Written by  :  Nowhere Girl (4246)
Written on  :  Sep 17, 2015
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  2.8 Stars2.8 Stars2.8 Stars2.8 Stars2.8 Stars

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Crazy adventure with a horrible interface

The Good

The background story is rather silly, but the final effect is good: a varied, crazy game with a lot of humor. The highly artificial, even cliche story is what paradoxically keeps the rest of the game cohesive: if you want to make sense of it, you have no choice but to accept its artificiality. Don Jonz moves between very different worlds, from a medieval land (with anachronisms such as electric sockets or vacuum cleaners) to a city of the future, but it all works well - I would even say it seems more credible than, for example, in "King's Quest 6". The latter is of course a fantastic game, but it also aims to be realistic in its portrayal of human emotions, of power and politics... and while it is an amazing game, great differences between several islands which are all parts of one kingdom have been criticized as not particularly credible. "Eternam", on the other hand, is so crazy that "everything is allowed". When Don Jonz teleports from the future city to ancient Egypt, it isn't perceived as weird anymore - it's just crazy and "crazy" is something you have time to get used to.
What is even better is that these worlds have beautiful graphics. Especially "inside" sceneries (inside a house, city, the castle, the pyramid etc.) with a typical 3rd-person perspective. They have lush colors, lots of details... generally they look like an adventure game should. Close-ups on interlocutors are much more cartoony, but still interesting and expressive. Outside maps are very different - it's a 1st-person, 3D perspective, with much bigger objects. These sceneries are often weird (huge roses or frogs next to the road), but not bad and they distinguish each island nicely.

The Bad

Still, while the outside maps look quite good, they are very uncomfortable. Getting lost is easy, especially on the third and fifth island. Running around (by the way, it's easy to get off the road when you're moving quickly, fortunately all the terrain obstacles don't stop you, as if you were hovering a few feet over the ground...) is really irritating when you don't know where you should be going and in what order. These maps also include some dangers, mostly at night - you recognize it beforehand by the flashing "Alert" sign. The monsters are not very dangerous - you can shoot them, you can evade them and your health replenishes after some time, nevertheless it feels like they are added only to make the game more difficult and introduce action sequences.
The game works OK despite being made of almost diametrically different worlds, yet sometimes you can have the impression that the authors had too many ideas. Examples are people at the workstations (Mitch Gorbachekov, Soako and Ooh-la-la) - talking to them hardly gives any new ideas, or the screen where RPG-like figures start shooting Don. Such scenes don't seem to have any reason for being there.
However, the biggest problem is the interface. It's keyboard-only and I don't have anything against it, by itself it works well. Some sequences may be difficult (think of all these twisty staircases in Sierra games - from the AGI period, before any mouse control was introduced), but not very much, usually you get a bit of a safe margin in such places. Shortcuts are convenient too - you don't have to use the icons, you can just press a key - T for "take", U for "use" etc. However, looking at objects and talking are big disappointments. First, looking - in most adventure games played with the mouse there are many interesting comments about the surroundings. They may be poetic, they may be funny, they may provide important hints... No such thing in "Eternam". Don Jonz will automatically notice some things and can look at them again, but these are only items which can be picked up and some other objects. A surreal little room in the castle with a huge finger, 20th-century movie posters in the baron's mansion - you'll only get a comment that "there's nothing to see" if you'd like to examine them.
Talking - sometimes you start talking automatically by coming up to someone and sometimes you have to press "S" or the icon. However, the worst thing is that talking to a character again is not easy. Usually you have to leave and reenter the room - if you just press "S" again, it won't have any effect. Some characters won't talk to you again (the skeleton, the bear hunter), so you only get one conversation option. In some cases (the help desk ladies in future City) you have to keep leaving and reentering the room and going through the same option just to be able to ask more questions. Again - a keyboard-only interface is not bad by itself, but it would be hard to come up with a more inconvenient interface for talking. It's strange, especially since you need to talk quite much.

The Bottom Line

"Eternam" is a fairly interesting game with a feeling of variety. It interface and gameplay are unlike in most adventure games. The developers' ideas should be appreciated by themselves as something that works fine despite being made in a completely different way than in other games. However, the extreme inconvenience of solutions used for talking strongly limits the game's attractiveness.