Palworld has its Pokémon (of the legally distinct variety); Ark has its dinosaurs; Enshrouded is like a third-person action-adventure in a survival game skin; Conan is Conan; Valheim immediately draws on the Viking fantasy; but even after about eight hours with Nightingale, Inflexion Games’ upcoming survival and crafting adventure, it’s not so easy to define its thing.
But let’s start with the fae; In Nightingale, Inflexion – a studio founded by former BioWare bigwig Aaryn Flynn – has conjured up an alternate history of magic and the Victorian era that is at least partly indebted to Susanna Clarke’s sprawling novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Magic in Nightingale’s version of Victorian-era Earth is, thanks to humanity’s first contacts with the fae, both real and mundane, and Nightingale – the pioneer town of magical research and travel by portal which gives the game its name – was the pride of humanity until a calamity struck and the world was engulfed in a deadly miasma. Some attempted to escape through Nightingale’s portals, but when the network collapsed, they were catapulted to distant fae realms – and you, as the player, are part of this unlucky group known as of Realmwalkers – forced to fend for themselves in hostile climates as they search for a way. House.
It’s an appealing premise, the kind of gentler fantasy that video games often overlook in favor of its dirtier, grimier steampunk twin. It’s also a premise that Nightingale, at least during her opening hours, struggles to capitalize on; beyond a slightly off-putting version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s Puck, here a little too fond of turgid purple prose, and some striking panoramas adorned with fantastical bric-a-brac – an overturned galleon here, an obelisk defying the gravity there – there’s little that clearly defines Nightingale’s vision from the start, and little about its survival and design that immediately sets it apart from countless other games of a similar style. Not that there’s anything wrong with its basic survival principles; Nightingale’s familiar early rhythms of hitting trees and building huts, and even particularly pushing the limits, are GOOD – there are even glimmers of interesting twists, including a slightly strategic building system where the placement of items determines their effectiveness – and I spent the first few hours happily picking berries, terrorizing deer for their skins and their meat, and to have a perfectly pleasant time.
Even by Inflexion’s own admission, Nightingale’s early game is a fairly traditional survival game and – based on my eight or so hours with a pre-release build – it’s a slow burn of a game, taking a certain time to find its place and establish its hook. own. That hook, when it finally appears, is Nightingale’s infinite procedurally generated worlds, with players – either solo or in cooperative groups of up to six people – able to move back and forth between this which the game calls kingdoms, conjured into existence on the field. hover over the card combinations determined by the player.
Here, a main map determines the biome that will serve as the basis for each new world – forest, desert and swamp, each with their own distinct hazards, being the three main biomes available at the start of Nightingale Early Access – while a secondary card The card influences the details: the creatures, colors and resources it contains. It is Also It is possible to play a third card on special transmuters found in each realm, these serving as real-time modifiers that could, for example, suddenly flood the world with incessant rain, or reduce its gravity, or summon a endless night where powerful beasts prowl. The idea seems to be that these tailor-made worlds feed into Nightingale’s overall survival and crafting loop by providing an increased opportunity to find specific resources, thereby encouraging reasons to create a new one and continue exploring.
And Nightingale’s procedural generation makes a positive first impression; its worlds are truly beautiful – delicately colored expanses of rolling hills, arid deserts or fetid swamps dotted with mysterious monuments, caves, dungeons and coyly hidden treasures that seem wonderfully organic – and which, at least at first, are a pleasure to explore. Your first contact with Nightingale’s procedural generation comes early on, when you’re dropped into a unique “home” realm based on the biome of your choice, a relatively safe open-world landscape where you can establish a base and get grappling with its core of survival. In my case, after opting for “forest”, I was treated to a fantastical, blurry expanse of misty glens, sun-drenched forests and foaming waves lapping gently on sandy shores – Nightingale’s survival game is maybe too familiar, but you could definitely do it. I’m not asking for more beautiful landscapes to do it.
If there’s a concern, it’s that even after a relatively brief time with Nightingale, her procedural generation – or at least this early access version – soon begins to show its limits, with a variant of the biome looking roughly like the previous one, a change in color palette towards, say, purple or an alternative pool of wildlife aside. It’s hard not to wonder whether its procedurally assembled puzzles and dungeons might also quickly succumb to the same kind of repetition – and whether its procedurally designed landscapes will provide an interesting enough backdrop for its survival, and for quite long time, to adequately replace the charm and soul of a hand-crafted world.
Perhaps this all seems a little depressing to Nightingale. But despite some initial reservations, there’s a good chance it will morph into something far more interesting as it moves from its atmospheric, if rather mundane, survival and crafting loop to what appears to be a richer and more complex game environment. I had the opportunity to briefly explore Nightingale’s later stages in a separate two-hour gameplay session guided by the developer, and while the introduction to its more elaborate systems was a bit overwhelming, she was also intriguing. There are (I think) elemental infusions for clothing and weapons, spells, charms and much more. And the rudimentary cabin construction of the beginning of the game eventually gives way to more complex construction, where players can fashion wonderfully grandiose estates (as Nightingale bases are called) – in styles ranging from classic Victorian to era-appropriate Far Eastern architecture – which may even be populated with occasional NPCs that you befriend along the way.
And here’s the thing: the more I played with Nightingale’s more exotic mid-game tools, the more her delightfully refreshing, anything-goes personality began to come into focus, her slightly bland early hours giving way to a game that didn’t. He wasn’t afraid to embrace the ridiculous and chaotic potential of his fantasy conceit. Our mid-game adventure first took us to a desert kingdom, where our group – sporting a wonderfully random array of fashion, part Victorian gentry, part scruffy street urchin – wandered around like dazed schoolchildren, finally freed from Nightingale’s initial survival. chore with all kinds of wonderful new toys.
We toppled through the darkness of gloomy tombs with guns shaking, climbed towering mesas with climbing picks in hand, unleashed carnage on the local wildlife with element-infused shotguns, and drifted merrily through the airs in the deadly afternoon sun with umbrellas held aloft, like a motley group of murderous Mary Poppins. Here, after a long, slow start, we finally felt like Nightingale had found her own rhythm, particularly towards the end of our session when – now knee-deep in bubbling purple swamp water – our adventure climaxed in a burst of flashy spells. , magic-infused blades, bullets, and heavy artillery as we chased down a massive creature on top, Monster Hunter style.
And after all that excitement, back in the relative peace of my own personal realm and with a clearer idea of how Nightingale might carve out her own place in the survival genre, it was easier to watch it with more ‘optimism. And re-energized, I ran through the trees and scampered over the hills in the fading day, taking a few last screenshots of decaying wrecks and marble rotundas on distant hills. Here, in the shadow of something that looks like an ancient Aztec temple, I spotted an NPC I’d overlooked before, a former New York journalist, now also stranded far from home, with lots of stories to tell. She spoke of her past and teased her future adventures, weaving an immediately evocative spell – and it was perhaps here, in her subtle sense of character and in the romanticism of her world-building, that Nightingale might well find her most convincing sale. For all its early familiarity and not-entirely-convincing procedural aspect, there’s undoubtedly real magic in Nightingale, even if it takes a while to cast her spell.