Eternights combines engaging character action gameplay with Persona style socialising | Hands-on preview

by on June 19, 2023

Saving the world is fine, but have you ever tried dating? There are loads of epic RPGs about saving the day by beating evil monsters, but sometimes we need a bit of balance in our gaming diet. For most people this is what makes the Persona series particularly special, a blend of battling otherworldly demons and teen drama all wrapped up in a delightful package of Japanese culture. Eternights has a similar combination of fighting and socialising at its core, but in a much more tumultuous setting.

The main character and his best friend Chani are just typical teenage boys. Their life consists of going to school and trying to romance girls, and because of the age we live in that means checking out a whole load of dating apps. This is how they’re spending the evening when the game starts, with idle banter about their favourite idols and a search for love or perhaps something seedier. After trying out a new app that asks users to take a personality test to match with love interests, our protagonist starts talking to a very forward girl who wants to meet up the next day. And so begins the drama.

The next day when on his way to his hot date, a huge wall bursts from below the earth’s crust and takes out a huge chunk of the city. This catastrophic event causes a whole lot of destruction, and also lines up with hordes of monsters appearing in the city and attacking people on site. You and Chani are immediately thrown into an underground bunker and told to hide until help arrives, but before that time comes things start to kick off again and you and some new allies need to escape to a new place of safety.

A screenshot of Eternights

With monsters roaming the streets now, you’ll need a way to defend yourself. Fortunately that’s something you gain rather quickly, thanks to a girl in your dreams giving you the magic power to turn a recently amputated arm into a big old sword. You can use this to beat up any bad guys that stand in your way in the full on character action combat that Eternights has to offer.

Initially you’ll only have a single basic combo and a dodge roll to use against the monstrous hordes of Eternights, but honestly that’s all you really need. Much like in the Bayonetta games, if you time the roll just before getting hit you’ll activate a slow motion effect and be able to absolutely decimate the sluggish enemies for a decent chunk of time. Unlike Bayonetta though, the window of opportunity for activating this ability is massive, and means that you’ll spend almost all your time laughing at enemies moving at a snail’s pace while smashing their face in. On the one hand this is really satisfying, but it did ensure that the challenge of this ninety minute chunk of the game I played was fairly nonexistent.

After a few fights I was able to unlock a few more powers, like a big elemental attack that required nailing a quick time event to unleash its full potential. Using this attack on enemies of the appropriate type broke their defences and enabled me to take them down with ease, and once a few more of these are available I imagine the combat will really start to open up.

A screenshot of Eternights

Alongside these power moves, I also unlocked some new attacks on a skill tree that were useful in certain situations. None of these were particularly ground-breaking, but having a lunge to close the gap on enemies, a ranged attack and a slow but massively damaging new weapon really did make the combat much more interesting. I also gained another magical teen who could provide me with some backup, with a cheeky heal as long as my assist meter was full. From this demo the combat was enjoyable if a little on the basic side, but if new abilities continue to unlock I don’t see myself getting bored with the full game.

Outside of combat you’ll spend your time chatting away to your allies, and depending on the conversation options you choose certain stats will go up. In the menus it looked like by focusing on certain types of responses you’d unlock new buffs to your character, but this didn’t happen for me in the demo. The dialogue is entertaining though, if a little on the blue side. In this opening section there were already two jokes made about masturbating into tissues, and one about hiding the weird porn that Chani and I stole from his grandad. You probably already know if this will grate on you, but from this early section I mainly just found it amusing.

Eternights combines engaging character action gameplay with Persona style socialising, and that’s a blend I can absolutely get behind. The combat in the early sections of the game is perfectly serviceable, and I’ll be interested to see how it progresses later on. If fighting demons and talking about porn sounds like something you’ll enjoy, then watch this space.

Eternights is coming to PC (Steam and Epic Games Store), PS4, and PlayStation 5 on September 21st, 2023.