Eternights Review – Let’s get personal

Reviewed September 11, 2023 on PS5


PS4, PC, PS5


September 13, 2023


Studio Sai, Kowloon Nights


Studio Sai

There is an apocalyptic event that only you, the blank-slate protagonist, can stop from occurring. You and your group of friends are all high school students and in your downtime from saving the world, you strengthen your bonds. Maybe even love will blossom amid everything! You may have seen this situation in games many a time at this point, but this is its crux. The game knows this and revels in it, offering an earnest, heartfelt and pretty darn good venture into the known genre. This is Eternights.

In this release, people have shifted into demonic entities. Several monolithic walls have sprouted around the city, boxing in the metropolitan location in which Eternights is set. Armageddon is beginning and only you and your friends can stop it. In the wake of these events and in the early moments of the game, the protagonist (with a name of your choosing) gets their right arm brutally severed. Materialising there instead is a magical glowing arm that can transform into a sword and be used to mow down all who stand in your way in hack-and-slash glory. Your confidant’s abilities (something that’s developed more and more as your bond grows) also provide key assistance in taking down the powers that be. Go on out there and save the world.

These aforementioned walls that have sprouted up are what serve as dungeons in the game. There’s a ticking clock and ever-present on screen calendar system in the game where only two activities can be done by a day. Meanwhile, deadlines for clearing a dungeon or similarly related tasks loom. So the loop goes that you’ll work together with your companions to take on dungeons, gaining new party members along the way, taking a break and slowly working your way towards the gigantic and extra terrestrial tree, serving as the literal root of all this chaos. Only here can this all end.

As far as general settings go, it’s not the deepest premise but it is enjoyable for its brief 10 or so hour runtime. So often are games about the post apocalypse following characters trying to rebuild and start anew after tragedy. Rarely are they at ground zero for these events, reacting to and trying to overcome great challenges in real time. That’s a simple enough spin on the familiar setting that freshens things up enough to never have the story grow old.

Every so often Eternights will also present its story to you with cutscenes in a gorgeous 2D anime artstyle, looking almost as picturesque as high quality Japanese films such as Your Name, Weathering With You or Suzume. These types of animatics are few and far between and are sparsed out between lower quality 3D cutscenes, but they were always welcome and piqued my attention. The very fact these type of cutscenes made their way into the game at all is a feat when you consider how supposedly small the indie developer Studio Sai is.

There are ceilings to this though. The dungeons one goes through are visually distinct and though they’re not the most exciting visually, they have engaging enough puzzles (be it sliding puzzles or engaging with logic to work out the code to a computer terminal) to break up combat. The cast are all visually distinct in their own way, whether that’s the pop star (seriously) teen Yuna with multicoloured hair and a traditional school girl outfit or prodigy scientist Sia with ripped denim shorts, a crop top and hoodie. However, as is somewhat tradition with these types of games, your protagonist is as blank of a slate as they come, with generic black hair, wearing a plain white t-shirt, denim jeans and Converse knock offs. I know it’s the staple at this point, but I wish they at least gave us something to stand out other than an arm that glows.

What’s more bothersome, however, is the HUD and UI. Eternights does a pretty good job at establishing flair throughout with its visual motifs along with environment and character design. Menus and the on-screen HUD however look incredibly basic and like a stock font and layout you’d find in Unity to slap in. These smaller but crucial details to a game are harder to notice, only really picked up on by players when they’re either very good or very bad. In this instance, it falls into the latter camp. I understand that the game is incredibly indie, but when you’re trying to play with the big leagues such as Persona 5, even menu flair is important.

Eternights’ strength is in its cast. If you’re at all versed in anime or visual novels, you’ll see just how charming and earnest the characterisation actually is. Yes, there’s character and dialogue tropes a plenty in-game. Characters will say the most ludicrous and vulgar things that will make those that don’t have a tolerance for that sort of thing wince and be turned off. Thankfully, I’m a living and breathing Danganronpa fan and have seen far worse. At the end of the day, they’re teens and teens… say gross stuff.

During the day each day, provided your relevant social status (confidence, acceptance, courage or expression) is where it should be, you can hang out with one of your confidants. Here, you’re treated to one-on-one scenes where you get to know each party member better. It’s here you not only level up your bond, unlocking new skills for combat, but also you get to see deeper into a character’s shtick than what appears on the surface. Yuna’s hard and prissy exterior softens as you learn more about her. Min, the track star who is insecure and a people pleaser lets you in on her trauma. Even Chani, your childhood friend who’s a bit gross and childish, opens up to you about his feelings of inadequacy in the group. This is exactly the kind of angst I come into these sorts of games for and I was reveling in each of these moments.

Deepen your bonds enough with one of these characters (except Chani) and you’ll be able to form a romantic relationship with them. These are all incredibly endearing and tender relationships that fit well with the coming of age story going on in the background. I experienced all of these in my runtime, taking advantage of save states to experience every drip and drab of each bond because I simply couldn’t get enough. Eternights also deserves praise for going boldly where Atlus and Persona won’t: queer romances. A male confidant joins the fray about three quarters through the game and a relationship with him can blossom. It’s very tasteful, incredibly sweet and one of my favourite parts of the game, reminding us all once again just how much even the heavy hitters in the genre are lagging behind.

Combat is another area where Eternights will show that its not the most polished, but it still manages to provide plenty of fun in there. Here is where you’ll see some striking enemy forms including towering salary men or school girls in classic sailor school uniforms with warped faces. Going for the real time hack-and-slash style for combat was a good move in keeping things fresh and distinguishing from its inspiration. The protagonist has strong and heavy attacks and connecting these with foes will always build up a meter that is later used for dolling out stronger elemental attacks from both yourself and your confidants. These elemental attacks are important as all enemies have weaknesses to exploit, with some not being able to be properly damaged until their shield defence is taken down with this exploit.

In turn, this encourages actively juggling the series of enemies that you’ll have in a given arena. Working away at the mooks, throwing your weight around until you’ve then got the room to use an elemental stagger on a meatier foe is a loop I found engaging. Both your skillset and the occasional powers your confidant can call in will develop over time with white and black essences found in dungeons and from toppling enemies. Before long, you’ll be able to perform ‘Stinger’ thrust attacks, summon a series of magical swords around yourself as means of a damaging shield and so on.

Where the going can get tough for combat is through the checkpointing system that needs some work. Eternights can get somewhat hard depending on your difficulty options. It encourages you to use a well timed dodge or parry which will slow down time and give you that little bit of breathing room. Learning that pattern is fun but it only goes so far. When it all comes crumbling down and you get that Game Over screen, you could very often be taken back to several encounters prior. I similarly got frustrated at my confidants giving me nothing whenever I wasn’t using one of them at my beck and call for an ability. Seeing them stand idly by, waiting for your call had me wondering why they couldn’t either be around chipping away at other enemies or even off-screen entirely until I summoned them.

There’s mechanic assistance in a sort that will make your life easier: going on scavenge runs with confidants. This not only nets you with extra passive points to stats such as health and AP for abilities, but has a quirky and manic sprint through a set environment in search of a specific item. This doesn’t build up your bond with a character but is another excuse to spend some time with them. I found this desperate sprint through environments such as a warehouse, library or convenience store quite endearing as I tried to remember where items were the next time I visited said location.

Eternights might not be the most flashy game in 3D cutscenes and even in combat (alas, there’s no air combo juggling), but it is incredibly endearing and still a game I’d give a warm recommendation to. The many threads of the mystery you’ll follow in-game resolve quite satisfyingly. Who is the ethereal figure you keep seeing in your dreams? What party member are you most vested in having a relationship blossom with? Which light RPG elements do you want to engage with the most to build your character? It manages to provide quality answers to all these questions and more. What’s most admirable about all that is that it does so in a fraction of the time many similar titles would take, never outstaying its welcome.




  • A distinguished cast of characters to romance and get to know better
  • Gorgeous 2D animated cutscenes
  • An enjoyable mystery to unearth
  • Hack and slash gameplay is a fun and rarer spin for the genre


  • Combat checkpoints needs some work
  • Confidants could've been a little more present in fights
  • HUD, menus and UI are bland and ugly

Though far from perfect, Eternights has a lot of good ideas that heavier hitters in the action dating sim genre should follow. Despite being a small team, Studio Sai provides a fun and enjoyable experience in the scene, offering charming and equally viable dating options to get to know, even adding a queer romance option. There’s an engaging mystery to uncover in-game too, every so often taking the time to showcase this in gorgeous 2D animation. Though polish could’ve been greater in distracting HUD and menus, combat checkpoints and the like, what the studio has done for the genre is create an earnest and wholehearted positive step forward.