Dating and the end of the world go hand-in-hand in post-apocalyptic horror action RPG Eternights. Can our nameable protagonist save the world and find love while adhering to a strict deadline? Only time will tell when Eternights gets fully released on September 21st. Those curious about the game can experience an appetizer with a PC preview demo that is also Steam Deck compatible on June 19th for Steam Next Fest! I’ve been curious about Studio Sai’s Eternights for a while now, and playing through the beginning sections in a special press preview has undoubtedly reignited my eagerness for the whole experience.
In Eternights, players step into the role of a young man with a pushy friend named Chani. Chani’s trying to set up the protagonist’s online dating profile, and our intrepid protagonist can respond to Chani’s attempts in as many amusing ways as you see fit. Later, you take a personality test that sets you up with a relatively straightforward woman who wants a proper “yacht date.”
Things seem to be going well for our hero despite his resigning himself to the conclusion that dating apps must think he likes “crazy.” Still, it isn’t long before something bizarre occurs involving Eternights, an anti-aging drug. The entire world turns upside down instantly as countless people mutate into horrific monsters, and a mysterious, seemingly supernatural “Wall” appears in the protagonist’s city. You retreat to a shelter with Chani, but even that safe space doesn’t remain so for long, with some genuinely gruesome and dangerous experiences awaiting our heroes.
As you first try to navigate the destroyed shelter, you must rely on stealth skills and sprint away from danger. These segments are handled quite well with a perfect tense and stressed atmosphere. There’s even a quick-time event (QTE) to amplify the tension! Eventually, though, the plot moves forward, and you gain access to skills that allow the protagonist to fight back. Combat in Eternights means hacking and slashing away at your enemies with simple button combos. However, you can also initiate a perfect dodge by pressing the indicated button when an enemy’s upcoming attack turns red. Regularly attacking and correctly dodging fills up an elemental gauge allowing access to a skill called Elemental Fist. Elemental Fist is not only a potent attack move but is also necessary to break through the initial shielding some bosses have. You must break their shields before you can cause damage and end the fight. Once initiated, you must correctly perform a series of QTEs to pull off an Elemental Fist move successfully.
Overall, I found combat throughout the Eternights demo swift and rather furious. At first, you can only access a limited number of skills, but you upgrade them using materials called White and Black Essences found in dungeons or gained through defeating foes. Eventually, when upgraded, you gain allies with abilities that aid you in combat. However, you only have access to one such character in the press preview demo. Their initial AOE healing ability is quite a boon!
The press preview demo for Eternights only scratches the surface of what’s in store for players, ending during the second act. You only traverse a prologue dungeon, the evacuation shelter mentioned earlier, and the game’s first dungeon area. The prologue dungeon is purposefully limited in what you can initially do, though the first dungeon is more open and indicates what the rest of Eternights is like. During the first proper dungeon, you gain access to fast travel at points throughout the dungeon, allowing you to move between accessed areas and manually save. You also see puzzles you must solve to progress through the area. The puzzles in this dungeon are tile-based, changing tile colors. They’re nicely paced throughout the areas to break up the frantic combat. You must also race past damaging lasers at specific points to get to a timed open door.
Traveling through dungeons and combat are the main focus of the preview, though you also get snippets of story scenes outside dungeons playing out. It’s important to note that you can manually save when not dungeon-crawling at any time after the prologue. The limited number of characters you meet are an intriguing bunch, from pop star Yuna and the mysterious “yacht lady” to a young woman who goes around chopping off people’s right arms for a reason she refuses to share with others. I personally love the “yacht lady” ‘s bluntness and mysterious commentary! Yuna’s story of inner conflict over the death of another person while trying to find her missing friend is also surprisingly well-done. Given his attitude, Chani is the one character in this beginning stage I had difficulty warming up to. Still, I appreciate why he acts the way he does concerning the main character’s newfound powers and the realistic way other characters respond to him. For a silent protagonist, the main character’s dialogue choices give a lot of personality too. I love how much of a “lovable idiot” vibe they give off!
There are some fanservice elements in Eternights, but they aren’t the worst I’ve seen in a game, and the characters who do act in decidedly icky ways get called out on it. I credit the game for being very tongue-in-cheek in terms of its script and dialogue: the way the yacht lady lampshades the “chosen one” trope is mainly amusing! Many terrible and surprisingly emotional things happen throughout narrative scenes, and Eternights conveys that well. However, it also doesn’t shy away from poking fun at itself, which I certainly appreciate!
The advertised in-story deadline doesn’t play much of a role in these beginning segments of Eternights, so I’d like to see how it gets implemented later. I also only reached one bonding event with Yuna by the time the demo finished, so I could not see how the skill upgrades I received would integrate into the gameplay. Still, you can strengthen character abilities by spending time with your companions. Specific dialogue options also raise social stats, such as confidence or acceptance, impacting how confidant abilities evolve.
The Eternights demo had me getting into the swing of things right as it ended, and I was having fun with the combat and testing out later-gained abilities. It would be best to play with a controller, so don’t expect to use your keyboard with this title. The only real issue with the combat’s action RPG elements is that you often have to adjust the camera to avoid getting trapped in a corner and losing your mobility. It is an entertaining demo otherwise, especially once I had some practice. The preview shows a lot of evolutionary combat potential as you progress. Regarding accessibility, the demo offers three difficulty modes: Normal, Story, and Expert.
Graphically, Eternights’ 3D graphics do a fine job of conveying the horror vibe the game is going for. There’s a ton of nightmarish variety with enemy designs, and I like the overall look of the characters. Character models are very expressive, and the anime aesthetic nicely lends itself to the game’s visuals. The animated cutscenes are top-notch, and the UI is crisp and easy to understand! The English voice acting is on-point throughout the game, and the soundscape fits the horror atmosphere perfectly. You can pick either English, Korean, or Japanese for the character voices, and many different language options are available for the script.
I can see where one might compare Eternights to a series like Persona with its darker, more mature undertones and focus on dungeon-crawling and bonding. However, Eternights successfully stands on its own as a relatively solid action RPG in itself. Combat is fun and fluid, and the story and characters are intriguing even at this early stage! I wanted more when I reached the demo’s end, which is a positive sign that Eternights is heading in the right direction. After getting my hands on this preview, I’m looking forward to getting the chance to meet the rest of the cast and play Eternights in full when it releases on September 21st!