Eternights is the debut title from indie developer Studio Sai, blending hack-and-slash combat with relationship building in a post-apocalyptic setting. You play as a young man just trying to navigate the online dating scene before a bizarre mutation turns humans into zombie-like monsters. This sets the stage for an emotional journey as you join forces with survivors to fight back against the horrors and maybe even find love.
With clear inspirations from Atlus’ acclaimed Persona series, Eternights seamlessly merges its dating sim elements with action-RPG gameplay. The heart of the experience lies in deepening bonds with your friends to gain abilities for combat encounters against twisted abominations. A sense of impending doom permeates throughout as you uncover the mysteries behind the worldwide Eternights project.
Studio Sai has crafted an imaginative new IP that aims to deliver an impactful narrative experience intertwined with satisfying real-time combat. If you enjoy forging connections with characters and uncovering secrets in dystopian worlds, Eternights may just win your heart as you fight to take back the city. This review will analyze the strengths and flaws of the studio’s ambitious debut.
A Coming-of-Age Tale in the Apocalypse
Eternights opens with a relatable premise of creating an online dating profile before larger events take over. You play as a college student just trying to find a girlfriend with some help from your overly-eager roommate Chani. After matching with a peculiar girl one night, you make plans to meet up the next day. However, your date gets abruptly canceled when explosions rock the city, walls emerge to trap everyone inside, and humans mutate into violent creatures due to a mysterious drug named Eternights.
This sets up an engaging narrative as you join together with survivors like pop idol Yuna and young prodigy Sia to unravel the mysteries behind the worldwide Eternights project. The story starts a bit slow, taking time to establish the characters and scenario before the action ramps up. But once the team comes together, the pacing improves with a constant sense of urgency pushing you forward through creepy dungeons and to critical story beats.
While the overall plot may seem fairly standard for the genre, Eternights shines in the heartfelt moments between characters. During downtime on the safe train, you can chat one-on-one with party members to learn their backstories and motivations. Every character contains incredible depth that you grow invested in over time. These lower-key scenes create an emotional anchor amidst the supernatural horrors.
The setting of a city ravaged by armageddon makes for visually striking environments. Locations like an abandoned library, crumbling buildings, and eerie subway tunnels capture the post-apocalyptic vibe perfectly. Although some areas lack detail, the excellent use of lighting and particles convey a sense of dread. You feel like an underdog braving the darkness to uncover secrets and fight for survival.
While Eternights may not spin the wildest tale, it uses familiar genre elements to craft an earnest coming-of-age story. The narrative lays the groundwork to become invested in the characters before events kick into high gear. Overall, the heartfelt writing and immersive setting provide fertile grounds for an impactful adventure.
Hacking, Slashing, and Bonding Against the Horde
Eternights seamlessly merges hack-and-slash combat with deep relationship building mechanics. The core loop involves clearing out dungeons while periodically returning to your safe house. Here you can chat with companions, taking a breather before the next big battle.
The melee combat gameplay provides smooth, responsive action as you chain together light and heavy attacks. A well-timed dodge activates a slow-motion window for unleashing devastating blows. Combat revolves around perfectly evading enemy strikes then retaliating during these brief openings. While the fundamentals are simple, mastering the precise dodge-parry timing provides adequate challenge.
A key element is managing your special abilities tied to each party member. As their bond strengthens through conversations, new skills unlock for use in combat. For example, Yuna’s fire magic can shield allies whereas Sia harnesses lightning to stun groups of foes. Rotating through these powers adds variety and strategy to encounters.
Boss battles often incorporate puzzle-like mechanics as well. Certain enemies sport elemental shields that must be countered with the proper element before they take damage. This creates intense moments of searching for openings to stagger enemies so their defense drops. While most bosses are damage sponges, these extra layers elevate the fights beyond simple button mashing.
Between story beats, you’re free to spend time with companions, learning more about their lives while also gaining useful combat abilities. The dating sim portions organically tie into the action gameplay loop. It’s a clever gimmick that incentivizes completing side activities.
However, Eternight’s mechanics aren’t entirely polished. The dodge timing feels unforgiving, demanding perfect reactions. Control responsiveness could be tighter, as your character won’t act while finishing attack animations. This causes frustrating moments against agile enemies. Checkpoint placement also falters during lengthy dungeons.
Still, combat proves satisfying overall. The blend of real-time swordplay and party-based abilities provides fluid, flashy fun. Support skills like enemy radar from Chani or deployable turrets from Yuna further diversify your options. While not the deepest systems, the enjoyment comes from mastering the basics against challenging adversaries.
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A Feast for Both Eyes and Ears
Considering its modest budget, Eternights contains impressive visuals, complemented by solid audio design. The environments portray a gloomy, unsettling atmosphere befitting of an apocalyptic setting. Locations like the overgrown library and destroyed city streets feel eerily lifelike. Vibrant lighting and particle effects infuse color into the decimated world. The character and monster models also contain striking, expressive designs.
Where the graphics falter is in repetitive textures and lack of detail in some areas. There are clear limitations in assets, resulting in blocky geometry. Yet as a whole, Eternights punches above its weight class visually. The haunting art direction shines brighter than the technical shortcomings.
Vibrant anime-inspired cutscenes occasionally surprise the player with gorgeous 2D animated sequences rivaling feature film quality. These cinematic moments come sparingly but represent major highlights. Even during regular conversations, subtle gestures and expressions on the 3D models bring tremendous life to each character.
On the audio front, Eternights stands out with full voice acting for nearly all dialogue. The English dub proves surprisingly capable with most lines delivered naturally without sounding forced. Of course, lip syncing rarely lines up properly, but it’s par for the course. Occasional amateur line reads do sneak in, but the effort shown in voicing the extensive script is admirable.
The orchestral soundtrack provides tense, haunting tunes befitting the creepy environments. Upbeat melodies during relationship scenes offer an excellent contrast. Effects like sword slashes and creature growls add impact during hectic battles as well. The audio design fully realizes the oppressive atmosphere.
Small touches like ambient tracks when exploring quiet areas or echoing sounds in tunnels reinforce the immersive qualities. Eternights does not feel like an indie game tonally thanks to the stellar mood-setting audio. For a debut title, the visuals and audio achieve AAA quality at times, representing remarkable talent on display.
Bonds That Ground You Amidst Chaos
Eternights thrives thanks to its endearing cast of characters. During your journey, you befriend survivors like the optimistic Yuna, brilliant Sia, and even encounter a charming idol named Min. Each party member receives extensive screen time, allowing their personalities and backstories to shine.
Yuna serves as the heart of the team with an infectiously positive attitude, providing encouragement when spirits run low. Underneath her cheerfulness, she harbors regrets about failing to save her friend. Her arc involves gaining confidence to lead others.
Sia plays the role of the brains, harnessing science to aid the team while plumbing the Eternights conspiracy. Her no-nonsense attitude and witty barbs lend comedy. She pursues knowledge to give meaning to an unjust world.
Min undergoes tremendous growth from a shy girl afraid to stand out into a brave warrior willing to sacrifice herself for others. Her sensitivity and compassion form the emotional core of the narrative.
Nearly every scene, whether downtime banter or critical story moments, further humanizes the cast. They discuss grief over lost loved ones, argue passionately about their clashing worldviews, and open up about childhood dreams. Every party member radiates authenticity thanks to nuanced writing and voice acting.
The natural conversations between characters, rife with teasing humor and vulnerability, make the apocalyptic setting feel grounded. Much like Persona 5’s Confidants system, spending time with each hero rewards you with combat abilities while deepening their bonds. These relationships serve as pillars amidst the crumbling world.
Players seeking romance can pursue affectionate ties with select party members. These heartfelt connections encourage replays to experience the lovingly-crafted character arcs. Regardless of player choices, the charming cast creates an emotional anchoring point to cling to during humanity’s darkest days.
Thanks to multilayered characters and witty dialogue, Eternights transcends its genre trappings. The grounded writing and voice acting breathe life into each team member, making you truly care about their fate in an uncaring world.
Compact Yet Packed with Reasons to Return
Eternights offers a focused 10 hour campaign for a single playthrough. While on the shorter side, the succinct storytelling ensures it never feels padded or repetitive. The condensed length makes subsequent playthroughs more enticing.
Strong incentives exist to dive back in, such as romancing different characters or pursuing alternate endings based on choices. Relationships change dramatically depending on your actions, providing fresh experiences each time. Unlocking new combat skills also encourages additional runs to become overpowered.
Side content like character-specific training exercises offer enjoyable distractions between missions. These mini-games deliver laughs while improving your abilities. Scavenging dungeons with companions for stat-boosting items brings value as well. A New Game+ mode lets you retain everything earned from the start.
Eternights smartly avoids open world trappings, maintaining a consistent pace on a fixed critical path. Streamlining the experience maximizes enjoyment of the expertly crafted core narrative and combat. Optional activities provide organic breaks between story beats rather than meaningless tedium.
However, some unpolished aspects undermine immersion. The UI lacks flair and responsiveness. Certain menus don’t confirm options were set properly. While environments are visually striking, most feel too linear and small. Checkpoint placement could be improved to limit replaying large sections.
Yet these flaws simply highlight areas of improvement for the developer rather than fundamentally detracting from the experience. For a debut title from a small studio, Eternights demonstrates remarkable craftsmanship where it counts. The focused package delivers on its strengths while avoiding common pitfalls like padding.
An Endearing Debut That Shows Promise
For a first title from a small team, Eternights delivers a remarkable experience merging action, narrative, and relationships into a cohesive package. While imperfect, its strengths overshadow any shortcomings stemming from budget and scope limitations.
At its best, Eternights enraptures players with heartfelt character moments grounded in a haunting apocalyptic setting. The responsive combat gracefully incorporates abilities unlocked from deepening bonds with companions. Developing these relationships through downtime conversations and training unlocks potent skills, providing satisfying progression.
However, the barebones UI lacks polish at times. Unforgiving dodge timing and controls need tightened up as well. Checkpoint placement could be more forgiving to limit replaying sections. Some environments feel empty and too linear also.
Yet these issues never meaningfully detract from the superb voice acting, anime-inspired visuals, and gripping story. The streamlined 10 hour adventure maximizes its delivery of lovingly-crafted narrative and combat. Developer Studio Sai has clearly demonstrated their potential with this debut.
Fans of emotionally rich RPGs like Persona who enjoy forging bonds with characters will find Eternights strikes similar chords. Despite some rough edges, its heart is in the right place. I heartily recommend giving Eternights a shot, especially for those seeking a concise, poignant journey. It establishes a strong foundation that Studio Sai can build upon for an even better sequel.
Eternights delivers a remarkably polished experience for a debut indie title on a modest budget. Between the gripping narrative grounded by a lovable cast and smooth hack-and-slash combat augmented by relationship building, Eternights provides an emotionally resonant journey. Some lack of refinement shows in its linear environments, stiff UI, and occasional cheap enemy placements. Yet its strengths far outweigh these limitations, resulting in a game that both Persona and action RPG fans can find plenty to love in. It's an impressive first effort that lays a strong foundation for Studio Sai to perfect their craft. I hope to revisit this charming cast in a more expansive sequel.
- Strong central narrative with endearing, well-developed characters
- Satisfying real-time combat system with dodging/parrying mechanics
- Relationship building system rewards spending time with companions
- Stunning anime-inspired visuals and cutscenes
- Excellent voice acting brings characters to life
- Music and sound design create immersive atmosphere
- Streamlined campaign avoids padding and repetition
- Environments are linear and lack exploration
- UI is basic and lacks polish in areas
- Dodge timing is quite unforgiving
- Controls could feel more responsive
- Checkpoint placement is questionable at times
- Some repetitive enemy design
- Crafting/looting systems feel underdeveloped