This piece contains major spoilers pertaining to the plot of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem for the GameCube. You have been warned.
In my history of video gaming, there have sadly been few truly heroic women. Whether bias by developers or not, the vast majority of the games I have played focused on the masculine, treating women as delicate flowers to be rescued (cough* Super Mario Bros. *cough ) or sexual objects (God of War). Which naturally made it a challenge for me to find a compelling female protagonist to write about for this Building Character. Luckily, I found one in Alexandra Roivas, the lead character in a great game called Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem for the Gamecube.
Quite simply, Alexandra, or Alex for short, is a survivor. Raised by her grandfather Edward after the passing of her parents, she has grown into a smart, capable woman. In the game, she gets a phone call notifying her that her beloved grandfather has been murdered. Racing to the ancestral Roivas home where he lived, she is horrified to recognize the family ring upon his mutilated corpse. Her next decision is what makes her such a compelling and great female lead. Instead of giving in to terror or sadness and living her life quietly as the last surviving Roivas, Alex digs in her heels and stays to investigate her grandfather’s murder. Along the way she uncovers much more than she bargained for, including a 2,000 year old conspiracy to enslave and forever change the course of human history. But again, Alex does not buckle under pressure, and only becomes more resolute and determined in the face of the monstrous truths she discovers.
As Alex investigates her grandfather’s murder, she uncovers a hidden tome called the Tome of Eternal Darkness. Merely touching it connects her to the souls of every other person that has possessed the item, and allows her to experience their history through her eyes. She learns of the Ancients, demonic entities from beyond our veil that have covertly been manipulating human history for a very long time. Stuck in a game of celestial paper-rock-scissors by a deity called Mantorok, they scheme to break the stalemate by imprisoning him and his check on their powers. Defeated, but not lost, Mantorok schemes to use select human pawns to combat the 3 Ancients, Chattur’gha, Ulyaoth and Xel’lotath. Several of those pawns are Alex’s ancestors, including her grandfather Edward and Dr. Maximillian Roivas. Using the power and knowledge of the horrific beast, they all try their best to defeat the forces of Eternal Darkness. Many are killed for their audacity while several more are driven insane and shattered into mere shells of their former lives. But only one manages to avoid this fate and destroy the Ancients with the aid of their shared experiences, and that strong, brave woman is Alex.
For clarity’s sake, Alex does much more than learn about the forces of Eternal Darkness secondhand. The more knowledge that flows into her mind, the more the Roivas home opens up its secrets. Though she initially only faces puzzles to solve, slowly but surely the forces her ancestors once faced start to threaten Alex in modern times. Eventually she learns that it is because her ancestral home stands atop the ancient Ruins of Ehn’gha, which is the staging point for the Ancients foray into our reality. Though they had been kept bottled up in the past, the murder of Alex’s grandfather begins to weaken the seal keeping them at bay. Late in the game, Alex must confront hordes of monsters and servants of the Ancients. Luckily, Alex is a strong woman in more than just her constitution. She is very capable with a blade or gun, and her reserve of magical talent is deep, allowing her to cast spells to fight back the darkness. She proves more than a match for any male lead I have ever played as.
More than that, I suppose I sympathize with Alex personally, since for her the most important things in her life are family and discovering the truth. These cornerstones affect every decision she makes and give her the strength to go on in the face of unbelievable secrets and madness. That Alex is not only able to triumph, but able to do so with her sanity intact, is a great feat, and shows how truly strong female characters can, and should, be. Granted, Alex is able to bear the weight of those burdens better than most, but I applaud her for it. I only wish Eternal Darkness had gotten the sequel it deserved, and perhaps continued the story of Alexandra Roivas, but her story will forever be marked in my mind as that of one of the best female protagonists in video game history.