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Eternights Review - Finding Love in a Horrific Fantasy World

RPGs with mechanics where social relationships can impact the outcome of the game have become increasingly popular in recent years. From Western RPGs where social bonds can impact the outcome of the story to JRPGs that include life sim and dating sim elements like the Persona series, these games have provided an interesting twist on the genre and are even becoming something of a subgenre in itself. Eternights promises to bring us both action RPG dungeon crawling, and a dating sim set in a horrific post-apocalyptic setting, but how does it live up to that promise?

Eternights screenshot anime
Eternights story is filled with anime tropes, but that isn't a bad thing

Players will control a protagonist who is a young man that sets out on a search for love but instead finds himself fighting for survival as a catastrophic event changes the world and threatens to bring it to an end. People have suddenly started transforming into crazed monstrous beings and huge walls have formed sectioning off different areas preventing travel beyond them. Humans who have remained unchanged are directed to head into designated shelters to increase their chances for survival.

The protagonist and his best friend Chani head to a shelter and soon meet other survivors, but this safety is short-lived as the shelter is soon raided. Just as the protagonist fears he will lose his life after his right arm is cut off by a mysterious and powerful woman name Delia who was behind this raid, he is saved by a God-like being named Lux who gives him a replacement arm made from her power. He is able to fend off Delia so he and his fellow survivors can be led to another safe area guided by a drone.

They arrive at a train and learn that the drone was controlled by Aria, who works for Lux and the train will serve as both a base of operations and a form of transportation for those who have been chosen by Lux to be given power to protect the world she has created. It is revealed that there is an ongoing conflict between Lux and Umbra, another god-like being who wants to destroy the world that Lux has created and rebuild it in her own image. In order to protect this world, they must obtain a sacred stone that has the power to reshape the world and use it to defeat Umbra.

eternights screenshot anime babe
It sounds complex but the game is easy enough to learn

The protagonist and Chani are both given powers by Lux and they will join forces with others who Lux has given power. Those are Yuna, a pop idol who has been given healing abilities and power over fire, Sia, a scientist who is given power over ice, Min, an athlete who is able to create protective shields and is given power over Lightning, and Yohan, an immortal being who is able to increase the stats of your character.

The gameplay consists of going on missions to destroy the walls so that you can recover the stone and building up social relationships and stats in between those missions. Each wall mission will involve exploring a dungeon to reach the wall's core in order to destroy it, and players will encounter numerous enemies as well as puzzles/mini games that must be overcome to progress. The game will also feature a boss fight when reaching the wall's core.

Combat includes both fast attacks that do a small amount of damage and slower attacks that do larger damage and there are combos that can be ended with a more powerful attack. Successfully attacking will charge up a gauge that will allow for powerful elemental attacks that can strike enemy weaknesses and successfully completing combos will fill up the gauge much faster than regular attacks. Some enemies also have elemental barriers that must be broken down before they can receive damage, and these must be tackled by elemental attacks that strike their weakness.

The elemental attacks will also trigger quick time events that will unleash combos which can't be blocked if successfully completed. These can be used both to break elemental barriers and to do massive amounts of damage to enemies. Another way to fill up the elemental gauge is through performing perfect dodges, in which the player must press the dodge roll button immediately after a flash above the enemy when it begins an attack. Successfully performing a perfect dodge will also temporarily grant invulnerability and slow down the movement of enemies so it also grants an opportunity to pull off a combo without enemies being able to hit you.

Rather than gaining additional power through experience points, the protagonist's stats can be increased, and extra combat abilities can be gained through both increasing social bonds with characters and with using essences that can be obtained in the game. Black essences can be used to give your character certain kinds of abilities and they can be obtained through enemy drops or found in dungeons while exploring. White essences can boost stats and give additional abilities and are obtained through doing side quests with specific characters that you are bonding with.

The game progresses using a calendar system and a certain number of days will be available in which a dungeon must be completed. Each day is divided into day and night sections and certain activities are only available depending on the time of day. During the daytime you can choose to explore a dungeon, spend time with another character to bond with them, or do training with another character to boost a specific stat and potentially increase a bond with them. During the night you can go on scavenging side quests as well.

In addition to combat stats, the protagonist also has social stats, and these must achieve a certain level before specific bonding events are available with other characters. These social stats can be obtained through choosing certain dialogue options as well as through training events with other characters. The quickest way to boost these is through training them with the assistance of Chani, whom you can train with during any time of day.

anime dating eternights
Dating is a huge aspect of Eternights

Boosting your relationships with other characters is organized into ranks and certain abilities and bonding events depend on having at least a certain relationship rank with a character. Ranks 1 through 5 are ranks of platonic relationships and entering rank 6 involves entering a romantic relationship with a character. Getting to rank 7 unlocks a special ability and also adds more bonding options. You can get up to rank 5 with Chani and up to rank 7 with Yuna, Sia, Min, and Yohan. While you can enter a romantic relationship with more than one character, who you choose to date and how many characters you choose to get romantically involved with will impact the story, so take that into consideration.

While the characters and writing in Eternights can be rather anime tropey, the game still manages to make the characters likable and interesting enough, and the writing gives the story a good balance of comedy and tragedy. What makes Eternights work so well is difficult to describe in words because its charm has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Eternights has a lot of heart and that combined with the fun gameplay is what makes it something more than the sum of its parts.

The visual presentation is the weakest element, but it also isn't bad. It's just not something that is going to make it stand out from other titles. The character portraits could be better, but they are adequate enough to function in the game and the backgrounds are also decent enough to be acceptable but not much more than that. However, what the game does have going for it visually is the atmosphere in the dungeons. While they are visually very dark, that does help in creating tension in not knowing what could be around the next corner. That element of suspense adds a nice horror element to the game and makes the dungeons engaging to explore.

The soundtrack is nice and mostly consists of darker electronic music that fits the mood well with some more upbeat tunes for light-hearted moments. The music is at its best in the dungeons where it mixes well with the dark atmosphere. The voice acting is well done with the majority of the dialogue being fully voiced. All of the characters are paired with voice actors that do a great job of presenting their personalities.

Eternights combat
Visually the game doesn't offer much new

There are multiple difficulty options in Eternights so players of a variety of skill levels can likely find a comfortable way to play the game. That being said, some of the core features of combat like performing perfect dodges, successfully completing combos, and succeeding in the quick time events for elemental attacks are necessary to learn in order to succeed. Some players may struggle with inputs and timings regardless of difficulty setting. While I think most of the techniques are pretty easy to execute once you have learned the basics of gameplay, it’s worth mentioning as not every player is the same.

Overall, I found Eternights to be a joy to play from beginning to end and I frequently found myself smiling because I was having so much fun. It will probably take somewhere between 16-18 hours to complete for the average gamer, time well well-spent. While I did hope the game would have been a little bit longer, that wasn't because it was lacking but because I was having such a great time with it that I didn't want it to come to an end. So I am very happy to award Eternights a Golden Genie Lamp of Approval for providing such a fun and charming experience filled with horror, romance, and bromance. If you are someone who is into both action RPGs and dating sims, then I strongly recommend giving it a try.

Golden Genie Lamp *sparkle, sparkle*
I Dream of Indie awards Eternights the Golden Genie Lamp of Approval

+ Fun combat and dungeon crawling

+ Well-implemented sim elements

+ Memorable and likeable characters

- Visually bland in some respects

- Some inputs are tough to pull off

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