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Eternal Threads (PC) Review

Have you ever seen a game and instantly thought to yourself “I need that, right now”? That’s exactly how I felt when I first saw Eternal Threads being advertised last week, a game which I’d not heard of previously yet absolutely loved the concept immediately. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a time-travelling organisation which sends operatives back in time to fix ‘corruptions’ in the timestream by subtly altering past events to ultimately change the future (your present)?!

Eternal Threads is Cosmonaut Studios‘ first game, comprised of both industry veterans and talented newcomers. Considering this is their first title as a team, I seriously can’t wait to see where they go from here. The publisher is Secret Mode, an indie publisher that’s part of the Sumo Group (owned by Tencent).

This week I’ve been playing Eternal Threads on PC, it is heading to consoles as well but those versions have been delayed until later this year, so I opted to play the Steam version instead. I’ve played the game through to the end, achieved the best ending possible, and seen most of what the game has to offer. So, let’s take a closer look at why you should buy the game when it launches this week and why it’s also on my GotY list…

Eternal Threads 1

Can you save all six victims without actually stopping the fire?!?

Upon researching and experimenting with time travel, early experiments went wrong and released a massive amount of ‘chronal radiation’ into the time stream, leaving devastation in its path. Although the particles only made minor and insignificant alterations, changing how some past events played out, thanks to the ‘Butterfly Effect’ these small changes soon spiralled into much bigger disruptions.

The world around you has now changed but the facility which performed the experiments is shielded, able to try and fix the past by sending operatives back in time to investigate and resolve the corruptions. This is where you come in, Agent Forty Three, you’ve been sent back in time to May 2015, a few hours after a tragic fire had taken the lives of six housemates in the North of England. It’s up to you to scan the last seven days of events and alter the victim’s decisions in hopes of saving them all.

Sadly, you can’t simply go back in time and stop the fire, nor can you tell someone to find and fix the source either, the fire is a fixed event that can’t be altered so you must work around that and ensure people are alert, able-bodied, and capable of reacting fast enough when the time comes. However, every decision you make can lead to new outcomes, changing things for the better or worse, so it’s not as easy as it sounds – there are a lot of choices to be made!

In terms of length, it took me around nine hours to complete and an extra one or two hours to go back and get the best ending. It’ll take much longer if you’re trying to grab all of the achievements though.

Eternal Threads 2

The timeline is crammed full of possible events based on the choices made previously.

Gameplay
Eternal Threads is a time-travelling, story-based adventure game with puzzle-like mechanics and a brilliant narrative. It’s a first-person exploration game in which you explore the burnt remains of a two-storey house as you look for items and notes left behind and trigger ghostly holograms of past events. From the very beginning, you can access the full seven-day timeline and view any event you want, each directing you towards the room in which it takes place so you can hold up your device and watch as the event plays out.

There are 197 events in the ‘normal’ game and 121 in the Abridged version (a shorter version with no way to achieve the best ending). However, not all events will be selectable as some will only trigger based on the choices you make previously, meaning you have to go back through the timeline and influence the victims to make an alternative choice. Choices don’t only affect that person’s timeline either, by saying something or acting in a certain way, it may also affect other people and push them down a different path. 

The entire gameplay aspect is fascinating and really fun to play and solve, subtle changes can end up having big consequences that you’d never have imagined, sometimes leading to the victim dying in a different way. There are also multiple ways to stay alive, it’s not set in stone that you MUST do a certain set of events. Because of this, there are also multiple endings – you can save everyone and complete your mission, Find a certain item and trigger a new ending, or save everyone in the most optimal way and read alternative “where are they now” profiles for each of the housemates. 

Eternal Threads 3

I was so proud of myself for saving everyone via their most optimal route.

Ah ah ah ah, staying alive…
As mentioned above, Eternal Threads has multiple paths and outcomes to explore, resulting in you having to go back and make changes regularly in order to experiment with the timeline. For example, I thought I had done really well when I managed to get everyone out alive, but then I realised they weren’t highlighted green (indicating it’s the best solution). So, I went back to change a few things and I found that I had to deliberately make choices that killed the remaining victims before I could unlock new choices and events that let me adjust things and get them all to live, again.

As you make decisions and alter the future, you sometimes change where and how the victims die. So, as you wander around the house, you’ll see blood and tags on the floor which show where their bodies were found, along with their phone with a final text message or voice mail. At this point, you can look on your timeline and watch the characters die or you can go back and make a change which can either move their point of death or potentially save them. Each character has quite a few possible deaths, fun ones include falling down the stairs to the basement and choosing to stay with the one you love rather than trying to save yourself.

Working out the solutions made me feel like a true cyber-sleuth, just like I did when I played Return of the Obra Dinn. There are a few minor choices in the game which don’t really change the narrative, but there are a number of them which unexpectedly have a major impact on one or multiple characters. I personally played the game in chronological order at first, running through the timeline from beginning to end and making whatever choices I felt like. Then, I went back and jumped around in time more often than Doctor Who!

Eternal Threads 4

Someone has to…

The Characters
Eternal Threads features six main characters, these include students, professionals, the landlord and an older sister of one of the students. As we’re watching a whole week of events in this prominently student-filled house, expect a mix of drama, partying and the mundane. The first hour or so simply introduces you to the characters, allowing you to make a few subtle choices that doesn’t affect things too much, and generally get your bearings on the house. One of the first choices you have is to simply look for the post and give a letter to the Doctor or not bother – a small choice which actually affects a few subsequent events.

As you get further into the week, the characters become much more interesting and involved, such as attending a party in the house and opting to either get drunk or not – which may or may not lead to ‘sexy time’ with someone else! As practically a fly on the wall, as nobody can see you, you’ll soon become aware of the issues and hardships the various inhabitants are facing behind closed doors, most of which you can’t change but you can try to help them come to terms with and possibly move on by adjusting their actions and thoughts. 

I found the dialogue very realistic, the acting was great, and the character models and animation were all spot-on. The entire experience fully immersed me and had me hooked to the game, not wanting to turn it off until I’d saved everyone. I loved how much attention to detail is present, with characters often referring back to choices you previously made and even items moving or vanishing based on your decisions. It’s clear a lot of time and planning has gone into making a dynamic narrative which flows seamlessly with no obvious continuity issues, with both the world and characters reacting to the choices you make.

Eternal Threads 5

Will you hook up with your crazy and abusive ex-girlfriend or tell her to sod off?

The magic of time travel
I absolutely adore the gameplay mechanics in Eternal Threads, instead of simply sending you back to stop the fire from taking place, you’re basically reconstructing the prior seven days digitally before locking in your changes and re-writing history to create a better outcome. Being able to jump around the timeline at your leisure, altering things to see how the subsequent events unfold via the Butterfly Effect, is both exciting and very creative. I also loved the fact that you don’t always have access to certain rooms, so you have to watch future events to find out where the keys or codes are.

For example, early on you’ll watch one of the victims sneak down to the basement and disappear into a secret room, a place which is currently locked to you so there’s no way to follow them and see what they’re up to. However, changing the timeline slightly leads to you watching them naked in the shower (yup, there’s a naked arse shower scene) and then following another member as they search their room for a key which you can now pick up and use to enter the secret room then reverse the timeline and see what was going on. Similarly, you need to find the combination to the darkroom before you can enter, as well as keys to a few rooms within the house.

I think the biggest draw for me was that I love games that have “what if” mechanics, letting you go back and make the changes to see what happens. Some games do this really well such as 428: Shibuya Scramble and The Council, changing the narrative and situations you’ll encounter in future chapters/acts, whereas some offer very little deviation such as most Telltale Games’ games (it seems like you have choices yet it’s essentially just a different character possibly saying a few lines differently). Eternal threads falls within the former; due to the enclosed environment and tight narrative, you can clearly see how almost every choice you make affects the world in some way.

Eternal Threads 6

Buttocks, swinging low.

Any issues?
I was a little worried when I saw that the console version of Eternal Threads had been delayed – my PC isn’t the best and often struggles with new titles unless I crank all the settings to medium and reduce the resolution. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was able to play the entire game at 1080p with every setting on High, all whilst maintaining a very stable 60fps (with minor drops to around 55fps on rare occasions). My hardware is the old i7 2600k, 16GB RAM and a very old GeForce GTX 780Ti – so if your PC is built from components launched in the last 3-5 years, I’m sure it’ll run great for you!

Technical aside, was there anything I had an issue with whilst playing? Yes, there were two things. First of all, the opening chapter of the game contains a lot of flashing lights without warning or the option to disable them, this could potentially be an issue for those who suffer from epilepsy. Also, some of the dialogue isn’t subtitled – it’s often non-important things such as the radio or the device telling you the date and time, but it is information some people will miss out on.

My only other ‘complaint’ is the ending. Obviously, I don’t want to ruin the story or what happens at the end, but I was expecting more than what we got. Especially when you work really hard to ensure everyone is saved via the best possible solutions. I loved every second I played right up until the final scene, which left me with more questions than answers and sadly didn’t leave me satisfied – maybe the developers have something planned in the future or have an idea for a sequel?

Eternal Threads 7

Although creepy-looking, this doll makes an amusing sound when turned upside down – I remember these dolls!

Personal Opinion
I honestly can’t praise this game enough. I love the Northern setting where it’s always raining and bleak (I’m also from the North), as well as the variety of personalities shown within the great cast of characters. Although you have the ability to influence the six victims throughout the seven days prior to the accident, you’ll also view other people that enter their lives such as the sister’s son and husband, these are also well designed, acted, and developed despite being minor side-characters.

I found myself unable to stop playing from the moment I arrived in the fire-damaged house, I was hooked on trying to find out what happened and how the choices I make can affect the timeline. I tried to explore every nook and cranny but I’ve still not seen all 190+ events or found all the notes and voice recordings, I’m leaving that for when I get the console version. However, if you’re only playing on PC then there’s a lot of replayability as most choices will unlock new events which can also lead to new choices and events, it’s a perfect use of the Butterfly Effect.

Whilst playing Eternal Threads, I was reminded of similar games which I’ve also played and loved in the past. The Invisible Hours is a game in which you’re an invisible entity that manipulates time as you follow people around a mansion to discover what events led up to the death of your host, Nikola Tesla. I also saw similarities with 428: Shibuya Scramble, a live-action Visual Novel where you have to constantly flip between people’s timelines to make choices that indirectly affect everyone else. Finally, if you’re a fan of narrative adventure games, such as Quantic Dreams and Supermassive Games’ titles, then there’s the same satisfaction of dynamically affecting the narrative based on your choices.

 I’m personally a fan of all of the above titles, so I instantly fell in love with Eternal threads. It also helped that the visuals and sounds fully immersed me in the atmosphere, delivering realistic-looking assets and a slightly creepy ambience. If you’re looking for a game filled with funny, sad, and drama-filled conversations, an in-depth timeline mechanic, and a lot of alternate scenes based on the choices you make, then you should certainly check this game out either now or when it launches on consoles later this year.

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Eternal Threads is a superb story-based adventure game that plays like a puzzle game thanks to the seamless dynamic narrative. The characters, voice acting, and environment are all fantastic, delivering a believable household in the North of England populated by a variety of strong personalities. Although I wasn’t fully satisfied with the final conclusion, I simply adored every second I played and found myself determined to save everyone in the best possible way as it’s what they deserved after everything they’re going through. I simply can’t recommend this game enough.


If you like the sound of the game but you’re unsure if your PC will run the game well, or you simply want to try it before you buy, there’s a demo currently on Steam, HERE. I’m not sure how much the demo covers or if it’s been fully updated alongside the actual game, but it should give you a good overview of how the gameplay mechanics work – if you try it out, I imagine you’ll want to buy it…

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Eternal Threads

9

Final Score

9.0/10

The Good:

  • Brilliant story, gameplay mechanics, and seamless dynamic narrative
  • Visually a very stunning and realistic looking game
  • Over 190 events to view and many choices to make if playing the full game
  • Almost every choice has a consequence, either for better or worse as the timeline progresses
  • Many ways for each character to die or stay alive, encouraging you to experiment to find the best possible pathway for each victim

The Bad:

  • When you first enter the house, there's a long strobing session which can't be disabled if you suffer from epilepsy
  • Some of the vocals don't have subtitles (a handful of instances, such as the radio)
  • The ending sadly left me with more questions than answers
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