Saturday, 4 March 2017

Eternam - Whoops, Outta Budget! (Won!)

written by Aperama

The reward is a wonky closeup of our 'helper' – they really love to zoom in!

The pain is finally over! I no longer have to worry about having to load up Eternam. I swear my computer has been quietly weeping over running it up! The music has been extremely lacklustre when it has actually existed, the graphics are weird more than endearing.. there's just pretty consistently nothing to look forward to. The game's consistent lack of logic is enough to make me want to cry most of the time. But it's over! You guys don't all have to skim through my posts of hate-filled ranting any longer – it's over! The worst thing is that the game ends on not just a cliffhanger, but an abrupt one. Much like the last French game which I played for the blog, B.A.T., I ran into a game which promised far more than it was ever going to be capable of fulfilling, desperately struggled to fit in what it actually had and then ended with little more than a 'The End!' screen. There again, at least Eternam doesn't have a sequel...

The full view of Eternam. The map does not match the overland – 'Sholda' is black and desolate

The 'Dragoons' are good fun, at least
As the title card intimates, I have the feeling that they wanted to insert even more into this game. There's no definitive evidence to speak of, but the 'end game' seems far shorter than the rest of the game. It's the clear and quintessential 'third act', but much like the previous island everything seemed quite rushed. There's no way back from the isle of Sholda – once there, the end game has started. There are lots of enemies running about the place, and the landscape feels quite different to the rest of the game. The enemies aren't actually much more than a hassle, though - it just takes a little more effort running past them. The only really memorable thing is having the 'Dragoons' (a hostile 'reptilian' species which are a bizarre dark blue/grey shade and are the evil Mikhal Nuke's minions) explain their favoured pasttime, Squishball. Essentially, two teams of fifteen squish a human into a ball and then take turns playing American Football – only instead of an 'endzone', the 'ball' is impaled upon a spiked pole at the opposing team's end of the field. I almost wish they'd included some (quite potentially gory) pictures of the game instead of talking about it – it's about all that actually got a smile out of me here.

This guy is largely useless...

While this guy explains why we needed to steal from Neil Armstrong.. well, in a limited fashion

There are very few places to visit apart from the 'Warrens', the end area of the game. There's one person who supposedly came to Sholda to spark some human/Dragoon relations, but I don't really know what he's there for outside of a little narration for the end game itself. “Guess what – there are people around here that are going to be dangerous!” (I'm not too surprised given that the last island was closer to a run and gun game than an adventure title.) There's another who has two pieces of important information, but I have to wave the flag from the moon in the 1960s to get him to talk. Apparently, there's a 'prophecy' handy which states that the 'human who commands the stars' will be the one to save the world of Eternam, so waving the old 'Stars and Stripes' is enough to impress him. He offers freely the fact that there is a mushroom which is poisonous to the Dragoon race. He was apparently tasked to fixing this little genetic blip, but they weren't willing to go his way so he turned himself into an outcast. He also has a 'spell to kill the Prince' to offer, but in return he needs his remote control so that he can watch the Squishball championships on the TV he took when he ran from the Warrens. Apparently, the TV has no buttons. Poor design should you ask me.

An idea of the landscape – oh, and yet another color for the Dragoons, I think?

I don't even know what this is supposed to be. Magenta is not their friend.

Dragoon décor is notably less strict than one might expect

As this is literally all of the notable encounters I can list outside of the 'Warrens', it's time to enter the endgame proper. I have yet another issue here – the rooms are wildly different, going between looking like an almost organic structure at the very entrance (or is it a rock carving? I seriously don't know here) to a series of big ornate chambers, rooms that look like they must be underground to above.. The entire thing, much like the temple which encompassed the majority of Paw, is as though they had a series of artists all get different direction as to what they were actually supposed to be drawing. I suppose you could give it the handwave of 'the entire thing is a simulation', but I don't like the thought of giving anything away here. Heading in, I may well have made a mistake by starting out walking straight up and to the left, leading into the lair of the Priest of the High Dragoon. He's the one praising Allah up there. He's a pacifist, so he's not really a concern – he starts going on about the 'destruction of the island of Capit'. I possibly should have paid more attention here, as that's actually the plot of the game, but it's shown the same irreverence as everything else. Instead, struggling to see why I even had this conversation, I moved on into, well.. 'the harem'.

The Prince catches Don, so he..

… lets him into his harem. Good god.

Turns out that the girl who was kidnapped so unceremoniously all the way back in Dorsalis is here, along with a whole bunch of other women of assorted alien varieties. There's no point in talking to said girl that I can see outside of being informed that there are some 'invisibility mushrooms' handy in the same room. In fact, there are three lots of mushrooms. One is the poisonous one the ousted and science-minded Dragoon who is after the remote control mentioned – one is poisonous to humans, and one turns us invisible. Why let me into this room, again? Oh, you crazy Frenchmen! You never read the Evil Overlord list from the mid-nineties. Superman never handed Lex Luthor any Kryptonite. I don't know of any way of telling between the two ingame outside of the use of saved games, but I guessed correctly the first time and then headed through the other door. There's a room which I still can't explain outside of 'it has a diamond in it we need later'.

Any ideas, guys? I don't. I just.. don't. (The centre is me trying the 'wrong mushroom'.)

Who's this riffing on? No idea.

I don't know if this is supposed to be a joke or they
just literally ran out of rooms and reused one from

Newly invisible, I'm able to run around the rest of the Warrens with essentially no harm coming to me. I never really saw the lady again, either. Instead, I walk through the now easily traversed rooms and discover a few things like a 'bone', 'shiny cannon balls', a terrible seeming band.. There's a room with a huge glass pane in it (which the adventure game puzzle-mind in me immediately says the diamond is for as the time machine from earlier didn't need powering). There's also an eventful jaunt across to get the remote control. If you make the mistake of walking up and speaking with the High Dragoon, you'll get tasked with bringing the old human back to him or get fed to the sharks in a very James Bond scene. Instead, after playing Donkey Kong for a room (only the barrels don't actually knock you over) past the Drakkhen room where random enemies start flying towards Don as soon as the invisibility ends, I immediately ran back to get the spell to 'kill the Prince' without ever speaking to him. Well, after he killed me. Science prevails always.

I literally mean Donkey Kong here, too

Why a race of huge reptilians needs a shark trap is beyond me, but hey

Newly armed with the spell, there wasn't anywhere obvious to go to from there. I figured I should go back and get caught by the Prince, but the harem weren't there any more, nor the guards who arrested me to begin with. Heading through the rest of this area becomes a Dragon's Lair clone in the worst way. Walk down the wrong path? Dead! Don't have the right inventory item handy? Dead! I'll skip by many of the 'puzzles' (throwing a bone into a gigantic lizard's mouth, not walking into the wrong door because it leads to instant death, overfeeding a shark tank so they don't try to kill you as you swim over) and go onto tricking the Dragoon chef by replacing his spices with the poisonous-to-Dragoon mushroom. Why do this? Because you die in all of the other rooms otherwise. It actually takes a little doing (it's a timed puzzle where you need to hide behind a pillar) but clicked easily enough when I saw the 'spices', though I figured I'd be flaking mushroom chunks inside and not just replacing the two.

Also pictured: a blatant Simpsons reference

Oh, so the plot is finally tied together! Well.. not really.

Continuing through the senseless torture chambers (they're 'mellowed out' by the mushrooms put through their food, so they just calmly go about their actions killing people mercilessly without a care in the world) it's discovered that Cuthbert, the son of Ethelred has been held hostage here all along. Nobody really seemed too worried about him being gone to begin with! After another Indiana Jones-inspired puzzle (there are two cages and one opening closes the other – you have to leave a weight in one to let both of you go free), he promises to run home to his father. He then gives us a flute (which is used to 'snake charm' through a passage) and rushes off, meeting the lady from the harem who is now free. Why? The drugging maybe. Or just the fact that they thought it'd be funny that way. She mentions how the guy who promised to save her a.k.a. Don Jonz left her high and dry in an 'elsewhere' cutscene, after all. It wasn't a loose end I needed explained, but they did anyway. So there's that!

In case you were wondering what I meant by 'snake charming'
a passage – playing the flute leads to a rope being dropped

The 'spell to kill the Prince' is certainly.. effective

So, the big culmination of everything we've kinda muddled through up to this point is finding the Prince in his chambers. It's another dialogue puzzle where the wrong answer is an instant death and the right combination of words will lead to Don automatically killing him. Turns out the spell is called 'throw the boat'. It literally crushes him to death. This is the second last 'puzzle' of the game. He drops a key on death, which leads to the aforementioned passing of the shark tank, swimming to the inner most point of the Warrens. The final 'puzzle' is actually walking into a rock.

See that rock in the mid-right of the screen? Walking into it wins you the game

Wandering about is enough to trigger the end of the game. Don walks into a room suspiciously like a bunker, staring as the island of Capit randomly explodes from entering this room. We get a little thing about Eternam's 'circuits are finally virus-free' after 'Nuke's relay station is eliminated', something about the 'Dragon being awakened once more', and then a space ship flies off, giving us a short conversation between Don Jonz and Mikhal Nuke. Turns out Mikhal Nuke was able to escape before Capit was fried, and there could be a sequel as Mikhal comes back to conquer Eternam once more!!!

… There wasn't one, thank god. If anyone is still confused? You're not alone. I've just tried to explain it as best as I can!

Time played: I'm going to call it fifteen hours for the entire game. It overstayed its welcome at about two.
Mental age increase: The sheer amount of liquor required to complete this game likely means I need a liver transplant


  1. Congratulations! I hope your next game is a more pleasant experience!

    1. Next games Ape gets to play are Laura Bow 2 and Quest for Glory remake, so he should be in for a treat!

    2. Thank you. If it's of any solace at all? I blame Ilmari.

    3. Oh well, I'll get to play B.A.T 2 soon, so you'll get your revenge...

    4. I admire you for your sacrifices... after all, if you guys didn't play them, I might have to!

    5. Oh, you didn't notice my link in the first paragraph, Ilmari? :)

  2. Gotta say, I found reading this series painful, mainly because of the negative tone.

    Hey, I realize not everyone will like/dislike the same things, but...I dunno, it just seems like you didn't give it a chance and decided early on "No...that was weird, I don't like this game" when you'd only just started.

    IMO, I kinda wish you'd keep the "woe is me" stuff out of the posts, and maybe just noted that you found the style of humor didn't match yours when you get to the review post.

    But hey, I quite liked Eternam when I played it years ago, so maybe I'm just biased *shrugs*

    1. I cannot really speak for Aperama, but I'll just say that each of our reviewers has hers/his distinct style and we try to allow everyone follow their own distinct voice. Personally, I liked Eternam somewhat more than Ape did, mainly because I happen to enjoy surreal humour, but I still enjoyed also his review of the game, which pointed out quite well some of the weaker parts of the game (like lack of a coherent plot).

    2. While I do normally enjoy surreal humour, the entirety of Eternam just never struck me the right way, you're quite right. It started off poorly with a trio of bad installs (the first didn't work, the second hadn't circumvented the copy protection properly). I then found a poorly translated manual as the only source I could go with. The 'introduction' very loosely introduces the plot by essentially reading the back cover of the game and 'dropping' you on Eternam. I actually started the game three times before I was sure I'd seen the introduction properly!

      If the plot were just presented a little bit more coherently I may well have seen past what I saw as fairly tedious gameplay might have actually interested me. Instead, the game just never explained itself, often failed to really tell me if I was doing anything right or not. I decided to harp on the 'poor me' moreso because I found the game quite uninteresting to write about. I started with an attempt at summarizing the plot, but found that useless as the posts were all without any real length. Chronological order didn't exactly help, as the game's expanse having so little within it meant that a great deal of gameplay was backtracking, the majority of which simply never felt particularly warranted. The setting was also very loosely introduced, with several obvious questions never answered (is Don Jonz' 'avatar' dying equal to him dying? Was Mikhal Nuke actually physically on Eternam, or were we trying to chase his avatar which we never saw?) that perhaps they were hoping to save for a sequel, but were otherwise sorely lacking IMHO.

      Half of the game was jokes where it felt like I was only reading the punchline without a setup. Another quarter was plot, but it was never possible to tell what was plot and what was bad joke. The remaining quarter was puzzles. I was happy with maybe three of those where I saw something, went 'ooh, that might work!' and was rewarded. The interface being more friendly would have helped hugely also. I'm going to do my utmost to be impartial with rating, as I'm willing to admit that this game never felt fun to me.

      Many apologies if my writing style didn't click (and thank you for the feedback, Icaras) - I was struggling both with time constraints outside of the game and generally not enjoying the game, so I did the best with what I had available.

    3. I agree that this series has been hard to read. My eyes have been glazing over after about the first paragraph. It's hard to be interested in something when the writer is clearly not interested in it, either.

    4. Personally I enjoy seeing a bad game get really enthusiastically slammed. I enjoyed these posts.

  3. I just encountered this fantastic video series which goes over the good sides of Sierra's adventure games and what modern games are missing:

  4. Did I notice a subtle 'Day of the Tentacle' reference in there?

    Also, I find the capital "A"s are too distracting. What font are they using and why does it have such ridiculously shaped "A"s?

    1. It's the only time I can think of in an adventure game where a diamond etc was not used to cut glass. I'm surprised that nobody has picked up on the "How to Cook For Humans (for, forty)" bit. It was one of the only references in the game I was able to make sense of, even if Kang and Kodos did it better.

    2. I love that old episode, and would have mentioned the Simpsons reference myself if you hadn't already mentioned it in the caption :)

      And for some bonus trivia that most people probably already know, like many Simpsons 'Treehouse of Horror' episodes, it's a reference to something else, in this case an old Twilight Zone episode.

    3. Huh, first thing I thought when I saw that book was "Oh, a reference to Damon Knight" :-P

  5. I worked on this game back then. I am really sorry the experience was so painful to you but I really, especially years later, understand your points. It was a first game for a lot of the team, and, well, there was a context that probably would inform a lot of the negative points you mention. However I am still pretty proud of a lot of it. Live and learn, right? Best regards.

  6. I worked on this game back then. I am really sorry the experience was so painful to you but I really, especially years later, understand your points. It was a first game for a lot of the team, and, well, there was a context that probably would inform a lot of the negative points you mention. However I am still pretty proud of a lot of it. Live and learn, right? Best regards.

  7. I worked on this game back then. I am really sorry the experience was so painful to you but I really, especially years later, understand your points. It was a first game for a lot of the team, and, well, there was a context that probably would inform a lot of the negative points you mention. However I am still pretty proud of a lot of it. Live and learn, right? Best regards.