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CONSOLE: PC DEVELOPER: Hitbear Studio PUBLISHER: Hitbear Studio
RELEASE DATE (NA): March 2, 2018 GENRE: Action-Adventure
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

Dreadful.

When I fire up a game, one of the first things I want to see isn't a large screen boasting that the game was cheap to make, in large letters "low-cost dev". That really rings alarm bells. As tools like Unity are becoming increasingly easy to use, game development has become open to everyone. With game assets being purchasable on the cheap, anybody can have a working game demo ready in minutes. Because the practice of "Asset Flipping" (releasing a poorly constructed game with low-cost assets) has become the new normal, when a game like Eternal Dread releases it can easily be mislabeled as one due to the high quantity of them available. I did my journalistic due diligence and made the discovery that Hitbear Studio isn't releasing an asset flip. Eternal Dread (and their earlier game, Eternal Lore) are built with their own engines, which they also sell as game development assets. These games are to Hitbear Studio what Half-Life 2 and Portal are to Valve; playable tech demonstrations of a game engine disguised as "games". Eternal Dread appears to use specifically the 6.0 version of the "Action-RPG Starter Kit" as a base, or rather, perhaps the improvements made during Eternal Dread's creation were transferred to the development kit.

The main character of Eternal Dread is Riel, a young elf-like woman. The story begins with Riel regailing the tale of when she was kidnapped by goblins as a child. She was rescue [sic] by noble knight, who inspired her to follow his teachings and help those in need. Some time has passed since then, and elder fiends have arisen from slumber. These monsters have led the human race to such brink of extinction [sic].

If you haven't noticed, the game is full of marvelous Engrish errors. These are the result of the game's creator and their weak understanding of English. Staying true to the philosophy of "low-cost dev", he has opted not to hire a proofreader. No, he's too proud for that.

So Riel joins a warrior guild with the desire to grow strong and eventually give the Elder Fiends what for. However, this game isn't so much about punishing others, as it is about getting punished yourself. I can prove that this game was made for a particular type of fetishist, but more on that a little later on.

From the get-go, it's immediately apparent what to expect. You're met with a tutorial screen explaining basic movement, a townsperson who provides you with your first quest, and a few functional NPCs such as shopkeepers. From here the gates are open to the wide world, where goblins and mushrooms await being slain by your hand. As you get to grips with the controls and slice your way through a couple dozen enemies, you get a feel for the game and its progression.


And the reward for dying is... sexy dying!

You are drip-fed one quest at a time, which is ridiculous seeing as you have a quest screen that consists of five pages! Your one-by-one quests usually involve killing a certain number of enemies or defeating a dungeon boss. For each completed quest you are awarded experience points and money, which is also earned by killing enemies. Enemies drop loot in traditional RPG fashion, and this loot can be sold for more money. The shopkeeper offers you a range of weapons, equipment and items, though better stuff can be found in the game world inside chests. These chests are often guarded by three or more regular mooks with extra traits, such as increased attack power or elemental affinity.

The game progresses at a baby crawl and is made slower yet by limited stamina. The open areas are too large, feeling like a slog to navigate. Whereas dungeons are the exact opposite, like train carriages crowded full of creepsters trying to grab hold of you. The enemies in dungeons are also a lot tougher than outside and can defeat you rather easily even if you're a good ten levels above them.

When you're defeated, you may get to "enjoy" a brief Ryona scene. Ryona is a fetish that originated in Japan, where female video game characters are shown getting beaten up, harmed, and sometimes getting eaten or outright killed. I'm not here to kink-shame, it was seeing one of these scenes beforehand that encouraged me to check out Eternal Dread in the first place, because I simply couldn't believe that a Steam game was able to launch with a scene where the main character is hung, or mutilated, clearly for some kind of sexual kick.

Now you might be thinking; does the game outwardly admit to the act of defeat being sexual, or is it played tongue-in-cheek like old adventure games? It's true that without outside knowledge, jumping to the conclusion that this game is a kink game is somewhat of a leap considering only the steam page and game content for relevance (though the screenshot of the main character tied up with bondage rope might give it away). The developer of Eternal Dread, griever3610 on YouTube, has Ryona channels as related channels, has liked videos of in-game torture scenes such as Metal Gear Solid V's Quiet torture scene, and has liked (so far) only videos of Eternal Dread that show Ryona scenes. I'm not looking to kink shame, I'm merely saying the evidence is out there. This game is clearly meant to get a certain subset of people off.


My eyes, they are slain!

Griever is also very defensive on Steam to the point of sheer insanity, unable to accept the poor nature of the product they put out. "I want to fix your mistaken [sic]. The game is not GARBAGE". Granted, if I made something I was proud of, I'd probably be protective too. But I wouldn't criticize the player for not liking my product. "I'm sorry that if [sic] this game is not good enought [sic] for you." The apology here is not a genuine one, but instead used in a mocking sense — I'm sorry my caviar is too posh for your country bumpkin palate. But the people coming to Greiver's defense are, as you might be able to guess, folks who like to see virtual women getting harmed and executed. Not trying to shame them, just stating the facts.

I personally feel that if less time was dedicated to the many gruesome ways little innocent Riel can be hung, stabbed, choked, decapitated and was instead spent on making the game enjoyable to play, then maybe the $10 price tag wouldn't seem so excessive. It doesn't help things, either, that Steam discussions concerning the difficulty or genuinely present design issues are met with disdain by other users, as though their 'favourite game' is being attacked. Insults towards a player's skill level are fired off because, oh dear, they don't like one aspect of the game? I understand it might be rare that a game speaks to you on this level, but it doesn't mean it gets a free pass. A bad game is a bad game, no matter how hard someone worked on it.

While a game's community shouldn't be a contributing factor toward whether a game itself is recommended on its own merits, on the other hand with a community as toxic as Eternal Dread's I do believe it should be kept in mind when reviewing a game. Therefore, I do not recommend Eternal Dread. Actually, I highly recommend against purchasing it. My five hours spent with the game have been torturous, and while this may eventually be a finished game, or through playing it more it might suddenly 'click' with me, as of now I feel it will not. So long as the developer continues to ignore suggestions that the game's difficulty be toned down, and the game's community continues to treat all players who criticize the game with contempt, there really is no reason to play this.

Unless you like seeing girls get mutilated, decapitated, hung, choked... then by all means, go right ahead. Enjoy yourself.

NOTE: Since writing this review the developer of the game has turned around to criticisms and attempted to address difficulty balance issues. Didn't really deal with the whole sadism thing, though, but... to each his own.


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