The day I was able to interview Hugo Gómez and Fernando Sánchez, the founders of Aeternum Game Studios, they already made it clear to me where the paths of Aeterna Noctis would go.

“There are Korean challenges, like I said, challenges that very, very few people can handle. You will have to die.”

Practically a warning, a warning to seafarers. Although I noted it well in my log, the conclusion is simple: the game is hard as hell. And while it comes with consequences of all kinds, the truth is, you have to appreciate what the Castilla La Mancha-based studio wanted to do.

Aeterna Noctis was presented not only as one of the last great titles of 2021, but also as one of the most relevant to emerge from the Spanish sector during the year. I still have my controllers after playing, but no one will remove the scars on my memory.

take back your powers

As a good value Metroidvania, at first we’re little more than a pushover in the face of the hordes of monsters and traps we must overcome. A situation that collides head-on with the status of our protagonist, the king of darkness. This ancient being is engaged in an endless battle with the Queen of Light to find out who rules the world of Aeterna.

With neither being able to completely dominate the other, this fight has turned into an endless cycle of defeat, restoration of abilities, and return to the ring. A simple premise to pull the thread to justify our presence in the 16 areas that make up the title.

And Aeterna Noctis enters through the eyes from the start. From the starving city and the Altar of Kings, through the goblin mines or the imposing Tower of Light; each of them is perfectly recognizable and the effort to give each level its own characteristics is palpable.

Even with effects on the background of the screen, be it burning flames, glowing diamonds or unfathomable darkness. A separate mention requires the Tower of Light mentioned above, which is extremely tall and presents a challenge every time its core causes explosions that make it difficult for us to advance. However, it is no less true that there are instances where I have not felt as comfortable as I would like to go through.

Aeterna Noctis

Places like The Forge are filled with molten iron, fire and a constant feeling of heat. To create this panorama it was decided to give the background a lot of brightness, which is confusing since the enemies, as well as their attacks, have reddish and orange colors. More than once I got lost in confusion and couldn’t clearly see what was happening on the screen.

On the other hand, the influences of great novels are present. A look at Infinite Bay is enough to immediately recognize Gihbli’s landscapes, or a visit to Asnur’s store to find references to franchises of all kinds on the shelves.

Here you came to suffer

In fact, we are not here to seek happiness because we will not find it. Aeterna Noctis is packed with traps, enemies, and treacherous platforms. In each level we’ll find blades, creatures that block the way, floors full of spikes and all kinds of threats to avoid. Fast forward is not possible no matter how much stroke we have available, and it is best to proceed with caution.

Because in no time at all we’ll be surrounded by a flying enemy that’s firing energy balls, while a bloody undead wants us to go to the grave with him. If we don’t do a good job of calculating the speed of the sharp spears coming out of the wall, we’ll have to start from scratch. And none of this lasts for a short time, exactly.

Aeterna Noctis

There are devilishly long passages in terms of traps and we can’t fail once because if we suffer an impact we have to start the whole route over again. Pure reflexes or trial and error on what you do best will be the key to survival.

Be careful, we are talking about routes that we must go through to complete the story, but what happens if we want to get the collectible that can be seen in an intricate grotto? This is where the Korean challenges have us laughing as you can easily take a few tries until you get that piece of window or chest.

The bosses are also the ones that you’ll have to sweat ink to take down. We have them in all shapes and colors, so as the video game canons imply, we must learn their patterns in order to destroy them. With all this clear, Aeterna Noctis often flirts with the abyss of frustration in the player, since the demand is high and he can suffocate.

There are also design choices that are, quite simply, desperate. It is possible that you want to advance through a certain area and there is no other option but to avoid the enemies since you cannot activate fast travel. There are some of them that will haunt you without a single breath, and it won’t be until you switch screens when they leave you alone. On the other hand, you can place different colored markers on the map to remember points of interest, but they are paid for through one of the merchants.

Aeterna Noctis

What to say about the bestiary that we have before us. They are diverse, with their own attacks that are dodged in specific ways and designs that frame them in their respective areas. Yes, there are some designs that change, but the truth is that it’s worth praising how each area is tended to with different enemy suggestions. To end their lives we have at our disposal a selection of weapons that dance from a sword, scythes, axes and all kinds of tools recommended for the executioner profession.

Along with them we are accompanied by skills such as the ability to regenerate our life with the fragments of our rivals, an arrow that can teleport us instantly or serve as an attack and activator of mechanisms. The classic skill tree will greet us from the menu, along with gems that grant us very specific powers, such as the ability to cling to a vertical wall. As you can see, we’re in for a Metroidvania of a lifetime, so lovers of the genre will be in their element.

The title has been given its own ingredients, such as classic Souls mechanics like recovering all of our troops in a mass of darkness that awaits us where we died.

Aeterna Noctis

what lies beyond

“History is vital to us,” Hugo Gómez told me during the interview. In Aeterna Noctis we will have different dialogues of the king of darkness with key characters, some fleeting and those that only serve us to get what we want.

The construction of his own lore is apparent at every step, but the truth is he has not yet convinced me of what they told me. Yes, there are many beings to contact or ways to get to know the world (notes scattered in the zones, secondary missions…), but I think that working in this aspect during the time is the most important the art of film shines.

The dialogues kept me alert but not concerned about what to expect later. All in all, the scenes where I let go of control and indulge in listening and watching are the best, with the amazing Nuria Mediavilla as the narrator. The drawings are excellent and perfectly represent what the story needs.

Aeterna Noctis

We’re talking about a game that extends over 20 hours (especially considering the skills of each one) and will not leave us without content. You may quietly come across more than a dozen secondary tasks to complete that are not necessarily immediate and may not be resolved until many hours have passed. Retracing is totally guaranteed because you’ll be stung more than once if you want to revisit a particular point and see what else this route hides that you haven’t seen.

The truth is that despite the fact that frustration has overcome me more than I would like, I have to confess to Aeterna Noctis something that few games cause and which is a definite sign that something is going well: I woke up in the morning want to keep playing. It’s that blurred line between the games that are flagged, the ones that hook you, or the ones you discard on the first switch.

It was there and I managed to dive into it despite all the title’s issues. I can’t remember a game from all of 2021 that made me feel that way and that’s what it takes for me.

Aeterna Noctis

VidaExtra’s opinion

Aeterna Noctis is that moment when you accidentally bump into a table leg or step on a LEGO. It hurts, you’re frustrated, but you know you should have paid more attention. Its difficulty curve doesn’t shoot up too much and the main condition is that it starts quite high on the graphics already.

A few more polished runners here and there would have given us a smoother build, although Aeterna Noctis took an idea and saw it through to the end. Many other plants decide to adapt, move closer to the sun that warms the most and enjoy the essential advantages. At Aeternum Game Studios they believed that difficulty is the pillar on which the game is based.

The developer’s first project? A good start, no question. Spain are showing again that there is talent to be capitalized on and from now on I’ll be on the lookout for their next one…