Eternal Threads – PS5 Review

I can’t tell you the last time I played a game set in the north of England. It seems we always get skipped in favour of the big smoke. Eternal Threads is a narrative game entirely focused around a five-bedroom house deep beyond the suburbs of Manchester. Whilst the accents are questionable, the residents’ problems are relatable. Cosmonauts Studios might have the setting right but the execution lacks some confidence and nuance.

Eternal Threads places the player in the shoes of a time-travelling detective. At least, that’s the best way I can describe it. They wear a full rubber suit and gloves which does imply a level of crime scene clean up. Fitting, given that the game’s objective is to save six residents from a house fire. The story itself takes place within the house and you’ll get to know the occupants pretty intimately.

Tom is the landlord and, given the state of the place, he seems slightly out of his depth. The electrics cut out intermittently, the kitchen looks grimy one bathroom doesn’t seem enough for that many people. Tom lives there with the other tenants who are mostly students. Raquel and Jenny are best friends from childhood, Ben is Jenny’s student doctor boyfriend and so on. The final entrant is Linda who happens to be the sister of Neil, a mostly solitary lad who has problems of his own.

They all have their issues and, whilst it can be interesting to dig through them, I find it odd that everyone largely gets on. This is primarily a group of strangers but, in the run-up to the fire, there’s not a whole lot of conflict. Any that is there gets resolved relatively quickly. There’s drama and I do get a sense the developers tried to fill in the blanks as much as possible. Admittedly, how much does the player really need to know? I think I got enough information out of them, even if some of their actions sometimes made little sense.

Gameplay is minor. As you investigate, you have timelines you can interfere with. You can select events on the timeline and these will highlight specific characters and rooms for the events to take place in. From there, you’re a fly on the wall. People can be easy to follow with their next move usually being telegraphed. There’s only so many rooms in the house and there’s very few places for them to get out of each other’s way. It leads to a lot of running between rooms and, whilst the timeline looks intimidating, it’s pretty straight-forward.

During these events, decision points arrive where you can change the future. This is your main means of saving lives and, despite them being very binary, there’s hoops to jump through to rescue the whole household. I had all but one alive during my first run only to undo these decisions in order to save the remainder. It can be tricky to figure out a workable solution. You can’t see the ending until everyone is out so banging your head against those obstacles is an unfortunate part of the process.

Some of this can mean delaying a decision further down the timeline. There’s one decision that can be made very early but there’s typically an element of timing and context that influence the end result. At the beginning, the climax of the house fire led my imagination to run wild. You see where the fire takes hold so it has a point of origin. What you don’t know is if there’s any criminal intent or if it’s down to negligence. As such, I was keeping a keen eye on any external interlopers that might want the place up in smoke. Those exist but, after reaching the end, I had a clear expectation of what the game wanted of me.

These interactions are thought-provoking. Rather than playing with a moral compass in mind, I started to think mechanically about how to get these people out of danger. The logic works, with the benefit of hindsight. I had to stop thinking about the household as individuals and consider their personal connections. In that way, I think the conclusion is satisfying. There is no risk and there’s a shame there aren’t multiple endings. There are scenes for all eventualities but you’re not done until everyone lives.

That restriction can lead to frustration, particularly if you’re after more of a person’s backstory. It also doesn’t help that your handler is so flippant about the situation. He does eventually give these lives more context but it’s all theoretical. I found it very hard to care for some of these people. Being a fly on the wall should’ve helped but you’re only seeing brief glimpses of them back at home.

One thing I couldn’t ignore was the acting. The writing is mostly fine but the line delivery sounds off. Tom sounds mostly flat whereas the girls all carry seem to carry this overconfidence. Ian is mostly there for comic relief but his accent sounds right at home in Four Lions. It’s a jarring set of performances and, when you’re trying to sell a narrative, it can be hard to forgive. As likeable as they can be, they sound like they’re trying too hard.

Eternal Threads has an interesting premise that fumbles on the execution. It’s light on gameplay and most of that is moving between cutscenes. With the time mechanic the possibilities and tempered by a severe lack of stakes for the player. The cast are always trying to be likeable but the performances either fall flat or deliver an overconfidence that can sometimes sound desperate.

Eternal Threads
5 Overall
+ An interesting premise.
+ Has a lot of story to uncover.
+ The timeline is easy to manage and understand.
- Interactivity is at a premium.
- Running from scene to scene can feel like needless busywork.
- The voiced performances are really inconsistent.
- It can be tough to decipher what consequences a decision may have.
Whilst it can be appealing to nose around the lives of others, Eternal Threads' cast are lacking in some believability. The writing is fine but the delivery varies in degrees of confidence. Confining the game to a single household should breed some intricate knowledge but the time manipulation removes any stakes from the equation. The butterfly effect of decisions can make things hard to decipher, especially if you're trying to dig for further information. As it is, Eternal Threads is a good premise let down by poor execution.

About Mike

Mike gets all the racing games because he understands that stuff even though he doesn't drive.

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