By Drew D. / October 15th, 2020
|Original Release Date||June 18, 2015|
Eternal Senia began with the wish of a lone developer to convey his love for RPGs and game design. A passion project, made available to all for free, Eternal Senia palpably delivers those feelings, and the result is a heart-wrenching tale of love and personal growth. A wonderful tragedy of pure emotions, Eternal Senia will grip you and won’t let go, nor would you want it to.
The story of Eternal Senia begins with a young girl, Senia, in search of her adoptive older sister, Magaleta. Magaleta serves the church and is often called upon to eradicate demons. Through her past trauma, Senia is determined to learn swordplay in order to help and protect Magaleta in her work. And so, when Magaleta is called for a task, Senia, believing herself ready, decides to secretly follow her out of worry. Seeing her sister vulnerable during a skirmish, Senia ends up throwing herself into the path of an attack, becoming cursed in the process. Magaleta is unable to remove the curse and with Senia’s condition failing to improve, resolves to enter the Tower of Eternity, where it is said that any wish can be granted. With Magaleta’s disappearance, Senia is determined to conquer this enigmatic tower herself, for the sole sake of finding and bringing home the only family she has left in this world.
The story of Eternal Senia is a short, straightforward one, yet what makes it shine is its surprising emotional depth. Despite the simplistic, sometimes blunt, writing and wanting grammar, the story possesses such an emotional immersion that I was gripped almost immediately and until the very end. And this is achieved through its bolstering by flashback scenes and its expressive aesthetics, as all build upon each other to make for a noteworthy experience. Through the combination of its visuals and narrative, the sadness and determination of Senia is direct, yet impactful. The fleshing out of backstories and personal tragedies through flashbacks is also a notable narrative choice and the execution makes for equally emotional and memorable impact. And while the writing in monologue, dialogue, and flashbacks is terse, those emotions felt by its characters and the tones of events always achieve a remarkable poignancy. Again, it’s direct, impactful, and the result is a relentless assault on your feelings. The intertwining of past tragedies and present struggles, as well as the striking visuals, all come together for an overall fantastic emotional experience.
As for the characters, Senia and Magaleta, while not the most dynamic, are easy to come to care for. I love how Senia’s past reveals her vulnerabilities through her tragedies, yet in the present, she is a determined young woman, unwilling to let that past or her introversion hold her back from reuniting with her sister. I only wish we could have seen more of that inner conflict in greater detail, as it would have only served to develop her character further. Yet with the narrative support and the excellent visuals, Senia’s emotions come through with such a degree of purity that I can’t help but be awed with her. She is a gentle, loving soul and that charm of hers is evident. I found myself immersed in her struggle immediately, wanting that happy ending for her and Magaleta. And as for Magaleta, her own tragic past makes her a character easy to sympathize with. She is more than simply a kind person, as she struggles with deep-seeded feelings of guilt and regret. And those feelings are what drive her to be somewhat of a loner in her actions and decisions. It makes her ultimate decision for entering the tower all the more relatable, and yet all the more tragic. With her, I wish that loner aspect of her character was further emphasized, as it’s her one real flaw that we see from her which could have been a means for greater depth. Ultimately though, these are two sisters who love each other dearly and those palpable feelings and the raw emotions they express are what make them so memorable.
With its gripping tale and memorable heroine, the story is where Eternal Senia truly shines. As for its gameplay, however, this is much more of a mixed bag. Taking inspiration from Ys, combat consists of walking into enemies to defeat them. As such, there is a direct correlation between damage dealt and received. The mechanic here also doesn’t provide a consistent means of avoiding damage, such as running into enemies off center or avoiding frontal contact. Since you will be taking damage for the majority of attacks, all of this adds up to a play mechanic that requires you to keep track of health while having a bit of patience when you need to recover. Although this style of play is a notable departure from any bare-bones, turn-based mechanic lacking any kind of innovation, as seen in too many RPG Maker games, the novelty of this style wears out fairly quickly. There are attempts to add a bit of innovation, such as certain enemies having more speed, ranged attacks, and others having a bounce back when attacked, but these are more in line with minor inconveniences than adding any real intrigue or enjoyment to play. I will say that I like the four skills made available as you progress the plot, as I found these to provide the most fun. Skills, in the forms of quick movement, area damage, and range, provide some much needed variety to combat and may also offer a creative edge, for example, when you’re facing a horde or a particularly strong or quick enemy. I also like how their uniqueness plays into the glimmers of puzzle solving the gameplay offers. For example, the Phantom Strike skill, in which Senia instantly dashes to an enemy, can also be used to dash over water. I only wish to have seen much, much more in the way of puzzle solving, as the combat alone, while not broken by any means, doesn’t provide the most fun or entertaining of play experiences.
Along with combat, there is a basic crafting system. Utilizing item drops from the various types of enemies, weapons and armor can be crafted and upgraded. And unfortunately, that’s all there is to it. It fails to add any innovation or variety to gameplay, as crafting is simply a list of choices opened via the plot. Rather than providing any genuine advantages, it’s instead implemented as a simplistic means to keep up with increases to enemy difficulty. This forced means of implementing further challenge can, at times, reach the point of annoyance, as it calls for some item hunting. While you do have the choice not to pursue the highest versions of the equipment available, the tradeoff is taking more damage per attack and taking more time to recover your health. You will also miss out on completing some of the subquests directly tied to this need to fully upgrade your equipment. So instead of having a crafting system that adds play depth and advantage, here we have one of obligation that dances on the line of obnoxiousness. The result is the marring of those few glimmers of fun combat may provide overall.
Lastly, Eternal Senia possesses aesthetics that perfectly complement its story and overall tone. As I said above, the visuals truly drive home the range of emotions Senia feels throughout her campaign, and that vividness contributed through those visuals is profound. The developer notes that all of the art assets were commissioned, and I believe the decision to incorporate them was a good one due to just how much depth they provide, as well as how much more Senia’s character becomes one to feel genuine compassion for. From the portrait work to the CGs, all are excellent and I would have liked more, but I can understand the limitations that come with a free offering such as this. As for the audio, while the tracks are borrowed either from RPG Maker’s library or from free use composers, the selection is solid, further emphasizing the overall tones and moods of characters and events. The music is perfectly fitting and a pleasure to listen to. And finally, I also wish to praise the more subtle aesthetic details. From details like the changes to Senia’s portrait art when Eternity Burst is active, or the flower petals that appear when using Eternity Burst together with Phantom Strike, to the harsher critical hit sound versus the normal strike, these additions and variations demonstrate just how much care the developer put into his work. Overall, the aesthetics are remarkable, a prominent complement to story and gameplay.
Eternal Senia drips with passion; a satisfying, if short, experience that will tug at your heartstrings. The fact that this game has always been, and continues to be, available for free on Steam means that there are zero excuses to pass on playing this hidden gem. Even if this were sold for around $5 USD, I would recommend it in a heartbeat. Short but sweet, Eternal Senia is a tragic tale of one determined heroine who will resonate with all who open themselves up to her.
ARPGEternal SeniaIndieJRPGRPG MakerrpgmakerSanctum Games