If you could do something different in your past, would you? But if you did change your actions, would your life really improve? Eternal Threads tackles these questions and more by exploring the final days of six housemates, and how you can potentially improve their lives by helping them make the right decisions.
Telling multiple stories and having them intertwine is a difficult task, but Eternal Threads manages to rise to the challenge and give you a great narrative experience. Unfortunately, there are noticeable issues with the graphics and the voice acting betrays the power of the characters. Despite those flaws, Eternal Threads is a story you can’t afford to miss if you’re a fan of narrative/visual novel games.
Eternal Threads is currently available on PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One for USD 29.99.
Story – Changing The Past To Save The Future
Eternal Threads takes place in two time periods. The first is the distant future, where the world is at risk of being destroyed due to excessive time travel. The second is the past, where you are using time travel to save six housemates who died in a house fire that shouldn’t have happened.
You take the role of Forty-Three, who is part of a group that seeks to address the problems of the future by using controlled time travel to fix mistakes. You are backed by Control, who guides you throughout the mission.
Despite the introduction, Forty-Three and Control aren’t the main players. Instead, that would be the six housemates: Tom, Neil, Raquel, Ben, Jenny, and Linda. Control manages to place Forty-Three inside the house after the accident, with Forty-Three able to replay past events to try and save all six housemates from the fire.
While the solution seems simple (you might find yourself screaming “Stop the fire!”), it turns out that each housemate is unable to avoid their fate for specific reasons that occur in their lives. Forty-Three’s job, as the player character, is to find critical moments in each housemate’s life and change some of those decisions to ensure their survival.
You will look at the lives of the housemates a few days before the fire (and also their final moments), looking for moments to intervene. But as you watch these moments, you start learning more about each character, which adds to the story’s complexity.
Characters – Flawed, But Relatable
Eternal Threads has several narratives going on at the same time. Tom is a young landlord struggling to keep the building afloat while caring for his mother. Ben is deciding what his future career should be. Jenny is dealing with the possible implications of pregnancy. Raquel and Linda have to deal with difficult pasts, and Neil has inner demons to battle.
These narratives seem unrelated, but are deftly woven together. As you watch the moments you have access to, you start seeing the relationships between each housemate and the conflicts they are dealing with. The issues that the housemates encounter flesh them out as a character, allowing you to relate to them.
Apart from time travel, there are no scientific elements. You will be setting up equipment to get started and have special tools, but there’s nothing extraordinary in any of the housemate’s lives. This adds to the relatability; you don’t have to have the same problems to understand the conflicts that each housemate is going through.
You will see them at their best and worst, and you always want to know what happens next. You will feel great about helping them overcome their challenges, or feel bad when things don’t go their way.
Eternal Threads has done a fantastic job with the characters, and this only empowers the story as a whole. But you do not take a backseat to the story; your job is to actively interfere with the lives of the housemates to reverse their deaths.
Gameplay – Tampering With Past Events
Eternal Threads will have you explore the ruined house, visiting different rooms to replay moments in a character’s past. You will have access to the default timeline, which is where everyone dies, and are able to view every moment on that time line. It is similar to Until Dawn, only scenes are much shorter and you can replay them in any order.
The tutorial helps you ease in and understand everything, but it can take a while. You might already know what to do, or want to jump into viewing the timeline right away. Fortunately, once the tutorial ends, you can fully explore the house and view whatever you want.
You do not have to watch the timeline in a chronological order, and can even watch events out of place. But watching the events in order helps you to understand how things get started, and what past events influence the future.
Choices – The Butterfly Effect
Certain points in the timeline are Potential Corruption Points, which indicate that this choice will have an effect on future events. You will always have access to the default option, which is what the character actually chose to do. You can also make them choose an alternative action that will affect how the future plays out.
You can check which decisions will impact the future by checking your timeline and looking for a dotted line that indicates which moments are connected.
This can have a butterfly effect, where a small decision can have great impacts on the future. In Eternal Threads, this can also be the difference between someone’s survival or death. Not all decisions are that far-reaching, but even choosing alternative options helps you learn more about the housemates, or information that can be helpful in learning what moments you should change.
Your main objective is to ensure that everyone survives, but it’s not as easy as choosing the alternative decision every time. For example, you can change a past event to ensure that Jenny survives. But changing another event, even if you feel it would be beneficial to Jenny, will ensure her death.
This element of puzzle-solving and planning is important, because it forces you to actually experiment and not just automatically flip all the decisions to “the alternative” (which doesn’t change everyone’s fate anyway). It also lets you discover more about characters, which can give you inspiration for more event changes.
Unfortunately, there is no option to fast-forward scenes that you have seen before. While you can jump to a moment where a choice is being made, you still have to watch it play out. This can drag on and get repetitive, especially as you are replaying the same scene looking to see what has been changed.
While ensuring that everyone survives is the baseline, there is also an “optimal” scenario where everyone lives their best lives after the fire. Experimenting to get this optimal scenario will take more work, but will be more rewarding.
Exploration – Simple, Yet Important
Your movement around the house isn’t just for show. You will have to be in a specific location to view a moment. Not all events in a day take place in the same area, and you will be moving around from location to location.
However, some parts of the house are blocked off to you. You may not know how to get in, or the door will be locked. This will prevent you from seeing events that take place in those rooms. Gaining access will require that you watch events to learn how to get in, or change the past to learn how to gain entry.
The exploration can drag on and it feels like a teleport option would have been more convenient when watching scenes. But moving around the house looking for keys or traces of the housemates’ lives reminds you that you’re not just some passive observer. You have an actual mission, and you are doing everything you can to do your job.
If you would like to cut down on exploring, you can choose to play a shorter “Abrupt” version when you start the game, which makes some locations inaccessible. While this will shorten gameplay, it will also lock you out of some story events and prevent you from getting the most optimal endings.
With a strong story and solid gameplay, Eternal Threads has a lot of potential to be an amazing game. Unfortunately, the graphics and voice acting do start to count against it.
Audio & Visuals – Noticeable Flaws
Eternal Threads manages to convey the perfect atmosphere of a deserted, burned-down house. Burn marks are everywhere, belongings are scattered, and it looks like a young adult party house in some areas. Your scientific equipment also looks detailed and sophisticated.
But as you explore the timeline, you will start to see visual bugs that stick out. Body parts sinking into beds and characters passing through furniture will be common, especially when characters start becoming more animated.
Characters also don’t look as expressive as they could be. When something bad is happening, or emotions are high, you don’t see changes on a character’s face as clearly. It can contrast with how you would expect them to feel in a situation, which takes away from some of the immersion.
This also applies to the voice acting at times. While not every moment you see will be filled with heart-pounding intensity, most of the lines sound bland, as if they are just spoken. When you expect someone to be filled with rage, uncertainty, and/or doubt, you would hope for the right emotion to match. But more often than not, the voice acting doesn’t seem to reach the same intensity.
That doesn’t mean that there are no emotional lines, or that each character is completely devoid of emotion. But you can sometimes struggle to immerse yourself in a scene when someone talks about their emotional problems as if it was just another Tuesday.
There are some good attempts with the audio and visuals, but it doesn’t feel like it was as powerful as it could have been. It does affect your enjoyment of the game, but not enough to derail the powerful narrative or gameplay.
This review for Eternal Threads was played on Steam with a key provided by Cosmonaut Studios.