Nearly every successful game these days at some point gets a sequel or reboot. It only takes a cursory glance at last weeks best-selling games chart, 9 sequels and a reboot, to see that the cash paying public like the familiarity of a series over the originality of a new product.
With so much cash at stake it’s no wonder the games developing community stick to what they know and churn out rehashed, albeit improved rehashes (most of the time), versions of games over and over.
Sometimes, however, a game will come from left field and without the aid of a Roman numeral after its title succeed by being different and bringing new ideas to an already stuffed table.
Way back in the days of the Nintendo‘s much maligned Gamecube one game that rose above the mass of sequels was Silicon Knights Eternal Darkness released to much critical fanfare in 2002.
The game followed Alexandra Roivas, a young, beautiful woman whose grandfather’s body has just been found in his dark and moody mansion, bloodied and torn apart, his head missing. When she learns that the local police have been unable to uncover any clues regarding the obvious murder, she decides to take matters into her own hands. It’s when she arrives at her deceased relative’s mansion to investigate that the tale of Eternal Darkness truly begins. Players take on the role of 12 different characters through the ages, from a Roman Centurion to a priest during the period of the Inquisition, a hunter and collector in the 1980s and even ancestors of the Roivas family line. Each character in the game has a point and a place relative to the overall storyline, which slowly unwinds and unravels as players make progress.
The game’s structure is nothing new for anyone who’s played a Resident Evil or survival horror game, but with a great time-travelling story, a sympathetic main character and some interesting game mechanics (sanity meter) the game rose above the competition and achieved almost universal acclaim from anyone who played it. The problem was not many of us did – less than half a million if reports are to be believed.
Lack of sales isn’t always the defining factor when sequels are green lit. Critical response can sometimes sway a game company to release a new version of a game even if the original sold disappointingly, just look at Beyond Good and Evil and Shenmue. The problem with Eternal Darkness wasnt just that it didn’t sell well but that it was also an expensive game in terms of time and money. Originally set to be released on the N64 the game was originally shown to the public in 1999 before being totally rewritten for the Gamecube. Its scheduled 2001 release on the newer format saw a further delay after the 9/11 attacks as parts of the game were once again rewritten in light of the tragic events. When it was finally released in 2002 it was late, on a struggling platform and up against big hitters like the Resident Evil franchise that the paying public knew and were already comfortable with.
The lack of success hasn’t stopped rumours that the game may be revived, with Silicon Knights intimating in 2006 that they had planned for more games in the franchise and Nintendo themselves renewing the trademark for the game 5 times. Indeed former members of Silicon Knights launched a crowd-funding page in 2013 to garner funds for a sequel entitled Shadow of the Eternals, but a plethora of issues including the arrest for child pornography of one of the senior developers and a lack of interest from the public has seen the title permanently put on hold.
All this might suggest that those of us who loved Eternal Darkness and are chomping at the bit for a reboot are wasting our time. Who’d put money into bringing back a game that hardly anybody bought the first time around and has been beset with issues ever since?
But in this modern Switch era with indie games thriving and the mighty eShop making games easily available, then surely there must be room for a thoughtful, well written and unique blast from the past like Eternal Darkness. After all, games like Outlast (1 and 2), Layers of Fear and even the reboots of the Resident Evil Revelations games show that the market is out there.
What do you guys think?