From the moment I booted up Nightingale’s character creator and saw I could adjust just how yellow my British character’s teeth were, I knew I was on to a winner. Nightingale – Inflexion Game’s upcoming steam punk survival game – has a lot of merit. Be it a distinct world to explore, a deep crafting and creation system, or a social focus that enhances the whole package. There’s a lot to love here.
Let’s start with what the core gameplay loop of Nightingale is. After finishing a tutorial, you’re thrown into a vast universe of various biomes, connected to each other via gateways. It’s your job to gather up resources to sustain yourself, establish a home, and venture out into this wild and wacky world to further improve yourself, your lodgings, and whatever big shiny stick or gun you’ve taken a liking to. It’s a well-known formula at this point, but Nightingale adds just enough of its own special sauce to make it devilishly moreish.
The most obvious of these excellent additions in Nightingale come from the Realm Card system. You see, those gateways I mentioned earlier aren’t just doors to a set location. You can modify your next location with a selection of Realm Cards. These include the fairly standard biome cards, but also the more intriguing major or minor modifier cards, which can have a drastic impact on your upcoming adventure. We’re talking about gravity-alteration, loot randomizers, and cards that turn the sky blood red and ramp up the difficulty.
This added layer to exploration absolutely means a lot, and helps set Nightingale apart from its competitors. Those who boot the game up looking for Rust with Oxford toffs are bound to be taken aback by just how wild the game can get with its worldbuilding. We’re talking Allan Quatermain meets Pan’s Labyrinth here, more so than an English romp through The Forest. NPCs will be camping around the shell of a zeppelin while shadow creatures stalk the sands around them. Seriously cool stuff.
Speaking of which, shout out to the creature design here. Sure you’ve got big ol’ toads and spiders, but some of the more monstrous creatures you’ll find on Apex Hunts, as well as clockwork knights that populate various corners of the lands you’ll explore, which make for a refreshing sight. The game truly does embrace its setting with both hands – weaving it both into its gameplay and narrative in a meaningful fashion.
But Connor, what about the gameplay itself!? Stop chatting about all the flourishes and start digging into the meat of things. Well, I’m happy to report that I was thoroughly invested during my short time with Nightingale. I played both the early game as a solo, and was slungshot into a group session around the mid-game. Both offered unique challenges, some familiar to you survival heads, some altogether new.
As mentioned before, early game is all about finding your footing, tracking down resources and staying alive. I did initially find the inventory management system a bit confusing, but after a few hours I figured out its nuance. Nightingale nails the feeling of desperation as you stumble around an unknown forest or desert in search of plants or berries, all while brandishing a cruddy stone axe. Rest assured that Nightingale has just as much mystery and danger as any of its contemporaries, especially when you find yourself fighting for your life with sticks and stones while crossing over through a gateway.
Later on, the game shifts on its head. Rather than feel like you’re at the world’s behest, the world itself opens up to you like an oyster under the knife. Its hard shell pops open, and all the riches are yours to plunder. We went on this expedition to a realm tower, using climbing picks and gliding umbrellas like some extreme sports Mary Poppins and soared towards our goal. Heading inside, we maneuvered through puzzles and fought off a gauntlet of ferocious shadowy Bound. I packed a shotgun with poison slugs, CEO of Inflexion Games Aaryn Flynn kept us alive with heals and offensive spells.
It was mint, mate. Exactly that sort of co-operative goodness in which survival games thrive. This thread of social play spreads throughout the whole Nightingale experiences too. Be it the trading of realm cards, which replace the typical seed code sharing that goes on in other procedurally-generated games. Or Apex Hunts, where you and your crew take on gargantuan beasts in ground-shaking boss fights. They say all games are better with friends, but Nightingale appears to be one of those games to which the saying is especially true.
Now, as this is a preview, it must be noted that my time with the game was relatively short. Aside from the co-op session, I’ve sunk in around 10 hours over a two-day window when the servers were open. As such, while I didn’t find the process of building up my character or lodgings frustrating or grindy, that may well change as you reach the higher echelons of content. I did not find the game too repetitive (putting aside the expected amount of busywork inherent to the genre), but things may well take a turn for the worse as the game goes on. I find myself quite eager to discover firsthand whether or not Nightingale retains its quality throughout when it launches later this month.
But as far as first impressions go, Nightingale is damn good. If you’re a fan of the survival game genre and haven’t got this game on your radar, remedy that and start saving. As long as it doesn’t suffer too many day-one bugs, and has a solid roadmap in place with consistent updates, I believe Nightingale will be well worth a permanent tenancy on your desktop.