Right away, Aeterna Noctis feels familiar. With its grim, dirty visuals, melancholy music, and deadly enemies, the overall vibe of the game is remarkably similar to Hollow Knight. There’s a temptation to label Aeterna Noctis as an overly safe homage to its inspiration and call it a day, but thankfully there’s enough here to allow the game to stand on its own merits.
In a classic story of light versus dark, you take on the role of the King of Darkness who must ascend to the heavens and continue his eternal battle for the throne with the Queen of Light. After an introductory cutscene, the story is largely told through dribs and drabs as you explore the environment, and proves itself to be reasonably compelling.
The gameplay blends a nice mix of combat and platforming, with a heavy focus on providing a hefty challenge that mostly feels well balanced. Some may find the platforming elements frustrating (particularly the Mega Man-inspired disappearing platforms) while others may struggle with the tricky boss fights, but there’s rarely a moment that feels too overbearing.
As you explore the environment and defeat enemies, you’ll amass currency and experience, all of which can be robbed from you should you die at any point. Our core criticism with this mechanic is that you’re never really in danger of losing your loot entirely; you can simply revisit the area where you died and reclaim it as often as you’d like. Subsequently, this loot can go towards a smorgasbord of new perks and abilities, allowing for a meaty experience with the potential for multiple playthroughs.
Ultimately, although there’s a distinct feeling of déjà vu when playing Aeterna Noctis thanks to its unmistakable similarities to Hollow Knight, it thankfully manages to nail the most important elements in a Metroidvania: exploration and combat.