It is rare that anything comes along that manages to move me to tears. It is also rare that you find something for free that is so good that you truly cannot believe that you are genuinely not stealing from someone to get it for free.
Both of those apply to Eternal Senia. Not heard of it? That isn’t surprising: it was released on the 18th of June 2015 onto Steam with no fanfare and no promotion. I stumbled across it because I was adding to my Steam wishlist and found it while trying to find some cheap games to add to my library. Spotting the huge number of positive reviews and figuring that, well, a free game fit the bill perfectly, I downloaded it and, at about five o’clock, I started it up.
Nearly six hours later, I had beaten the whole game, with all of the endings (I’ll admit, I save scummed a bit to get all three endings: I saved prior to the final boss and just reloaded from there to see all of the endings). And I had known for at least an hour that it was one of the best games I had played for years. Truly, it puts games by some professional games developers to shame, and this is all the more impressive when you consider that:
- It was mostly a one man project.
- It is the first game by the developer.
- It was purely made to bring back memories of the MMO Ragnarock Online.
- It was NEVER intended to be made to earn any money.
- It is likely to be the only game by the developer.
You read all of that right. This one guy, mostly on his own, put together a game purely for the joy of it…and it is a game that puts games by some professional games developers to shame AND is one of the best games I’ve played in years. If that isn’t high praise, then I don’t know what is!
But hey, maybe all of that looks like empty words to you guys. After all, I’ve not explained anything about the game: I could be talking out of my rectum, for all you guys know at the minute, and it could actually make Ride To Hell: Retribution look like a work of art.
…OK, that would be an achievement and a half, considering how bad Ride To Hell: Retribution is, but still, you get the point I’m making: I’ve said nothing about the game beyond fanboying about how much I love it.
So let’s stop yakking and actually look at Eternal Senia.
Eternal Sunia is an action-RPG that is faintly reminiscent of games like the early Legend of Zelda games, but with an anime style to the artwork. In that regard, there’s not really a lot to say about the gameplay, as it’s nothing exceptional: the base gameplay is very much in the Zelda vein and the RPG elements are more akin to those of Terraria (in that you need to get materials to craft together to make better weapons and armour). The only major bit of difference is how you level up your four special attacks: rather than them leveling up the more you use them, you get experience points for killing opponents and you can choose to increase their level at any time in the game by spending those experience points. While this does mean it is very possible to forget to level them up, it’s actually a very neat system and it works very well, since it means that you can usually level up your newer attacks very quickly without having them become unused due to them not having the power of earlier moves and, even if you don’t do that, allows you to customise your moves a bit better to your playstyle. I personally found the only special move I never used was the final one, but only because I was usually able to clear rooms on my own without taking too much damage. In fact, that’s probably the only major weak point of the game: with the exception of the bosses when set on the hardest difficulty, the vast majority of the game isn’t all that difficult. Because I usually made sure to get the most powerful armour in each zone that I could as early as I could, I only found myself really challenged in the game whenever I faced the bosses (I decided to be masochistic and set the difficulty to hard mode every time), and even they usually were defeated after two or three attempts at them. I’ll admit that I’m used to games offering me a challenge, so the lack of difficulty was a bit of an issue, but, if you’re just happy to enjoy the game and don’t care too much about difficulty, it shouldn’t put you off too much!
The art style is very much in the style of an anime, which makes it very easy to compare it to games like Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, HuniePop and Fire Emblem: Awakening. The characters definitely showcase this in their character portraits whenever they’re on screen, as they only really move to showcase changes in facial expression. It’s nothing especially complicated, but it works and it’s done nicely, so no complaints there!
The game’s story, at first, isn’t all that complex: it’s a typical “main character goes to rescue someone” kind of thing that everyone and their dog knows from the Mario games (although, in this case, it’s a woman going to rescue her older adopted sister). However, the story really starts to open up quite impressively as the game goes along, revealing a story involving demon slaying, curses and deaths. I won’t spoil the story too much, but I will say this: you WILL cry when you finish the game, no matter which ending you get. If anything, the LEAST heartbreaking ending is actually the one you’re most likely to get the first time you play the game!
The controls are fairly good and I have no real complaints to make besides for a nitpick: the game doesn’t pause if you open the menu. This isn’t a major problem, as you’re never thrown into a boss fight unexpectedly and the game rarely goes more than ten minutes without you reaching a save point, but it does mean that you can’t pause the game in an intense moment, so keep that in mind.
I do have two complaints I have to make, though. The first is that I found the game lagged a bit during the more intense moments of the game, to the extent that some button commands just didn’t input. Now, in fairness, my laptop isn’t exactly top of the range (it can run Dawn of War II fine on the lowest specs, but that’s about as far as I’ve been willing to push it), so this is likely to only be a problem with systems that have less powerful hardware, but it is still worth noting, as you wouldn’t expect a game like this to be one that can cause problems on lower systems!
Another thing that is worth bearing in mind is that the game doesn’t have a proper full screen option. Again, in fairness, this isn’t a major problem, but it does mean that you might struggle to get the game to a decent screen size, so, if you have poor eyesight and need things to be full screen, you may find this game is a bit too small on your screen to be able to play it properly. I also think it might be difficult to stream the game as a result, but I have no experience with that, so take that comment with a pinch of salt.
Finally, a concern on my part. See, while the game is good, there’s not really a lot of reason to play it again once you’ve seen all three endings. There’s a bonus room available to enter once you get the third ending of the game, but really, once you’ve seen all of the endings, there’s not really any reason to replay the game. Whether this is going to be a deal breaker or not will depend on the player, but, for me personally, I think the lack of reason to replay the game aside from there being three endings (and, again, you can cut most of the work required to get them by just saving prior to the final boss room and reloading from there) and challenging the bosses on hard mode (which I didn’t personally find that tough once I knew how to beat the bosses) may make this game a bit of a tough sell for those who like games with a lot of longevity.
Ultimately, though the game has flaws, the only ones that I think may be a problem to most people is the relatively low difficulty through the main game and the arguably low longevity of the game. Beyond that, it’s a surprisingly strong action-RPG that, though a bit on the short side (the only reason I took nearly six hours to play through the game is because I chatted with a friend for about an hour, spent at least an hour getting the best equipment I could and went back through levels several times to check I hadn’t missed stuff: if you just blitzed through the game and didn’t care about getting the other endings, you could probably get through it in about three hours), is truly worth a look into. I wouldn’t normally say “Recommended for everyone”, since, well, everyone’s tastes are going to be different, but, considering it’s a free game, you’re not exactly going to lose anything if you try it out and it is a game which is genuinely good in and of itself, so…yeah, if you’re a gamer at all, go for it!