First Impressions – Eternity: The Last Unicorn

Factfile
Developed by:Void Studios
Published by:1C Entertainment
Released:2019
Format played:PS4

What Is It?

I’ve always prided myself on finishing a game, or at the very least having a right old go at it, before attempting to complete a review. After all, how can I possibly hope to bring balance and insight to my critique if I haven’t experienced enough of it? So with that in mind it’s only fair to say that I’ve not played that much of Eternity. Just the first couple of areas, up to and including the first boss fight. No more than a couple of hours.

This is less a review then and more a first impressions piece.

First things first though, let’s take a couple of steps back and take stock of where we are. Eternity is an RPG built around Norse mythology. Or so it says on the tin. To be honest I pretty much fell asleep during the absolute dishwater opening, full of guff and nonsense about magical this and sacred that. And anyway, plots are almost always entirely pointless, it’s the game itself that counts.

And what a game! Marvel as your character lurches awkwardly around the screen, snagging on scenery. Delight as wave after wave of identikit enemies meander in to view for yet another battle, swarming round you like bees round a hive, hacking off great swathes of your health whilst a thrust from your sword barely registers a flesh wound. Gasp as you move between areas, the background music changing not with a subtle mix but rather a sudden jolt, completely destroying any sense of atmosphere. Stand agape as character after character spouts inane, waffling babble, scripted as if the writers had only been told second hand what actual humans sound like when having a conversation. Rejoice at yet another death, the absence of any difficulty options chucking you in at the deep end from the off, levelling up seemingly matched by enhanced enemies thus rendering the process of levelling up pointless whilst checkpoints are spaced in such a way as to force you to grind through repeated enemy encounters to get back to the point where you died. And positively applaud at the absence of an auto save feature, the grind-heavy checkpoint system at least allowing you to pick up a few screens back but useless when you end the session and lose your progress at the next boot, hard saves only possible at specific points.

To be fair it is competent enough but games are supposed to be fun and I just found this frightfully dull. Combat lacks any sort of variety with every encounter a case of hack, slash, dodge repeat. In the heat of battle you might try to dodge out of the way, only to zip right into a gang of thugs on your tail, who promptly smash your teeth in. The single good part of combat is the one-hit death slash that you are prompted with at certain points, but even this is flawed as it requires the same action button as that to pick up dropped items, meaning that all too often, instead of pulling off a savage take down, you find yourself bent double mid-battle, picking up some undead bones to craft with and promptly taking a dagger up the unicorn for good measure.

And it looks terrible too, with listless environments and uninspiring enemies. Action is viewed from a fixed camera, a throw back to adventures of yore but a wretched inconvenience in practice. It is a design choice that worked in 1998 but in 2019 it feels redundant and can result in restricted field of vision during battles, making what was already a tough fight an even greater slog.

And while we’re at it, saving the game is done by approaching a conveniently lit fire. Having saved, you then press the button to cancel and go back. At which point the game asks if you want to save. Yes, it has literally taken you back to the last point of interaction with you, meaning that those of a more literal persuasion will be stuck in a hell of circular logic, only those with a reckless streak of daring summoning the courage to defy the game, exiting out of the dialogue screen and trusting to the gods of cloud saving that their progress has been suitably recorded. Oh, and having saved my game and exited, and then on the grounds of sheer perseverance and professional pride coming back to it, why oh why does the menu option default to new game, making me scroll down to load game? Petty? Oh heavens, yes. But these minor quibbles hint at a carelessness of development that doesn’t fully take the user experience into account.

Bottom Line

I deliberately haven’t scored this review as I don’t feel I have played it enough to give an accurate mark. The fact that I have so little desire to play any further probably tells you all you need to know.

In some respects this feels like a PS4 game that looks like a PS2 game and plays like a PS1 game. Those looking for a Dead Souls-like adventure might find something here but it left me cold. It isn’t awful by any means, I just didn’t enjoy it.

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