Earlier this month, Precursor Games announced its ambitious debut project, Shadow of the Eternals, a crowdfunded spiritual successor to the GameCube classic Eternal Darkness. Spanning twelve episodes and 2500 years of human history, Shadow of the Eternals follows detective Paul Becker as he tries to unravel the mystery behind a gruesome cult massacre, wading through a twisting, eldritch narrative that blends historical fact with Lovecraftian fiction.
We recently got the chance to talk to Precursor via email about the title, getting some deeper insight into its structure and gameplay. For even more information on Shadow of the Eternals, but sure to check out its official web site, which the team regularly updates with new details and development videos. And if you’re interested in the project, you can drop by the game’s Kickstarter page and make a small contribution toward its development!
Nintendojo: Given that Eternal Darkness was released 11 years ago, do you think there will be any difficulty gathering enthusiasm for a spiritual successor? How has the response been so far?
Precursor Games: The response has been great. There is certainly an audience for games like Eternal Darkness and a great many who have been counting the days for a follow up. So far they don’t appear to be disappointed with a spiritual successor, so long as it embodies the same kinds of ideas as Eternal Darkness did. We believe that our biggest problem is trying to inform those who haven’t played Eternal Darkness what sort of game we’d like to develop.
ND: Will you be using / carrying over any elements from Eternal Darkness to Shadow of the Eternals?
PG: We are taking the psychological horror themes, Lovecraftian cosmic horror tropes and adding action/adventure gameplay to make something we think is special and not done in video games today.
ND: You said in your Kickstarter video that you now have access to a large range of narrative tools that you weren’t able to use before. Can you tell us what those are and how they’ll play a part in the game?
PG: Previously, we felt that we were somewhat limited by the extents of the worlds we could create. Non-player character AI, dialog systems, the heavy cost of implementing ideas all worked against us. With the CryENGINE, many of those features already exist and are easy to use which enables us to create a deeper and more engaging world. Being able to interact directly with a character, and even influence them to help the player, change the situation, or deliver information in a way that feels as though they are alive contributes to our narrative immensely.
ND: How do you plan to make Shadow of the Eternals stand out from both Eternal Darkness and other narrative-based games?
PG: Story isn’t just another checkbox on a list of things a game needs to have in our eyes, it is the cornerstone of the experience and influences nearly everything else. That being said, we’re always interested in using innovative methods of storytelling to engage the player. We want to draw them in, engage their interest and then twist the story to draw them in further.
Today’s players expect more from a story and this is reflected in the growing maturity of stories being told. They want to be challenged by exercising and engaging their imaginations as they play, and so the story must be inventive enough to do this, preferably intertwined with the gameplay, which is where we feel our advantage lies.
ND: Was your decision to make the game episodic influenced by other successful episodic games like The Walking Dead?
PG: No, not really, though their success cemented our choice. The structure of our game was already planned out in discrete episodes that would be revealed one by one to the player as they advanced, so it seemed a logical choice to serve it up in the same way.
ND: One of the things that I personally enjoyed most about Eternal Darkness was the Roivas Mansion, specifically exploring it in between chapters and gradually unlocking new rooms with the abilities you acquired. Will there be a similar hub area in Shadow of the Eternals that will tie the game’s various episodes together?
PG: Definitely. Our hub level– an abandoned multi-winged hospital/sanitarium– is literally the glue that holds everything together– introducing the story and unfolding the game world at a controlled pace. We’ve also planned for a deeper narrative within the hub level to make it feel more alive and compelling to explore, rather than being alone in a house.
ND: Eternal Darkness’ focus on targeting and hacking off specific limbs was a unique approach to combat that added quite a bit of depth to the gameplay. Will Shadow of the Eternals feature a similar system, or is it going to take a different approach to combat?
PG: We are aiming for a system that has similar features such as body part-targeting, but unfolds in a very different way. Regular attacks on an enemy will open up opportunities for targeting different areas, allowing for hits on against its vital areas, or neutralizing its defenses, such as a shield or an extra limb. You could, for example, use the opportunity to disarm an opponent, remove its defences or its sensory organs to debilitate it. Each enemy would have a specific strategy on how best to defeat it and not necessarily the head.
ND: Early in Eternal Darkness, players got to choose one of three artifacts that affected the kinds of enemies they’d meet and the Ancient they’d be battling. Will there be a similar alignment choice in Shadow of the Eternals?
PG: Yes, actually there are two choices like this, but are put to an entirely new sort of purpose compared to ED:SR. One is a broader, more narratively attuned choice, while the other is more concerned with the moment to moment gameplay and establishing the future of our franchise, as well as reflecting the contributions of the community.
ND: Do you plan on using any of the Wii U GamePad’s unique features? If so, what are some preliminary ideas you had for it?
PG: It is early in the development stages (and we don’t want to spoil anything), but you can rest assured that we will utilize the GamePad in unique and interesting ways that are specific to Shadow of the Eternals.
ND: What are your plans for Shadow of the Eternals if it does not reach its crowdfunding goal?
PG: We are totally focused on doing everything we can to make our Kickstarter achieve its goal.
ND: Is there anything else you’d like to tell fans about Shadow of the Eternals?
PG: For people who have pledged and joined the order, we love interacting with you and can’t wait to make this game together. For people who haven’t pledged, please check out our Kickstarter and forums to see what you are missing!
ND: Thank you again for the interview, and good luck with the project!
PG: Thank you, we appreciate your support!