Six people are dead because of a house fire. But what if you had the power to reverse time and save them?
That is the very simple – but very poignant – plot of Eternal Threads, a game coming from Cosmonaut Studios and Secret Mode next month. It casts you as an agent, sent from the future, who has the power to change the past. You’re dealing with a very specific event: a house fire that killed all six of the home’s residents. But by visiting various moments in time from the week leading up to the fire, perhaps you can stop it ever happening.
Few video games have a plot as captivating right from the get-go as Eternal Threads‘. The ability to change the past and save lives? Count us in. Even more captivating is the fact that there are hundreds of points in time that you can visit, in any order that you like, as you try to piece together what exactly happened. As you do, you’ll unravel the lives of the six people who lived in the house – and maybe uncover a few secrets as you go.
We’ve spent two hours with Eternal Threads so far, and we’re desperate to play more. In that two hours, we’ve witnessed a new housemate moving in, just one week before the fire. We’ve witnessed the events just as the fire broke out. We’ve already managed to save one of the housemates – but only by leaving their unconscious partner behind. We know we can save everyone else, too. It’s just figuring out how. What is particularly cool is that other people who have also played a two-hour preview of the game have likely experienced something different to us. That’s the joy of being able to jump in at any point. Do you start from the beginning, or work backwards? Or simply jump between random points in time?
However you decide to traverse Eternal Threads‘ many timestamps, you’ll occasionally be offered the choice to change the events that unfolded. Some of these may he inconsequential, but some of them may lead to a new chain of events that would never have otherwise happened. For instance, does a resident talk the landlord out of drunk-calling an ex, or do they let it happen? And does another resident come clean to his girlfriend that he’s contemplating taking a job overseas? One event in itself may not directly result in a house fire, but it may trigger something else that wouldn’t have otherwise happened. It’s the butterfly effect in action.
What is particularly handy is that at any point in the game, you can access a time map – a chronological timeline that lays out all of the events you can jump into. You’ll access this every time you want to view a new scene. But should you make a change, the push of a button will show you exactly what events are a result of that decision. You can also filter to see events relating to just one person – helpful if you’re wanting to pursue a particular narrative thread – and you can hear an overview of the event if you don’t want to see it play out in full again.
For much of the game, you’re simply a bystander, watching echoes of these events play out in front of you. But you are free to explore the house, too. And, like a point and click adventure game, you’ll be able to find some useful items – like a key to access a new part of the house – or some relevant information that helps paint a fuller picture of someone’s life.
Eternal Threads is a game that lives and dies on its narrative. Ultimately this is the story of six housemates, their relationships, and the events that lead up to a devastating event. If their story isn’t interesting, then the game isn’t going to hold your attention. But we can confidently say that Eternal Threads had its hooks in us very quickly. Each character is well written and excellently voiced, feeling like a real, believable person. Even better – for us, at least, as we hail from the north of England ourselves – it’s set in a seemingly ordinary Lancashire townhouse. It’s rare for a game to be set so close to home, and perhaps that helps us feel a little more invested in the story.
It doesn’t matter if you live on the other side of the ocean, though. Eternal Threads’ narrative is a very grounded, human one. You’ll quickly come to care for some of its characters – and grow deeply suspicious of others. But however you feel about them, we’re fairly certain of one thing: you’ll be desperate to find out what caused the fire, and how you can stop it. Eternal Threads is shaping up to be something special, and if you enjoy narrative-driven experiences, make sure that this is on your radar.
Eternal Threads is coming to PC, PS4 and Xbox One on 19th May, with a Switch version coming later in the year. You’ll be able to try out a demo for yourself on Steam from 2nd May.