Eternights is a game for people who — like me — really enjoy the Persona games, but — also like me — struggle to find the time to finish a 60-plus-hour RPG. With a streamlined story, shorter dungeons, and a playtime that’s barely a quarter of what you’d expect from, say, Persona 5 Royal, Eternights hits the sweet spot for story-heavy dating-sim-dungeon-crawling. At least, for me it does.

The basic premise is that a world-altering event erects these force-field walls across the earth, kicking off a weird apocalyptic event that turns people into zombie-like monsters. You end up taking refuge on an abandoned train, where you hang out with a small group of friends and try to bring the world back to how it once was. And also, you get to date a pop star.

Eternights - Yuna

The balance between the lighthearted day-to-day tasks and the thematically darker story elements is where the Persona games really shine, and while Eternights doesn’t quite pull it off with the level of panache or sheer visual style that Persona does, it’s a great attempt at delivering something similar in a smaller package.

One way it streamlines things is by scrapping the mega-strategic turn-based battle system and replacing it with a quicker hack-‘n-slash-style one. It works, for the most part, though it’s not perfect. The combo system, where you build toward deathblows and other special moves, is oftentimes satisfying but occasionally frustrating. My biggest gripe about combat is that you don’t get anything for it. There’s no XP system; there’s just the Black Essence pieces you can collect off of the elite-level monsters. This Essence currency wears pretty thin pretty quickly, and there’s little incentive to grind for it. Plus, trash mobs don’t reward you with anything at all, so combat can feel like a huge waste of time — especially late in the game.

Eternights - Combat

Also, the checkpoint system early in the game feels brutally unforgiving. It gets better as the game progresses, but the first major dungeon might be a dealbreaker for some folks. A single death can send you back stunningly far, and there are places where you’ll hit a checkpoint right before taking on a bunch of elite monsters but not after defeating them. So you’ll end up re-fighting these monsters over and over again if you end up dying in the next area.

Your time outside of dungeons is broken into days and nights. Essentially, you can participate in one single activity per day, and a second one each night. This includes hanging with your friends, fighting monsters, training, and scavenging. Scavenging is the activity I have the most fun with, as there are four characters who have specific items you must find for them to improve your stats and earn precious White Essence (which you’ll spend unlocking skills and stat boosts provided by the supporting cast of characters).

Eternights - Hug Min

The character roster is small, but that’s not a bad thing, and I found myself getting absorbed in each person’s backstory. It’s nothing that will totally blow your mind, but these characters are at least fun to hang out with for the duration of your adventure. The story does try to be a bit over-the-top at times, but in my opinion, it’s at its best in its more intimate character moments rather than its sweeping, bombastic twists and turns.

The dating system is a decent incentive to get closer to your favorite character, but it also has some weaknesses. One thing that frustrated me a little bit was that each character has specific stat thresholds you must attain in order to get to the next “level” of friendship. But this means you’ll have to spend time with other characters in order to have conversations that boost your social stats before you can get closer to the one character you care about. This does force you to spend time with all the characters instead of focusing on just one, but it can be frustrating for those who, say, want to beeline straight for a relationship with Yuna (and the game seems like it wants you to do this in the beginning).

Ultimately, Eternights is the sort of game that you’ll play if you don’t have time to sink your teeth into the much beefier Persona series. This is good for anyone who’s intimidated by those games or who simply doesn’t have the time to see one through to the end. And there’s certainly room for that kind of game in my game library — perhaps there’s room in yours too.

Disclaimer: I was given a review code for Eternights on Steam, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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