Eternights begins with your unnamed teenage protagonist setting up his Tinder profile while his best friend gives him top tips like photoshopping his picture to make himself look more heroic, and lying about who he is to be more appealing to the ladies. This, apparently, is sage advice, because almost instantly our hero matches with a lady who offers to send him dirty pictures before he's even had a chance to use any of his best chat-up lines.
Ordinarily, this would be a winning morning for a teenage boy, but as he heads out to meet this woman in the flesh for what we can only assume would be a most unsavoury encounter, the apocalypse begins, and a supernatural assassin slices his arm off using a magical sword. What rotten irony; not only is his afternoon delight with his Tinder date ruined by Armageddon, but his hand has been unceremoniously chopped off so he can't even... well, we won't finish that thought.
With the world's population steadily transforming into hideous monsters and strange, otherworldly walls suddenly appearing throughout the city making escape impossible, things are looking pretty bleak. All is not lost, however. A strangely flirtatious deity gives our hero a mystical glowing replacement arm that can transform into a sword, and with his best friend and a handful of other survivors, he decides to fight back against the denizens of evil, and maybe, just maybe, find love along the way.
It's easy to look at Eternights and think it's merely a randier version of Persona, and there are indeed similarities and it is indeed randy. But gameplay is wildly different, with Eternights being more of an action game with light RPG elements. During combat encounters you can attack enemies with combos mapped to the Square button, and when you occasionally happen upon a tougher creature that has an elemental shield, using a spell of the opposing element will break that shield, allowing you to wail on the beast unabated.
These spells can only be cast once you've filled the requisite meter, and you fill that by attacking baddies or by dodging incoming attacks. The dodge timing is incredibly generous, and if you do it correctly you'll slow down time for a few seconds, which means you can land hits uncontested.
The fighting isn't exactly complicated, but once we settled into a groove of dodging then attacking and then dodging again, we found it fun, if not entirely challenging, throughout the campaign. Perhaps if the game were longer we'd have grown tired of it, but we saw Eternights off in around 15 hours, and with combat scenarios accounting for roughly half of that time, it never managed to wear out its welcome. It's simple but effective.
You've always got a main mission on the horizon, and the calendar explains how long you've got to complete said goal. During those missions you'll fight monsters and solve some light puzzles before ultimately taking on a boss and advancing the story. Monster designs are suitably grotesque, frequently leaning into body horror and providing more than adequate fodder throughout your adventure.
Between main missions you can spend your time getting to know your party members as well as helping them out by going on scavenging missions for items they might need. These sections don't last long, and completing them will raise your relationship with the character you help out. You can also take part in minigames with each character, rewarding you with experience that can be used to improve their skills in battle.
Some skills are locked until you raise your relationship level with a character to a certain point, and you do that by talking to them, helping them, and of course, flirting. You've got plenty of time between story missions since the dungeons can easily be completed in one sitting, so you shouldn't feel too bad about putting off saving the world to make goo-goo eyes at the quirky scientist in hot pants.
Most of the characters are wearing outfits ill-suited to combat, it should be said, but then we suppose if it's the apocalypse and you just happen to be wearing a schoolgirl uniform then what can you do? The conversations you have with your new friends/love interests will build up statistics like courage or confidence, and getting these stats to a higher level is required for unlocking some later dialogues.
If you progress your friendship with a character enough it can turn into a more serious relationship, with a same-sex option if that's the way you'd prefer to go. And while the dating sim mechanics are a big part of the game and sexy jokes are the order of the day, Eternights never veers too far into overtly seedy territory. It's more FHM than Razzle.
The conversation sections are elevated by snappy writing with an anarchic sense of humour. Some of the dialogue options are genuinely funny, and the blasé way some of the characters talk about the absurd situations they've found themselves in provides Eternights with an irreverent, light-hearted tone throughout much of the early going, before getting a little more serious towards the end.
Some of the jokes don't land, and the bawdy banter is definitely grating at times, but we'd say there's more here that made us smile rather than groan, and in the end we found the whole thing quite charming. It should be noted that we were playing the game in Korean with English subtitles and so you might have a different experience if you opt for the English voice work, which we found altogether less appealing.
Eternights is a little rough around the edges graphically, and there're some incredibly questionable animations. All of the characters look downright bizarre when they're running, for example, and sometimes when someone is performing a task, the screen will just fade to black and then fade back in with that character in a different position, presumably to avoid having to animate the motion.
But despite the obvious budget constraints, there are times that Eternights looks better than it has any right to thanks to clever use of lighting. During combat, which takes place mostly in darkened arenas, your glowing arm/sword and the graphical flourishes that accompany attacks or a well-timed dodge hide a multitude of visual sins.
Eternights' great success is that it manages to be more than the sum of its parts. The witty writing papers over the shakier aspects of the storytelling, the slight combat is used sparingly enough that its flaws rarely frustrate, and above all, it's got an undeniable charm despite its rough edges. We're swiping right on this one.