As anyone who has played Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain can attest to, few companies do atmosphere like Silicon Knights. A story of a vampire returned to our world for vengeance upon his killers, Blood Omen was one of the most acclaimed titles during the early days of the PSX. Now, the makers of that dark adventure have moved under Nintendo's wing, and onto the N64, with Eternal Darkness.

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    Making a surprising debut with two early screenshots in Nintendo Power magazine, Eternal Darkness leapt back into the news with the announcement of Silicon Knights becoming a Nintendo "second-party" developer. The only N64 game to come of this partnership will be Eternal Darkness. Taking a page from the works of H.P. Lovecraft, the game's plot concerns a race of ancient beings who once ruled the Earth seeking to reclaim their glory through a group of sects devoted to their return. The dramatic story spans multiple time periods and features over a dozen playable characters, but begins in the modern day with a young girl named Alex.

    Awakened late one night by a phone call, Alex is informed of her grandfather's sudden death. She heads to his mansion to retrieve his belongings and discovers an ancient book that chronicles mankind's struggles against the malevolent Ancients. The tome serves as the frame for Eternal Darkness' multiple tales and, as Alex reads them, players take over that story's character. Though little is know of the plot beyond this rough sketch, the individual tales look to offer a wide range of modern and historical settings with careful attention paid to each. The version playable at this year's E3 contained a short demo featuring a Roman centurion -- complete with spoken Latin.

Old mansion: check
Alex visits grampa

   The graphics are completely 3D in nature and will take advantage of the 4MB Expansion Pak for "enhanced" features. A healthy amount of real-time cut scenes, spoken dialogue, and fixed camera angles will serve to heighten the atmosphere even further. Promoted as a mix between Resident Evil and Zelda, the game is said to feature the pervasive creepiness of the former and the in-depth character interaction and epic nature of the latter. Exploration and interaction is handled by a context-sensitive B button, whose current function appears in the corner of the screen whenever the character is near an object or location that can be interacted with. This spares the gamer from the traditional running-along-the-walls-mashing-the-B-button strategy of discovering items. Combat will offer a wide range of options, from magical spells to modern day firepower.

   While it's obvious the developers have spent much of the significant development time working on the game mechanics, the real draw of Eternal Darkness is its atmosphere. The team has even studied the works of Hitchcock to try and fully master the art of producing fear. Complementing the usual creepy settings and off-kilter camera angles is a "sanity system" that pits the player against increasingly terrifying onscreen events. Face your fears and your sanity level increases -- run from them, and you may face worse. More than a simple gameplay gimmick, the characters' sanity level will influence their behavior, and even reality itself. In the version seen at this year's E3, an unbalanced character began babbling insistently to himself and hallucinating. The walls bled, but when reexamined were bare. In one extreme instance, his head fell off his shoulders and had to be chased around the room, before all was restored to "normal" by a blinding flash. While Denis Dyack, President of Silicon Knights, describes the game as a "deeper, more classical" approach to horror gaming, the sanity system has the potential to raise the bar for the entire genre.

  Zombies: check
Is it real?

   It's good to see horror finally growing out of the "cat in the bushes" scare tactics of most games and into something more psychological, engaging, and disturbing. But, what is more surprising is that this new maturity is coming from Nintendo. The company has long been pigeon-holed by many gamers as being too "cutesy", no matter how high the quality of their games has been. With Eternal Darkness, Nintendo is teaming with an developer who is experienced in darker atmospheres to create a title which should help attract fans of more mature subject matter. In fact, Nintendo is referring to the game as a "psychological thriller" - both Nintendo and horror fans can expect to be thrilled when the game releases sometime in first quarter 2001.

Preview by Ed McGlothlin, GIA.
Additions by Zak McClendon, GIA.
Eternal Darkness
Developer Silicon Knights
Publisher Nintendo
Genre Adventure
Medium Cartridge
Platform Nintendo 64
Release Date  Unknown
Eternal Darkness delayed
5 new screenshots
3 concept renders