Eternal Engine

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A vast factory complex or machine that can fill up a building, a city or even a whole planet. Its purpose may not be readily apparent, probably due to the sheer size of the thing. Pumping pistons act as elevators or crushers, conveyor belts cover half the floors, and you can expect something to try to squash you flat sooner or later. Needless to say, this would not be a fun place to work. The Eternal Engine may be the insides of the Forgotten Superweapon, or Polluted Wasteland for a technologically inclined Big Bad. In either case, you usually run into it as one of the final stages.

Enemies are usually Mooks, Mecha-Mooks, even more Mooks, sentry guns, and, probably more than any other level save Lethal Lava Land, the environment itself. Expect conveyor belts to end over Bottomless Pits, pipes leaking superheated steam, if not fire, exposed electrical conduits, and huge vats and/or nasty spills of fluorescent green chemicals and toxic waste. Also expect a hall of giant alternating pistons. Expect hectic, intense and sometimes electronic music to match the level theme.

Not surprisingly, Eternal Engine often fills in for, or is combined with, Lethal Lava Land. In which case, either the machine runs on Geothermal power, or it may have vast bodies and such of molten metal rather than lava. Expect Convection, Schmonvection to play out in full force either way.

Named after a stage in Sonic Adventure 2 (which was actually in a giant space station if you want to get technical, but eh).

See also No OSHA Compliance, Nightmarish Factory. Also see Womb Level, the living version. You may have been looking for Perpetual Motion Machine.

Examples of Eternal Engines include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Steam Castle from Steamboy. Not only is it ridiculously complicated on the inside, with giant pistons and wheels, but also incredibly dangerous on the outside as it freezes whatever it flies over.
  • Blame takes place in a world where there is no non-artificial environment at all. It is revealed that the world is essentially one massive dyson sphere.

Comic Books

  • After Superman comes back to life during Reign of the Supermen, he joins Steel and Superboy in assaulting Engine City, a gigantic engine built over the ruins of Coast City by Mongul and the Cyborg Superman.
  • During the JLA's "World War Three" story arc, Superman invades the eternal engine an intergalactic threat named Maggedon has sent to Earth.
  • War World, former base of the Sinestro Corps.

Fan Works

  • From Undocumented Features, the giant Difference Engine built in Asgard in the wake of the Ragnarok which maintains the universe Nine Worlds.
    • Also its much smaller sibling, built by Corwin Ravenhair to stabilize Cephiro (the Tenth World) and free its Pillar (himself at that point) from having to perform that task manually, 24/7.


  • Perhaps the Ur Example is the one below the city in Metropolis.
  • The ancient underground Krell machinery, which was roughly 40 miles long on one side, in the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet.
    • 40 miles long, in the shape of a cube, and full of fusion reactors. The amount of energy output is enough to power all of a (long dead) civilization's needs, or blow the planet to smithereens if set to overload because humankind is not ready.
  • The droid factory in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones is a textbook Lethal Lava Land example, using molten metal as the lava.
  • In the 1997 version of The Borrowers, a milk-bottling factory is this from the Borrowers' perspective.
  • V'Ger in Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a machine so vast it could (as Uhura and McCoy say "hold a crew of tens of thousands...Or a crew of 1,000 that are ten miles tall," and the 'Enterprise' spends a large portion of the film inside it. When viewing V-Ger's holographic memory, Spock sees a "machine planet' which he speculates may be V'Ger's homeworld.


  • In Andre Norton's Uncharted Stars, the Forerunner factory world to which the star map bowl led, which was the source of the zero stones.
  • Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman's Death Gate Cycle featured a floating island-machine, the Kicksey-Winsey. This machine is so vast and complex that in the centuries after its designers had abandoned it, the enslaved dwarves left to run it have turned their acts of maintenance and assembly into a religion; they no longer understand why the machine does anything, but have managed to keep it operational.
  • The young Jedi Knight series and some other Expanded Universe bookes include the rocky planet Mechis III. The entire planet is covered with droid factory complexes and during the reign of the Empire it was even owned by a single company, Arakyd Industries. Less than 100 biological employees live on the planet, the rest of the population is millions of droid workers. And yes, Mechis III has plenty of volcanic activity, so it has elements of Lethal Lava Land as well.
  • In Roger Zelazny's Jack of Shadows, there is a Machine at the Heart of the World (the purpose of which is to stop the Earth from rotating).

Live Action TV

  • In Babylon 5, the Great Machine of Epsilon III was an Homage to Forbidden Planet. It is seen in the episodes "A Voice in the Wilderness", "The Long, Twilight Struggle", "Voices of Authority" and "War Without End".
    • Homage in the sense of a 1990's remake complete with giant vertical shaft with elevator globes.
  • The Doctor Who 16th season story The Pirate Planet, which was also Douglas Adams' debut as a writer for the series, features a planet that exploitatively harvests raw materials. The Doctor must undertake some very risky maneuvers in order to shut it down.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons' Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus, which is an entire plane of existence. Naturaly, Clockwork Creatures live there.
  • Autochthonia from Exalted is an entire pocket dimension of this. It's also a god. And it's winding down...
    • There's also the lower levels of the Imperial Manse, a superweapon capable of annihilating small countries with a shot. It was built by Autochthon (the aforementioned god, although he's technically a Primordial, which is a step up), who can't be harmed by machines, so he didn't really think to put up much in the way of safety around the giant gears, pistons, plasma jets etc.
      • On the other hand: do you really want someone who ISN'T exceptionally careful, logical and prudent to get to the controls of the most powerful weapon currently in creation?
  • Many of the Imperium's factories in Warhammer 40,000 are often described as these. "Small city" is a severe understatement for some of the bigger ones. Then you have the Forge Worlds, which are entire planets converted into factories.
    • Necron tomb complexes are often like this as well in theme, though Necron technology bears little resemblance to mere human machinery. Case in point being the World Engine.

Video Games

  • Of course, damn near every Sonic the Hedgehog game has at least one of these, sometimes more than one: Scrap Brain Zone, Metropolis Zone, Chemical Plant Zone, Eternal Engine, and Final Egg—just to name a handful. Justified by Robotnik's Mad Scientist nature.
  • The Final Fantasy series, despite not being a platformer series, like this trope a lot, with quite a few of its games being set in a Steampunk environment. Deserving special attention is Nibelhelm's Mako Reactor in Final Fantasy VII for having lots of plot-important fluorescent green chemicals.
    • There's also Final Fantasy VI's Magitek Research Facility in Vector. Conveyer belts, a trash dump, and big glass tubes of chemicals with Espers inside, being drained of their magical energy courtesy of not-so-mad scientist Cid. All set to the track 'Devil's Lab', which can only be described as industrial rock with piston percussion, growling electric bass and organ, and strings.
  • Commander Keen: The second installment is set entirely within the Vorticon Mothership, while the fifth installment is set entirely within the titular Armageddon Machine. Both settings feature most of the classic hazards, as well as evil machines (cannons in the second game, generators in the fifth) that have to be disabled so the titular character succeeds on his mission.
  • Grunty Industries, Nutty Acres and Logbox 360 from the Banjo-Kazooie series.
  • BioShock (series) features Hephaestus, described by the soundtrack as "the Engine City." It's an enormous power plant that funnels geothermal energy (and what looks like magma) through colossal engines to power all of the underwater city of Rapture. However, it's not especially "eternal," as, like all the rest of Rapture, it's in the process of falling apart, and one of the missions involves strapping an EMP bomb onto one of the engines.
  • The Clock Tower in any Castlevania game.
    • Castlevania: Bloodlines has a relatively modern factory level. Not too suprising, since the game takes place across Europe during World War I.
  • The third quarter of the original Crash Bandicoot consists mostly of this (levels such as Heavy Machinery, Cortex Power and Generator Room), with Crash roaming through Cortex's enormous power plant which, on the surface, doesn't seem to serve much of a purpose other than to dump tons and tons of radioactive sludge into the nearby oceans.
    • The late-game stages of the second and third Crash Bandicoot games also indulged quite a bit on this.
  • The Gremlin Village and the It's a Small World ride in Disney Epic Mickey are filled with gears, steam-leaking pipes, and generic steampunk elements. Both cases are justified, since the Gremlins are all mechanics and most, if not all of the rides in the Cartoon Wasteland probably use outdated technology. (Except for Tomorrowland, of course.)
  • Donkey Kong examples:
  • Ecco the Dolphin features Welcome to the Machine, a giant alien meat grinder and the Scrappy Level to end all Scrappy Levels. It makes a slightly less insane return in the sequel Tides of Time.
    • Defender of the Future has about a quarter of the game be one of these due to the Man's Nightmare levels, which has you following the process of mining rocks for crystals to the end result down the factory line, over the span of multiple, multiple levels. Not half as annoying as it sounds because the place is designed so well.
  • The Dwemer ruins in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind are powered by geothermal energy and manned by complicated enchanted automations who mindlessly perform security and minor repairs on these forgotten cities. The Dwemer were also about to experiment with the power of their resident, absent God when they were cast out of reality by it.
  • The Residue Processing stage in Half Life certainly qualifies here.
  • Indiana Jones and The Infernal Machine has a kind of ancient-stones version on several levels.
  • Kirby 64 The Crystal Shards features one as the fourth level in the game's resident Slippy-Slidey Ice World, complete with giant machines trying to crush you, robots, rooms full of molten lava, and inexplicable giant animals floating in tanks of water.
    • It's also implied to be Earth.
    • The giant animals might be bizarre toys, if the Christmas theme of the earlier levels is any indication. Earth apparently fell into a nuclear winter... during winter.
  • The Great Bay Temple from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask combines this with Down the Drain.
  • The Mario RPGs had Smithy Factory from the original game as one of these types of areas, and it was also an Ominous Floating Castle. The X Naut Fortress in Paper Mario 2 also has aspects of this.
    • Super Mario Galaxy had Battlerock Galaxy and Dreadnought Galaxy, particularly in the 2-D sections.
    • Super Mario 64 has Tick Tock Clock.
      • Also Rainbow Ride, which has all the right platforms, just not the theme.
      • The Bowser levels are also a few thematic elements away from being Eternal Engines.
    • Earlier in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, there is a train station that seems to be abandoned and has elements of this.
      • Some parts of the Palace of Shadow as well.
  • Luigi's Eternal Engine of the first Mario Party was this until someone became the Super Star. Turned out that the engine was powering a flying machine of some kind.
  • In Mario Kart, Toad's Factory, a race course from Mario Kart Wii, features some elements of this trope, being a factory with crushing machines, conveyor belts, a steam room, and bulldozers that move back and forth periodically across a mud path at the end of the course.
  • Metal Man's level in Mega Man 2.
    • ...and Spark Man's level from Mega Man 3, and Dust Man's level from 4, and Mercury's level from V for the Game Boy, and Junk Man's level from 7, and Grenade Man's level from Mega Man 8, and Plug Man's level from'd probably be easier to list the games that don't have one. As with the Sonic series, justified by Wily's Mad Scientist nature.
    • Mega Man X has Flame Mammoth's factory. With inconveniently placed conveyor belts that crush rubbish for no particular reason.
      • It's a recycling facility.
    • Mega Man Zero usually fit 2 or sometimes even 3 into each game.
    • And in ZX, the entire world itself is basically cybernetic to an extent.
  • Happens frequently in the Metroid Prime series, to varying degrees. Magmoor Caverns in the first falls into the "combined with Lethal Lava Land" variety, and the Phazon Mines have their fair share of machinery obstacles. Prime 2 features the technologically-themed Sanctuary Fortress, and Prime 3 has the Steampunk-inspired region Sky Town on the planet Elysia, complete with enemies with names like "Tinbots", "Steambots", and "Steam Lords", and the Pirate Homeworld.
    • Metroid Prime Hunters has Samus morph ball into a boiler and dodge its eternal workings while trying to find something.
    • The entire setting of Metroid Fusion is a Biologic Space Laboratories research station, a huge space station that simulates a variety of natural environments, thus most of the levels have a few Eternal Engine aspects to them.
  • The EvilToyCo. Factory in Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots is an gigantic factory churning out legions and legions of evil Living Toys. You effectively spend nearly all of the game in it.
  • Sekto's Dam in Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath is basically what you would get if you mixed a Dam, Bottling Plant, and DEATH. It's one of the few areas with Bottomless Pits in the game.
    • In a bit of Fridge Logic, Sekto keeps two large reactor type objects that he apparently uses as weapons right next to his desk, which like most equipment in an Eternal Engine, will explode if you shoot it enough. Apparently he either really wants to be a Load-Bearing Boss, or he doesn't care about his own safety.
    • Not to mention the entirety of Rupture Farms, which half of the first game takes place in.
  • The behind-the-scenes sections of Portal's Aperture Science Enrichment Center, excepting the (scarce by comparison) office areas.
    • The sequel takes this up to eleven, where apparently the entire facility's operations is to churn out products for testing against other products. While there are facilities to manufacture products (indeed Wheatley apparently was able to design and mass produce his own robots) there seems to be no way of shipping them, only to continue sending them back into tests. GLaDOS and Wheatley also seem to have little else other than to continue testing for their entire lives.
  • Most of Prey takes place in a planet-sized Eternal Engine. The aliens live in a giant artificial sphere in which every room, corridor and passage is strewn with wires, pipes and machinery of all sorts (not always inoffensive).
  • The factory level in Quake II was a large complex in which human and mechanical parts were cut'n'pasted together (with no anesthetic...) to form Strogg soldiers. The machinery had more psychological effects and less gameplay consequences than most Eternal Engine environments, but the player was required to avoid a giant crusher or two and step on a few conveyor belts.
  • Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc features a level called Hoodlum Headquarters, an elaborate factory base full of lava.
  • Rayman Origins features one of these complete with molten metal.
  • The aptly named Planet Automaton in Ristar is an entire planet made out of machines and populated by robots.
  • The Star Forge, the final level of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, is an ancient, giant, evil factory slash Forgotten Superweapon drawing its power from the star in whose corona it hovers.
  • The image at the top is of the Steel Works level from Sparkster for the SNES, although it's far from the only Eternal Engine level in that series; at least half of the levels in that series could be considered variations on the concept.
  • The Island of the Ancients in the Subspace Emissary, from Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
  • Tales of Symphonia has one, the Welgaia escape route, within the Tower Of Salvation. It has the slippery aspect of a Slippy-Slidey Ice World, due to it being in space, and thusly having zero-g sections.
  • Tomb Raider has loads. Natla's Mines, Offshore Rig, Fool's Gold, Lud's Gate, Shakespeare Cliffs and Kazakhstan's Project Karbonek.
  • The Wario Land series had the Mysterious Factory from Wario Land 2 and the Curious Factory from Wario Land 4.
  • In World of Warcraft, the Gnome capital city-turned-dungeon, Gnomeregan, is a giant Steampunk factory city.
    • The same game also features the interdimensional spaceship(s) of Tempest Keep (including the Exodar, which serves as the Draenei races' home area), although the hazards normally inherent to Eternal Engines do not show up here, limiting the use of the design to be mostly thematic in purpose.
    • Various bits and bobs of Titan technology can be found throughout Northrend. Many of them seem to be gigantic engines of some kind, though very few of them are working.
    • The ruins of Uldum are less about gears and more about beam emitters, computers and robots made out of stone.
  • The FireCage in An Untitled Story is an abandoned but still partly operational underground factory or power plant of some kind. The pools of molten metal or rock found here and there give it elements of Lethal Lava Land.
  • Jazz Jackrabbit: The planets Tubelectric, Letni, Orbitus, Technoir, Dreempipes, Industrius, Deckstar, and the Megairbase and the Twin Battleships. Also the abandoned lab levels in Jazz Jackrabbit 2.
  • Shadow Complex has an area like this. Justified in that the purpose of the factory is explicitly explained as building the mechs and weapons.
  • Dungeon Siege and its expansion Legends of Aranna both feature these, both populated by Goblins, themselves mechanical creatures. The former is the goblin's home, and the latter is the great clock you've been heading for the entire game.
  • There are a couple massive ones in Blue Dragon, and at the end of the game you find out the entire planet is one. The term "Eternal Engine" itself is used to refer to the Ancient machine's power sources.
  • Arguably, Dead Space contains an example of this when you go to get the centrifuge running. Once you have put the energy cells back in place, you have to cross the room in short sprints, in between ducking into small nooks around the walls of the room, as the centrifuge is large enough that it will insta-kill you if you stand anywhere within the main room.
  • The Great Clock from Ratchet and Clank Future A Crack In Time.
  • Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil features the factory levels in Volk, constantly churning out bombs, planes, and, apparently, soldiers for Volk's neverending civil war. The Maze of Memories level may qualify as well, though the 'machinery' all runs in the background, and doesn't seem to affect gameplay at all.
  • Pokémon has its various power plants. It's not as severe as some examples, since the other danger in them is the hordes of Electric and Steel monsters and the occasional lightning bird.
  • Terminal Velocity has the Moon Dagger in episode 1 (essentially a huge spaceship), and the massive supercomputer planet which makes up the last two levels of episode 3.
  • Sky Gunner Well. Quite literally.
  • The entirety of the Arca Plant levels in Phantasy Star Zero. Mechanical enemies, machinery in the background that becomes larger and more complex, and a giant robot at the end who more than counts as a That One Boss to a degree that the final boss and bonus boss seem like child's play in comparison.
  • Although mentioned below for its other appearances in fiction, the planet Cybertron in Transformers: War for Cybertron is worth noting, since it is literally an entire game set inside, outside, and on top of a massive eternal engine. It even features a level inside another character who is himself an eternal engine.
  • Sector 6 of Jumper Two takes place in The Boss' factory of OgmoBots. Ogmo can, and will, have to interfere with production to progress. The Boss even invoked Malevolent Architecture in this sector.
  • Large part of Limbo takes place there.
  • The Bacterian Fortress in the Gradius series, and the "green slime plant" in V.
  • Doctor Octopus' level in "Spider-Man:Shattered Dimensions"
  • The Primagen's Lightship and the Oblivion Warp Portals from Turok 2 would both count. However, the Portals are more true to the aesthetics of the trope, as each one contains a healthy dose of grim, industrial architecture complete with pumping pistons, steam valves, chains dangling ominously from the ceiling, pits of magma and all the other goodies.
  • The Sun Temple in Aquaria is a clockwork Eternal Engine; you can even pilfer the key and use it to decorate your cave (which inexplicably has chambers constructed in the style of every locale you visit, including the Sun Temple). In spite of having supposedly been abandoned for quite some time, it's still running and shows no signs of decay; possibly the clockwork sea life lurking around are automated maintenance staff, keeping one another wound as well as making sure the temple stays in working order, after their masters are long dead.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors had a recreation of the ship Gigantic/Brittanic's engine. Of course, it's only as imposing as the Real Life one is.
  • Xizor's Palace in Shadows of the Empire, complete with giant gears that Dash must navigate.
  • Telos, and to a lesser extent Effluvia(combined with Down in the Dumps and Lethal Lava Land) and Utopia, in Adventures of Rad Gravity.
  • The Mechanical age in Myst is a Clock Punk version of this.
  • Lunar has the Grindery, which you later explore in Lunar 2 as "Taben's Peak".
  • The Breath of Fire series has Obelisk (Breath of Fire), Highfort (Breath of Fire II), and the remains of Caer Xhan and Station Myria (Breath of Fire III).
  • The Mad Hatter's Realm from American McGee's Alice and its sequel, Alice: Madness Returns. It's a massive, floating structure of Clock Punk machinery that mostly seems to be devoted to making Body Horror and tea.
  • Legend of Kalevala has an underground factory area underneath the first area. It's full of Floating Platforms, and it's the first place where you'll find Lava Pits. This area is one of the tip-offs to the protagonist that the former inhabitants of Kalevala were a very intelligent civilization.
  • The Baten Kaitos games have the city of Mintaka, which is built out of pipes that are constantly emitting steam of some sort. Origins refers to it as 'machina' and discusses the ethics it presents.
    • Origins also has Tarazed, which is a man-made airship the size of a continent.
  • Stages 4 and 5 in Journey to Silius, which include crushing pistons, falling crates, moving Spikes of Doom, pits of molten metal, and conveyor belts. And the latter is an auto scroller for some reason.
  • Resonance of Fate has Basel, which is not only an Eternal Engine (of gears!), but is also the entire World Map in which where the game takes place, and is apparently the last bastion of human civilization. Not so eternally however, it's at its last legs by the game's start.
  • Archive 4, "Passion", in Child of Eden.
  • The Space Hideout in Something Else, because the graphics are ripped directly from Scrap Brain Zone Act 2, another Eternal Engine level.

Western Animation

  • The radioactive waste plant in Teen Titans is a very good example.
    • Slade had one for a lair during the first season. And guess where he chose to reveal himself to the Titans after coming back from the dead?
  • The planet Cybertron in Transformers. In its various incarnations it is depicted with all kinds of huge machinery all over the planet, with good reason - the entire planet was a Transformer. Then there is Unicron, whose insides are an even more literal take on the Eternal Engine Planet trope, and his tentacle horror Japanese cousin Dark Nova. The later US comics from Marvel also introduced the Decepticon War World.

Real Life

  • The mines at the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada.
  • Jamnagar Refinery, India
  • Three Gorges Dam, China
  • Boeing's Factory in Everett, Washington State, the largest factory in the world.