A hack-and-slash crossed with a dating sim was about all I needed to read to give the Eternights demo a try. While it only shows off the basics of both combat and personality-driven social interactions, the humor, voice acting, and boss fight have me curious if the full game will live up to my expectations. The Eternights demo only takes about an hour to beat, but it makes the most of that time, introducing the player to some main characters and the core mechanics they should expect.
The story here isn’t anything new. Your friend is helping you set up a dating profile, when a terrible outbreak forces you two into a bunker. You find a magical pop superstar surviving in the bunker, the woman you were supposed to meet up with from the dating app turns out to be some sort of mystical being who turns your severed arm into a weapon, and you have to escape the bunker with your friend and the popstar that’s filled with infected people turned into monsters. So nothing unusual.
The story and tone hit the right amount of silliness, with the absurdity of the situation and grounded moments with the likable characters who slide nicely between comedic and genuine. Your best friend is goofy and confident, the pop star is kind and definitely in over her head, and both have brief moments of humanity that make me want to get to know them better.
The character you name and play as is a blank slate. A few dialogue choices give you some level of personality, but they’re mostly just there to deliver a joke. Most choices feel useless, since it’s clear either decision was going to lead to the same dialogue and story beat. A few choices give you a reward like “+1 confidence.” However, the Eternights demo doesn’t explain what those do, so how well that mechanic will be integrated into the whole game is a mystery.
Combat is basic enough to have me a bit worried. In the demo, you have one attack, a combo finisher, and a dodge, though doing a perfect dodge slows time for a brief moment. That’s not much, and even in the few encounters I had it was already wearing thin, especially since the enemies felt spongy on normal difficulty.
What reinvigorated my hope that Eternights combat could evolve into something more was the boss fight. The boss had a shield, requiring an elemental-based super move to break through its defenses. With multiple slots for more elemental types, it looks like it could require reading your opponent and using the proper attacks to weaken them. Executing the elemental attack also has a quick-time event with a few different types of commands, so hopefully this will also get expanded upon and the satisfaction of pulling these off will carry players through combat.
The visuals lean heavily into neon anime with a hazy fog to lessen draw distance and soften rough textures and models. Mouths move with basic flap patterns rather than lip sync, and everyone’s run animations are distinct, if not a bit off. However, none of that bothered me since everything looked cohesive and fit the style, and a few key points of the visuals soared. The characters are distinct from each other and their appearance, which aids in displaying their personalities. A few small touches such as adding stars to your friend’s eyes when he sees the pop star on TV and some choice writing sold me on the potential of the plot and characters.
The groundwork for a charming and engaging game is there in the Eternights demo. I’m hoping the basics are just the beginning and the game opens up with more options and tactics. I’ll be keeping an eye on it when it launches September 21, 2023.