game goes by days, and each day you need to pick events and characters to get to know them better. How you choose to advance in these areas, and mistakes you make, have a longer term effect as your relationships grow. The bigger your relationship is, the better the support powers become.
Almost every character was also “chosen” in a dream and given some type of powers, but the game does a good job of making this mysterious. You can level up characters as you get to know them, do activities with them, or find hidden objects with them. Their interactions will change dramatically if you give the proper responses, but the cool thing is each conversation also allows your character to go from shy and basic, to more outgoing and confident.
This dating aspect gives the game a layer of depth that would otherwise be ignored via just a basic action game. You get to slowly know each character and very personal details about them, but you also get to see how the circumstances of what’s happening affect them, which ultimately gives you a reason to be in battle with them.
One character you meet is Yuna who is a pop star, and while she has that high level of fun to her, there are also moments where dark times hit her hard. Early on in the game she utilizes her status to try and save people via social media, but it doesn’t end so well, and the impact is felt tremendously. We end up walking through a shelter she sent them to and seeing all her fans dead. This is where Eternights shines the most, it isn’t afraid to walk down the dark path and have the characters feel the impact. Early on in the game when a certain character dies I was thinking “holy shit, they went there.”
But it feels like all the characters have this level of depth to them and they all have different ways of thinking about the situation. Min, for example, feels guilt for hiding when monsters attacked, but she grows through it. Sia wants to be the brains, but she’s still figuring things out and tries to hide her mistakes. Chani has some of the most dynamic character traits because he kind of gets left out, and he has ups and downs of anger with you due to outright jealousy.
The writing does an absolutely fantastic job of diving into these serious tones, but mixing it with borderline jokes that lighten the mood. They are younger characters after all so these jokes suit them well, but I’ve never laughed and had such a good time in a game in some time. It was nice to break up the doom and gloom with abrupt flirtations, random wonky events, or just outrageous moments. Even some of the inner dialogue and stuff you discover with the characters is pretty fun to unravel.
The only real issue I had with the overall dating concept was how hard it is to distance yourself from characters. For example if I’m chasing Min, I only would like to chase Min. I don’t want to cheat on my future wife here, but the game forced me to flirt with every other girl (and one guy) to keep moving. The game limits this by pushing you forward with days, so you only have a limited number of interactions per day. This means you basically only have one relationship to push forward at a time. But in-game moments force you to lean into these relationships with no real option to say “back off girl (or guy), I’m taken!”
But Eternights really takes off when you grow these relationships to unlock new combat perks. At first, combat in Eternights seemed like it’d be slow and kinda lame, but it quickly starts to expand and becomes extremely satisfying to play. I love hack and slash games, and Eternights runs down that path with expertise.
The main character has his arm chopped off early in the game and then a god (or sorts) gives him a new arm which can transform into anything from an awkward tentacle to gross out Yuna, to a badass weapon in combat. Focusing on the weapon aspect, mid combat you unlock new moves and visually stunning combos that make fighting extremely fun. I found the further I progressed the easier it was to put together combos that totally wrecked even the biggest of enemies.
Then you tie in support characters which can assist with powerful moves of their own, or healing perks to assist in combat. The only downside I found was that entering a dungeon limits your abilities to utilize them in combat. Each character has a special move which you can use after hitting enemies enough to power up, but more importantly they offer support moves which utilize a special gauge. If you run out of this power, you can’t utilize these support moves again until you complete or leave the dungeon, which makes it completely reset. It’s kind of upsetting that there is no way to fill this gauge, or hit a checkpoint where it refills, so that these powers don’t become useless a majority of the time.
But besides that minor gripe, I found the combat to be extremely thrilling. Utilizing different perks like a massive sword, dash attacks, different arm weapons, it all flows insanely well. Even targeting enemies and dodge mechanics work beautifully and it is all crafted in the most stunning way possible. The combat can be challenging, but it feels rewarding, and getting into a groove feels amazing.
But lending to the visuals is also the fact all the enemies are friggin ‘cool. I felt like the monster have a Junji Ito inspiration with how dark and twisted they appear, while also having a sense of menacing terror hidden within their charm. The most basic enemies are fun to fight and interact with, while more boss like battles have very well detailed and frightening looks to them. Even the world we are put in is crafted so well, with story elements hidden throughout.
Visually the game isn’t pushing too many boundaries outside of that, but I feel like it fits the game well. It all has an anime style aesthetic to it, with very stiff animations in cutscenes, but it works. I honestly enjoy the fact that it blends amazing Anime/manga scenes in with the game itself, and how the game refrained from trying to be “realistic” at all.
Overall, like I said before, Eternights is half dating sim, half action slasher, and it finds a way to utilize both sides to empower the other. It doesn’t slip up with either aspect and actually does both aspects extremely well. The fun awkward jokes will have you giggling, and then it will spiral you into wanting to cry instantly. Very few games have the ability to do that, but the ending of Eternights will have you talking about it for days.