Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock Videogame Preview
You can control the Doctor's sonic with the right stick. It's worth the price of admission alone.
The Doctor might be going through a second (fourth? Fifteenth?) golden age on the small screen, but the Timelord’s adventures through digital time and space have yet to set the console gaming world ablaze. Doctor Who The Eternity Clock hopes to change that. Developed by Supermassive Games, side-scrolling adventure platform game The Eternity Clock is being released exclusively on PS3 and PS Vita next month (making use of the systems’ nifty cross-play feature which will allow you to continue your game on the move when you put the pad down), with a PC version following shortly after, and has been created with gamers in mind as much as Doctor Who die hards.
The experience is built around co-op play. As you traverse the game’s four unique time periods (present day, Victorian, Elizabethan and future London), you’ll be required to solve increasingly tricky logic puzzles and mini games as either The Doctor or River Song – both fully voice-acted and motion-captured by Matt Smith and Alex Kingston. In a break from the norm, however, it’s a Doctor Who game that’s actually about time travel, which means as well as narrative loop the loops, the game will have you returning to the same environments in different time periods to open up previously inaccessible avenues for progression.
As a non-aggressive character don’t expect to be tossing grenades at Daleks and teabagging Cybermen – environmental puzzles and stealthy progression make up the bulk of the game – which is where River’s hallucinogenic lipstick comes in handy. Clocking in at around 8-10 hours The Eternity Clock is a much lengthier experience than the (brilliant) Adventure Games, released by the BBC over the past couple of years. In a particularly exciting move for fans of the show, The Eternity Clock will feature new creatures, environments and story elements that are now part of show canon, such as never before seen pages from River’s diary and a brand new Cyber Commander.
During our all too brief hands-on at the BBC earlier this month we made a daring prison escape as River, out-ran a battalion of Cybermen and infiltrated the Bank of England – a small taster of the game’s opening chapters. While there we also got the chance to speak to the executive producer on the project at the Digital Entertainment Games Group, BBC worldwide, Simon Harris:
River starts out in a familiar prison cell. Possibly in Cardiff.
SFX: You’re releasing the games on PS3 and PS Vita. Will they be released simultaneously?
Simon Harris: The PS3 will be first, and then Vita will be very shortly afterwards. There have been some challenges with Vita, getting the last few features in and things like that. The PS3’s the lead version, till we get all the gameplay content finished, then that will enable us to polish up the Vita features and get those working. So the Vita will be a short while afterwards, but not a great deal of time.
Doctor Who is very much a story-driven show; how much emphasis have you placed on narrative and character in the game?
We want this to feel like an episode of the TV show, so one of the things I’m very nervous about is not giving too much away. The story starts with the Doctor on his own in the TARDIS. It gets thrown into confusion because of this massive time maelstrom, and he has absolutely no idea what’s causing it. When the TARDIS lands he realises this time maelstrom is encompassing the whole planet, and then he walks to the TARDIS and the TARDIS disappears into a time rift. There are time rifts opening everywhere, so he starts working out where they’re going to and what’s happening there. Eventually he finds a piece of this artefact, the Eternity Clock, which he realises is sending out a signal and then he and River start to figure out what it’s doing.
It isn't easy being green.
How much freedom have you been given within the constraints of the Doctor Who universe?
Giving you some hints at some of the things we’ve been allowed to do, which are great, is that the Eternity Clock is playing with time. There’s a wonderful cutscene where River realises that what’s in her diary is not what she wrote and that actually the Eternity Clock is playing with her history, as well as the Earth’s history, and that she understands what it is, but doesn’t remember ever having written it.
This is the first game in a planned trilogy. How would you sum up the focus of part one?
The key thing here is The Eternity Clock is very much the first step. We really understand that the first thing the Doctor has to do is save the universe, because of this time maelstrom that’s ripping everything apart, but this is only the first step. So when we end the game the Doctor understands what’s happening, but there’s then a bigger mystery behind all this. So this first game is very much about the Doctor and River putting the timeline for Earth right, fixing the things that are going wrong because the Cybermen have invaded London and converted half of it, the Silurians are trying to kill the entire world by poisoning it from Victorian times and the Silence are absolutely everywhere in Elizabethan London. We have a great gameplay mechanic whereby you have to keep the Silence in view, but not be seen by them, so you have to follow them round and if you loose sight of one you get reset because you forget everything. The Daleks have completely decimated London in 2106 and the Doctor says, “This never happened,” so they need to put the timeline right and work out what it is that’s causing it, that’s the story we follow.
The Cyber Commander aboard the Cyber Ship. Doesn't look that tough.
How do you make gamers feel as clever and brilliant as the Doctor?
One of the great things is playing through and working it out with the Doctor, because as he starts to piece things together we hope the consumer is going to get these really nice moments where suddenly they end up somewhere and they realise where this is and how many times they’ve been here, in the past or in the future, and how it’s changing. What we hope happens is that they then start thinking ahead of the Doctor and start piecing together those puzzles, because that’s what I do. When I sit down and watch the show I’m waiting for him to tell me what the answer is, but in the same way as I do with any good detective story I’m trying to work out what it is before he is as well. Everyone wants to have the answer. Part of the fun of that is sometimes getting it wrong and sometimes getting it right, and sometimes feeling that you’re almost as smart as the Doctor. And if you don’t the Doctor will tell you what’s happening anyway!
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