Viking mythology has become a popular topic in creative media of late. From the recent God of War game to the Vikings TV series, Norse mythology is proving to be a deep well to draw from. Developer Void Studios seems to have likewise been inspired by this mythos when creating Eternity: The Last Unicorn.
Void Studios has leaned into the stories surrounding the Norse elves of Alfheim in the creation of Eternity: The Last Unicorn, setting the scene with a tale of four sacred unicorns, three of whom have mysteriously vanished. The last unicorn needs to be saved if the elves are to hope to keep their divine immortality.
As anyone who has sat through the extras in the Lord of the Rings boxsets will be aware, J. R. R. Tolkien drew heavily upon tales of the Norse elves when creating his own races of elves for Middle Earth and, as a result, much of Eternity: The Last Unicorn will feel familiar to fans of fantasy.
Games such as Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and the recent God of War draw upon similar sources of inspiration and weave the narrative through the game in an interesting and engaging way. The developers of those titles added in enough character development to make players care about these characters, as well as becoming invested in the lore. Sadly, Void Studios seems to lack this ability, as Eternity’s story is thin, and voice acting is almost absent outside of battle grunts, with all the cutscenes being depicted with subtitles. This shortcoming puts the game at a major disadvantage compared to other titles in terms of telling a cohesive and affecting story.
Much Viking Mythology revolves around Ragnarök, the battle at the end of the world in which the gods die. This apocalyptic element has been the inspiration for many Norse-themed video games, including The Banner Saga and The Wrath of Loki.
Related to the end-of-all-things element is the focus on death—preferably a glorious and honourable one. Games such as Jotun and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice deal with women who are facing death and the forces beyond the grave. In Jotun, protagonist Thora is trying to impress the gods by killing giants and earn a place in Valhalla to make up for a somewhat unimpressive death. Hellblade, meanwhile, uses a descent into the Norse underworld of Hellheim as part of an extended metaphor for mental illness
Eternity: The Last Unicorn, however, sees the elves trying to avoid the issue of death altogether, with protagonist Aurehen given the task of trying to preserve the immortality of the elves by saving the last surviving unicorn. As a result, the game hamstrings itself by circumventing some of the richest and most interesting and well-known aspects of Norse mythology: the exploration of death and destruction and how to recover from such devastation.
An argument could be made that the nature of the Norse gods is as beings who can be defeated, and who are just as doomed to die as the rest of the squishy human race. This aspect makes them relatable when compared with other depictions of deities as all-powerful and untouchable.
Removing this relatable element and making the story of Eternity: The Last Unicorn about the ethereal, immortal elves and their quest to preserve something that players, as regular humans, can never have or fully understand does a disservice to the story as well as the Norse inspiration as a whole.
Void Studios drew upon a different source of inspiration for its combat and progression systems, using Dark Souls as a template. While, at first glance, this choice would seem like a good fit (as the brutal nature of Dark Souls combat and the violence of the Vikings should go together well), in reality the choice of using retro-styled fixed camera angles and tight, linear pathways makes properly judging distance often impossible. As a result, the gameplay flow familiar to Dark Souls players never quite comes together.
The modern gamer has many ways to appreciate Norse mythology, including God of War, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Vikings: Wolves of Midgard, Jotun, Munin, The Banner Saga and its sequel, and several others. These games all explore the depth and darkness of Viking tales, and touch upon some of its crazier and funnier aspects. Sadly, Eternity: The Last Unicorn falls far short of the mark in its attempt to join that illustrious line-up.