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Preview: Eternights

19 Jun 2023

Have you ever played a game that gives you a constant feeling of deja vu? Be that because it resembles something you’ve played before or because it’s just a straight-up copy of another game? That is the exact feeling I experienced during my playthrough of the preview build for Eternights.

Eternights is a self-described “dating adventure” game currently in development by Studio Sai. It will release for the PS5, PS4, and PC this summer. The PC version of the preview was played for this preview.

Eternights’ story, at least the little I was able to play of it, does not feel particularly unique. You start out with a cutscene of the MC and his best friend Chani making a dating profile. During this exchange, you can pick the main character’s name and, through a series of varying dialogue options, you get to choose if you want to come off as witty, unserious, or psychotic. In this scene you are also indirectly introduced to another one of the game’s main characters, but only via the TV and not in person.

Now, I only got to play around 90 minutes of this game, so my thoughts so far may be a bit rash for how little I actually got to experience. However, the story comes off as a little parodistic in nature which concerns me. I won’t spoil anything but I will say that through a series of unfortunate events, the main character ends up in a Velvet Room-like place (Persona fans will understand but for those that don’t, the Velvet Room is like the border between the living world and the afterlife) where a girl named Lux just gives him powers and basically forces him into taking on the task of saving the world. The buildup is quick, comical, and very unbelievable. 

The three characters you get to interact with were very much the same. Their dialogue tried really hard to be funny even in moments that were meant to be serious and their moods shifted so drastically (particularly Chani’s who went from being a bro to being a hater in like zero seconds flat) that I was just left confused. Especially because at times the game seems to actively encourage the dysfunction by giving you some very questionable dialogue options as possible responses to the things happening around you. 

If I’m being honest, I kind of felt like I was playing a parody Persona game, and that is not a compliment.

As far as Eternights’ gameplay goes, I can only describe it as lacking originality, which is kind of ironic because the entire premise of this game is that it’s supposed to be a unique experience. Still, the bulk of the gameplay is made up of slashing away at enemy NPCs that all had the exact same character model and moves. There were one or two boss fights that were a little different but for the most part, it wasn’t anything engaging. 

I did enjoy the dodging system. It has an easy tell but the effects were cool and it made having to time things kind of fun.

The rest of the combat consisted of using a super move to break through enemy barriers and do more damage and pressing the R button to finish some enemies in one hit.

To be fair there is like a lot that is locked behind the final product. The game has a skill tree that shows a bunch of new skills the MC can learn, and you don’t actually have access to your other party members during the preview build. You can use only one move from the designated healer character but they aren’t targeted by enemies and don’t actively fight so I’m not really sure yet how the party system fully works.

Eternights does have non-combat gameplay; after all, it is a “dating” adventure game first. Relationship building is done by speaking with the various in-game characters and choosing the correct dialogue options. This helps unlock their skills in battle, but I didn’t get to see the full extent of that during this playthrough.

Along with relationship building, you can also build the main character’s stats. His expression, courage, etc., are all enhanced by his dialogue options. I’m not really sure what this is used for yet but…it’s fairly easy to build points as most dialogue options yield something.

I’ll be honest and say that the little we were given to play did nothing to sell Eternights‘ gameplay. The enemies looked the same and did the same things, the paths in-game were linear, and the dialogue options and relationship-building felt a bit hollow. But this is just the preview build so maybe I am getting ahead of myself.

Visually, Eternights is somewhat bland. The character designs and sprites feel a little dated like something out of the PS3 era. The in-game world itself is weirdly textured, even at high settings, and isn’t particularly appealing. I mean the setting is “apocalyptic” so maybe that was by design? I’m not quite sure. 

You aren’t really encouraged to explore either as the paths are pretty linear, and you can’t interact with many objects in the in-game world, leaving very little to actually be excited about in terms of your surroundings. 

I did really like the animated cutscenes though. There were a few in the preview but one in particular had a crisp modern anime feel.

I will say that the voice acting is pretty good from the bit I heard. The dialogue is so off-the-wall sometimes that I’m surprised at the quality of how the lines were delivered. I genuinely felt like everyone’s chosen voice actor was a good match which is kinda rare. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the few musical tracks presented in the preview, but I do feel like 90 minutes versus a full game can change a lot.

I know I spent a good bit of this preview talking about the many red flags I spotted during my playthrough, but despite all that, I cannot wait to play the full version of this game. Maybe it’s the Persona fan in me, or maybe I just like a game that fully commits to its own shenanigans, but I am excited to see the direction Studio Sai goes with it.

I’m not really sure why but in the end I *was* charmed by Eternights. Worse case I end up playing a title with mechanics right up my alley that just fails to deliver. Regardless, I will be on the lookout for its official release date so that I can play through this crazy ride. 

Preview copy provided by Studio Sai. Screenshots taken of reviewer. Featured image courtesy of Studio Sai.