It’s no secret in the back alleys of Indian video game press that I’m a sucker for oldschool RPGs. I stopped counting the times I’ve gone out of my way to look for any more of this recently resurged sub-genre. The market might be getting a little saturated with all the retro RPGs out there these days, but that doesn’t dissuade me from trying out every single one of these, the latest in the line of which, is Eternity- The Last Unicorn. Let’s see how it is, shall we?
Eternity- The Last Unicorn is a classic RPG (according to the Steam store) developed by Void Studios and published by 1C Entertainment. The game was released on PC and PS4 on March 5, 2019.
Story & Narrative
I’ve played RPGs based on Norse mythology and those based off High-Fantasy. But it’s not every day that I get the chance to play an RPG that describes it to be a unique blend of the two. The story of Eternity takes place through the point of view of two characters, one representing each of the aforementioned setting. The first is an Elven maiden Aurehen who is searching for ways to restore the lost power of the bewitched Unicorns, whose fantastical abilities fueled the immortality of the Elven race. The second playable character is Bior, is a Viking warrior whose party of warriors befell a terrible fate. The game switches between two characters at pre-determined intervals to move the story forward.
The story of Eternity is nothing special. In fact, it’s the same straightforward story of the chosen one we have all seen and experienced since the dawn of time. Except that there are two chosen ones this time around. Aside from the ‘interesting’ setting, there is hardly anything that will win you over. The two characters are not very likable and outside the journal entries, are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts that are just there for the sake of the story.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Like I mentioned earlier, Eternity: The Last Unicorn is marketed as a classic RPG. In truth, it feels more like an action-adventure game with some minor RPG elements thrown in. But these days, every game with a level-up mechanic calls itself an RPG. But I digress. That’s a topic for another day.
The Camera…Good Lord, the Camera
Eternity features a fully 3D world but with the caveat being fixed camera angles with no horizontal or vertical movement. Even though it was a bit of turn off at the start, I went into it thinking that if it’s implemented well, I would have no problem adjusting to it sooner or later. Oh, how wrong I was. Of all the other problems plaguing Eternity (we shall get to them in due time), the camera is by far the worst. The problem is even more pronounced during combat where the bad camera angles lead to all sorts of frustrations including getting fired by enemies off-screen, accidentally transitioning to another camera angle, obstructing your view, enemies blocking your character and so and on. This type of camera would be better suited for over the top or isometric games or even character action games like Devil May Cry or God of War where the precision of the other systems compensates for the lackluster camera angles. But even then, those games have moved past their early days and give you more freedom these days. The camera angle of Eternity is a product of a bygone era I’d rather not see return.
Moving on from the camera, Eternity plays out like your standard action adventure games with backtracking levels and light puzzle solving. There is a rudimentary leveling system where your character attains levels by acquiring XP from combat. It’s an auto-leveling system requiring no effort from the player. Meaning that you won’t be able to change the characters’ stats or attributes directly. With each level, the characters gain more HP, crit chance, resistances etc. It would have been neat to at least get the option to choose between a few active or passive skills, but even those are absent. Then there are basic upgrades like increasing the damage of your weapons and a crafting system that is a chore to do. Each time you want to craft something, you have to run all the way from wherever you are to the center of the map, to the guardian of the forest. You’re better off sticking with what you’ve got. Why they couldn’t do this at save points is beyond me. At least the inventory is simple to use.
I’ve played a lot of RPGs with janky combat over the years. In fact, I like my RPGs a bit janky. But Eternity takes it too far. The combat in Eternity is, due to the lack of a better word, ‘outright bad’. The concept is simple. You have a light attack, a heavy attack, a charged AoE attack, and dodge. You hit stuff enough times, they die. Sounds good on paper. But the execution is far off. First of all, the combat is a stunlock fest. Whoever stunlocks first is guaranteed to win, whether that be you or the enemies. Then there is the not-so-good hit detection, inadequate feedback from enemies, stiff controls (which we shall get to below) and on and on. The combat is described as being a bit Dark Souls-ish (if I had a penny for every time someone said that), but it’s nothing like it. Attacks lack weight, dodge is totally unreliable and enemy attack patterns are sometimes unpredictable. It all boils down to your ability to mash the attack button as fast as you can and occasionally performing a dodge.
Combat with random critters in the game can be forgiven to an extent if your heart is big enough. But the boss fights, the boss fights are the absolute worst of them. I literally spent more than an hour in frustration trying to kill a wolf boss, just because of the artificial difficulty induced by the bad camera, sluggish combat, underpowered attacks, and terrible hitboxes. It just gets worse from that point on forwards. At least the game has a decent variety of enemies with each one having their own distinct patterns and lore. Talk about a waste of potential.
Since the game didn’t allow for free rotation of the camera, I preferred to use my controller for the entirety of the game. Sadly, while the movement controls are snappy, controlling both characters during combat feels stiff and unresponsive. By the time your character manages to execute a dodge, chances are that the enemy has already landed two or more hits. It goes without saying that turning your character around while on the move is a pain in the butt, thanks in no small parts (once again) to the atrocious camera. Just adds fuel to frustration.
All the complaints aside (yes, really), there were moments of enjoyment to be had. Especially during the first two hours or so, when combat didn’t get into pull-your-hair-out territory and all you had to do was run around listening to the soothing music and engage yourself in the story. Sad that it didn’t last long.
Visuals, Performance & Sound
I’m thankful to my first dinosaur PC for making me tolerant of games of different levels of graphical fidelity. Graphics in games never bother me much, if the gameplay holds up. Eternity isn’t a looker by any means. In fact, it even looks worse than Divinity 2, an RPG from 2009. But I get it, this is a low budget RPG and I can live with that. So I wouldn’t hold it against Eternity. With that being said, there are a few graphical options to tweak and that is much appreciated.
The game was tested on the following specs:
- Intel Core i5 7500 3.40Ghz
- GTX 1070 8 GB
- 8×2 GB 2400Mhz DDR4 Ram
The game ran at a locked 60 fps at 1080p, but there were random microstutters every once in a while (especially during combat and you know what that means). There are also several bugs such as your character getting stuck on the terrain and during dialogues. I also wish that the cutscene prior to the boss battle could be skipped because you are bound to repeat them over and over again.
Music is one of the very few positive aspects of Eternity. It’s generic high-fantasy, but I’ll take anything at this point (except the combat music. That gets annoying fast) As one would expect, there is no voice acting, even for the opening cutscene. Weapon and enemy sounds are very generic and unimpactful.
Eternity: The Last Unicorn could have been a guilty pleasure game if it had a flexible camera, reliable combat and more options to develop your character. It would have fared better off as an isometric RPG or one akin to Legend of Grimrock. However, that is clearly not the case. As of now, Eternity is a frustrating mess that is hard to recommend, even with the cheap (regional) price tag.