Review cover Eternal Threads (Computer)
Official GBAtemp Review

Product Information:

  • Release Date (NA): May 19, 2022
  • Release Date (EU): May 19, 2022
  • Publisher: Secret Mode
  • Developer: Cosmonaut Studios

Game Features:

Single player
Local Multiplayer
Online Multiplayer
Co-operative
Launching tomorrow on PCs and later this year on PS4 and Xbox One is Eternal Threads, indie developer Cosmonaut Studios’ debut title. Described as a non-linear, time-manipulating narrative Rubik’s cube, is it worth your time to solve?

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Eternal Threads is a title that I had the chance to preview last month. While I noted the potentials of the premise during my time with the 2-hour demo, there were aspects that made me feel more cautious about the title. However, after having played and completed the full game, I can say that I was positively surprised by what the integral experience delivered. So let’s take a closer look at what this narrative puzzle-adventure game has to offer!

In Eternal Threads, you play as Operator 43 working for the secretive Second Chance Project. The latter works to fix time corruptions in the past by sending its operatives back in time so as to restore the timestream. The game begins when 43 is assigned the case of a house fire in the North of England that took the life of its six tenants. Our Operator has to perform slight alterations in the housemates’ decision during the week leading up to the fatal incident so as to save all six lives. 

The easy option, to have 43 put out the fire by themselves, is out of the question due to the temporal anomalies that this will create. And so, our time-travelling operative starts scrutinising the events and interactions experienced by the house’s tenants in order to rescue them and find out what is causing the anomaly.

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If you are a fan of sci-fi narratives, Eternal Threads’ premise might already sound enticing. Not only does it involve the exciting premise of manipulating time to change the course of events but also has the aim to save people; so not much can go wrong, right? But you’ll be surprised by the plot twists and gameplay challenges that you’ll encounter hidden under this seemingly simple premise.

While there are some aspects of the plot that I wish were more fleshed out such as about the Second Chance Project and its time-travelling tech, this title does the effort of immersing the player in its universe. Once at the location, 43 has to place signal boosters around the house that will beam holograms to reenact snippets of scenarios that involve the housemates. These bite-sized holographic events are then viewable via 43’s handheld visualiser. The events will be (re)played at the location they unfolded and you’ll have to be within the vicinity of the signal booster in order to be able to view them.

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There are a total of 197 events across the timeline, along which Operator 43 can freely travel back and forth to view any available event many times as necessary, with some viewable only after some specific choices have been made. Indeed, while viewing some of these events, you will come across instances where a choice has been made, sometimes trivial like deciding whether to go out or not, and at other times more significant such as sharing a dark secret to a housemate. In some cases, even trivial choices can have a butterfly effect that can lead to saving the life of a housemate down the timestream.

But whether an event involves a choice or not, they all provide a glimpse into the day-to-day life of the tenants. Each character has a deeper secret which you can unravel by poking further and pulling at the right strings. Learning about the NPCs through these short bouts of interaction gives you just enough information to help you piece together parts of their life and their motivations; and this delivers a standout narrative mechanic to flesh out the characters. 

I must admit that I was having a hard time relating to the characters during my 2-hour demo but as I investigated their timelines further, I learnt more about them and what made them tick. This definitely helped portray each character as unique, more relatable and made me more invested in their stories. Surely enough, Eternal Threads is a slow-burn type of game and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s worth noting that playing through more than the opening hours will make the experience more gripping.

However, as much attention has been paid to flesh out the NPCs, the same cannot be said for our protagonist Operator 43. The latter is mostly a placeholder to view the NPCs who are the real protagonists of this story, and this felt somewhat akin to Road 96. But there’s an unexpected and positively surprising plot twist to Eternal Threads that ends on a gripping cliffhanger that immediately made me want for more of the game. This ending opens up the opportunity to focus more on Operator 43 as a character.

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When it comes to the gameplay, Eternal Threads is very much a “walking simulator”. You’ll get to choose on the handy timeline which event you want to view and head to the location it takes place in the house. Once there, you can play the event and see what the characters are doing and saying. You cannot interfere with these holographic reenactments but viewing some can lead to doors being unlocked or keys being found that unlocks previously inaccessible areas. The official gameplay video below shows how the game’s mechanics function:

In such types of games, you might expect the challenge to be non-existent or minimal at best. But to my surprise, I did encounter some welcome challenges during my time with Eternal Threads. These take the form of figuring out how to save each tenant and which choices could lead to what outcome. And even if you initially managed to save one character, they might still die depending on the decision you make in future events. It really feels like a Rubik’s cube where you are trying to find out what combination of choices makes for an ending that saves a character without compromising the fate of another. And true to Eternal Threads’ slow-burn nature, this challenging aspect also comes later after you’ve progressed across the timeline.

While you can get all tenants alive to course correct the timestream, you might not get the optimal outcome for each. This requires further plays/investigation and adds to the replay value. There's more to unravel for each character, and the game really wants you to view all 197 events to find the best outcome for each NPC.

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From my experience, an advice that I would give is to tackle events while viewing everyone in the timeline at once. Even if the time map lets you set filters based on each character, influencing their choices might lead to events unlocking but might be missed due to them being greyed out by the filter.

In addition, it is not always obvious what choices will save someone. Even if you think that some evident routes are best for a particular character, these choices might not even save that character from the burning house. This is because oftentimes choices that are seemingly unrelated can lead to the life/death sentence of a character. In such instances, you might have to rely on trial-and-error to successfully save said character. Those choices might relate better if you are viewing events in a certain order but that will be challenging to do as you'll be (or at least I was) hopping up and down the timestream to view events that involve different sets of people all the time.

And while there are many ways to save each of the six tenants, your options during each instance where you have a choice is limited to two. Having more options could have made for an even more immersive experience where the path diverges more significantly based on those decisions.

As this is a time-travelling game taking place in a single household and its back garden, the areas you’ll explore are limited. There are initially some locked locations but as you progress and unlock them, you’ll have seen most of what the game has to offer visually. This can feel a bit repetitive in the long run but thankfully, Eternal Threads isn’t a particularly long game, clocking in at around 10 hours or so.

On the technical side, Eternal Threads played wonderfully on the AYANEO NEXT and it did so during my preview as well. However, the small fonts of the subtitles persisted in the final build as well and I hoped that this issue was addressed before the release.

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When it comes down to it, Eternal Threads is indeed a walking sim with a sci-fi skin, but I dare say it’s an enjoyable one. It offers an original take on time-travel narratives where snippets of past events help flesh out the plot and the puzzle-like mechanic to save everyone adds a welcome layer of challenge.

Eternal Threads Date Reveal Trailer

Verdict

What We Liked ...
  • Original time-manipulation mechanic
  • Captivating character progression technique through snippets
  • Intriguing plot twist
What We Didn't Like ...
  • Getting some endings right isn’t that obvious
  • Options limited to 2 in every branching scenarios
  • Small subtitles font
8
Gameplay
While it’s a walking sim, the is an interesting layer of challenge with its “Rubik’s cube” narrative puzzle mechanic.
8
Presentation
Travelling across the timeline to view past events offers an original mechanic to flesh out the plot and piece together the characters.
8
Lasting Appeal
Eternal Threads has an intriguing premise that grips the player the more time they spend with it.
8.3
out of 10

Overall

As far as “walking sims” are concerned, Eternal Threads stands out with its time-manipulating narrative Rubik’s cube mechanic that adds a welcome layer of challenge and delivers an interesting approach to plot progression.
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Review cover
Product Information:
  • Release Date (NA): May 19, 2022
  • Release Date (EU): May 19, 2022
  • Publisher: Secret Mode
  • Developer: Cosmonaut Studios
Game Features:
Single player
Local Multiplayer
Online Multiplayer
Co-operative

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