Detective work means finding the devil in the details. Combing through every piece of information you have is necessary for not only getting to the bottom of the case, but also being sure it’s the truth. While gumshoe drama normally takes a more urban approach, Eternal Threads by Cosmonaut Studios takes this concept to the next level by placing your investigation not only in a certain place, but over a certain span of time using a sci-fi twist.
You are Agent 43, a time agent from the distant future. You and your control operator have been tasked with saving six people from their untimely demise due to a house fire. You’ll do this by examining events that took place over the past week, analyzing the decisions of the people living in the house, and finding key moments to influence their fate.
You’ll be exploring a timeline map where you can review past events and how they relate to other, unknown potential events that lead to their deaths. Key decisions will dictate the mood and possibilities of certain characters across the seven days you have to investigate these erroneous deaths, where you’ll always be able to see both sides of important situations at the touch of a button. This allows you to piece together the events of the week and recall them as the timeline plays out. To see these events, however, you’ll need to be in the exact location in the house they took place.
The house is rather large, which is to be expected of a place that houses six tenants. Exploring the house has a Shenmue style quality to it, as you can pick up and examine quite a few of the items scattered within, along with being able to collect a few of them. There are even a few locked doors and cabinets to open, which gives the exploration a feeling akin to Gone Home, especially as you begin to explore some of the more hidden areas of the house.
This exploration is driven by the same thing that drives the rest of the game, however, which is the story. It’s up to you to make sure these characters live through this terrible accident and since you’re only able to help after the fact, you’ll need to learn about each of them in order to save them. Thankfully, each character is well written and full of personality, which makes it easy to get sucked into this slice of life modern drama.
Exploring the lives of each character feels robust and meaningful. Whether it’s Neil and his sister Linda, dealing with family troubles and their own individual life choices, or the landlord Tom learning to connect and open up to the people around him, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the busy lives of these characters. They all grow from the whirlwind of events the week throws at them and there are enough twists and turns to keep you hooked, especially if you explore the different timeline trees. This isn’t to say the overarching narrative is perfect, however, and the lulls in the storytelling can make long play sessions of Eternal Threads feel a tad dull.
The presentation of Eternal Threads also feels a bit weak, all things considered. Even though you’re seeing events of different days and characters even wear different clothes on certain occasions, you never go beyond the same rainy night you arrived. This can make the experience feel a bit disconnected if it doesn’t grab your attention early. Each event being recapped in a 3D hologram replay can make this feeling even more apparent, especially when the voice acting gets a bit stiff or doesn’t match the mood. While the exploration is fun, it won’t make up for the feeling that the game sometimes feels much more like a mini series on TV.
Those who do find interest in the story, however, will be treated to a multi-layered narrative that rewards attention to detail. Finding every potential event becomes a very involved process that’s jam-packed with “ah-ha”!” moments that feel rewarding when you finally get to see how things could have potentially played out. The dynamic nature of the timeline map makes it so that each decision you alter can send shockwaves through the whole timeline, even changing the context of events that may have happened previously.
When it all comes together, the experience feels unique and a fun take on narrative puzzle games. The puzzle solving is built into the ability to see every perspective and it feels great to piece the story together yourself in order to get the whole picture. It also feels rewarding as each character isn’t able to just be saved, but can also have their lives changed for the better, yielding multiple endings.
Eternal Threads is a must-play for fans of narrative games. Solid character writing and good pacing works together with the puzzle solving mechanics, making the time travel angle feel like a perfect fit for a game that sees you refitting pieces of the story for contextual clarity. This makes it easy to want to find out the entire story since experimenting with the timeline is fun and engaging. While not a stellar story overall, the rock solid character writing and gripping twists will be enough to keep anyone who’s intrigued by the stories of Eternal Threads to stick with it till they reach the end.
A PC key was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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While it lacks a strong first impression, Eternal Threads offers a fun and unique narrative puzzle solving experience. Strong character writing makes it easy to dive into their week-long stories where one decision can change the life of everyone around the person who made it.
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