Review of Eternal Ring
I will start off my review by stating that I am a HUGE Kingsfield fan. Okay, there I said it…I know I am in the minority here, but I have taken my lumps and I still go back and play (and enjoy) those games to this day. The reason I am telling you this is because Eternal Ring is from the same makers as the Kingsfield series and while it is not considered KF4 (that is coming out next year…yeah!!), it is certainly set in the same universe, with the same basic presentation, control scheme and combat elements. If you absolutely hated the Kingsfield games (shame on you!), Eternal Ring is probably not going to give you that gaming stiffy that you are looking for. It does however have some unique features not found in the KF series, but now I am beginning to ramble…here is the review!
The game starts with Cain being dropped off on the island by a fisherman. As Cain ventures inland the scene cuts back to the fisherman who is still in his boat. Getting ready to sail away, he is unaware that flying directly overhead is a dragon. As he turns to unlatch the sails he is apparently attacked and killed. Seems the island has a nasty dragon problem!
You begin your adventure armed with a short sword and little else as you traverse through an underground passage known as Waterfall Cavern. You can move your character forward, backward, turn around left or right, look up and down and strafe to the left or right.
In a move that is becoming all too typical of From Software, the analog thumbsticks are not used in Eternal Ring. But wait, just when you thought that From just doesnt recognize analog control they do give players the option of going all analog with the buttons and directional pad. In this mode everything is now touch sensitive so moving forward backward, strafing and turning movements can all be regulated by the amount of pressure you apply to buttons…bravo!
Traveling is a relatively slow process as Cain trudges along at a bit more than a walk and turning around from side to side was a bit too sluggish for my liking. A quick fix to this is to combine a strafe move with a turning one. While your turning radius is going to be wider, it is quicker and feels more controllable.
As you progress in your journey you will encounter all sorts of life, whether it be in the form of villagers or monsters. Villagers and townsfolks are very approachable and will progress the storyline and provide you with information and occasionally items if you decide to talk to them. Engaging them more than once will quite often elicit additional information and clues, so feel free to talk up a storm.
The monsters that you will encounter are quite varied and always have a bad attitude. Some will just try pummeling you to death, while many others possess magical abilities and arent afraid to use them. To level the playing field, in addition to your weapon you also have magical abilities that come to you in the way of finely crafted rings.
The ring system used in this game is a real beauty and it works like so... As you kill monsters, many times they will leave behind magical gems. You can pick up these gems (there are many different types) and combine them at the Forgotten Dais to create new rings of magic. Depending on what type of combination you use (and there are literally dozens of them), the end result could be a ring that spits out fire, water, earth or wind attacks or a ring that will assist in bringing up your attributes. There are also very powerful Summon rings that can be created as well. As Cain you can equip multiple rings at one time and select which ones you want to use during battles. I found this little ring creation event in the game quite amusing and the results of some of the gem combinations are downright deadly.
Gems can also be used in towns to purchase potions and weapons, so killing lots of monsters is very important to your success. In addition to obtaining gems, your character also increases in strength and attributes with each kill. As with most RPGs, the level up system is used when enough kill points have been accumulated.
I must say journeying around is no easy task for two main reasons. The island is absolutely enormous for one and contains a huge variety of environments. The other reason is that there is no map in the game…crap! All you get is a shitty little compass display in the upper left side of the screen. If you want to make sure you know where you are going and where you have been, I strongly suggest getting out some paper and drawing you own maps. In typical From Software fashion, this is one big ass sprawling adventure that you are about to undergo. OH, one last note…the game doesnt log your time which I found very strange for an RPG. Instead the game tacks time in days. As you play, day to turns to night, etc. Shops are closed in the evening and different people come out in towns at different times.
Since everything is from a 1st person perspective, the visuals are presented as if you are viewing them through the eyes of Cain. The environments are rich and finely textured all coming through in a nice hi-res display. As you walk around the land moves by smoothly (albeit rather slowly) and if you look carefully you will see the occasional polygon seems in caves but nothing too distracting.
For those that have ever seen a Kingsfield game before, Eternal Ring will immediately remind you of the series. The same graphics engine is obviously still be employed here except that now everything is much more crisp and realistic looking due to the power of the PS2 (which really isnt getting pushed very hard here). Even the fogging and occasional collision detection problems are here (monsters will occasionally hit you through walls). Overall though the game looks pretty damn good and succeeds in creating a fantasy environment for players to experience and journey through. Personally, I really liked it.
To cap things I really must mention the sound effects and musical score…they are incredible. Each location that you visit has its own unique tune associated with it that ranges from slow and moody to lively and up-tempo. The harpsichord is a prominently used instrument here and all of the tunes have a classical feel to them.
The sound effects are incredible with full directional sounds when played through a 5-speaker system. As you rotate Cain sounds will seamlessly flow from speaker to speaker. The sounds also do wonders to create a very atmospheric environment that just further draws you into it.
Using the huge storage advantage of the DVD, all of the text in the game is accompanied with vocals…and there is a LOT of talking to be done. The voice acting ranges from very good to almost comical, with the fisherman at the beginning of the game having a distinctive New York accent…go figure.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Eternal Ring' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Rooney © Absolute PlayStation
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