In case you didn’t know, Nightingale is set to release later this month. It’s a fantastical survival game with a lot of heart and merit to it, and well worth checking out if you’ve got a taste for building up little settlements and living off berries. But, let’s not beat around the bush here. It’s being thrown into the ring with some heavy hitters.
Not only have you got a lot of legacy titles like Valheim, Sons of the Forest, and Rust that still maintain a strong following, but it’s also landing alongside Palworld – a game that absolutely took the world by storm a few weeks back. Thankfully, Nightingale has a card up its sleeve. No, it’s not an ace. It’s a Realm Card – a fresh feature that might set the game apart from its contemporaries.
“The ability to dynamically change the gameplay and change the look and feel of the realms you’re in is pretty unique. I think we’ve only scratched the surface with what we can do with it through live service,” says CEO Inflexion Games CEO Aaryn Flynn. When I asked him to pick out one aspect of Nightingale that he believes will set the game apart from others in the genre, Realm Cards quickly came up.
For those unfamiliar with the game and its features, here’s how it works. Nightingale allows players to venture between different “realms” via gateways, but these realms aren’t set in stone. In order to modify where they’ll be headed, players can use Realm Cards to change things up. Major Realm Cards can adjust biomes and more general features, whereas it’s the minor Realm Cards that add the more unique twists and turns you’d be hard-pressed to find in other survivial games.
Flynn elaborates on the feature: “The idea for the Realm Cards was always leaning into player autonomy. Survival crafting games are at their best when players get to manage and control how they go and solve challenges within the world. Players can think of unique and interesting ways to strategize how to overcome them. You choose your gear, your outfit, maybe an NPC companions. A lot of that has been done extremely well [in other games], so we came up with this idea for players to have an ability to interface with the world’s systems and control them with these Realm cards.”
The results can get pretty extreme, and in line with the Fae-filled fantastical setting Nightingale is set in, blend Victorian-era technology with magic and mystisicm. From our own experience with the game, the fruits of this idea ultimately come through player expression, and the ability to approach your own adventure in a unique fashion. Flynn tends to agree, and came prepared with an anecdote that shows the extent of Realm Cards’ impact on the player experience.
“Some of the most fun we’ve had is when we’ve had pretty exotic combinations thanks to cards with really unique abilities,” Flynn reveals. “There’s one card called the Trickster which changes the resources you get from the various places you go. So if you chop a tree down, you might get meat! It’s random. I saw one player asking if they can live off of berries and other things long enough, such that they could use the trickster card to get other foods without killing a creature in the game. I thought that was pretty cool! I don’t know if that’s possible, but it’s a hell of a thought and exactly the kind of seeds we’re happy to plant.”
Nightingale has been in development for around five years, and as you might have guessed, there have been plenty of Realm Card concepts left on the cutting room floor during the journey to the game’s Early Access release. Flynn gave me a peek behind the curtain at one such card, alongside a tease that it’ll maybe be headed to the game in the not-so-distant future.
“There was an idea for a Thousand Frogs Realm Card, that was a super cool idea. It came because I hate frogs – I have this weird aversion to frogs. So when I started playing the game one day I was like, what? I didn’t even know the team was making it. So the running joke became this idea of a frog realm, and we could do it with a minor Realm Card. But, griefing me was not the top priority for the project, so we ended up focusing on other things. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if you see a many frogs realm card coming in the future!”
Ultimately, I think the reason the Realm Card system is so exciting to me is becaue it plays to one of the biggest strengths of these open-ended survival games: the rich source of player stories and original experiences. There’s a shock factor to them that is quite distinct from other games – and it’s something Flynn claims to take seriously.
“I had a colleague who is a creative director at the studio who said that games are at their best these days when they are story engines, and that’s always resonated with me,” he says. “We can tell a story as developers and we can craft that for players, that has a ton of value. But with these sandbox games – you probably want to tell your friends what happened to you in Nightingale last night when you were playing.”
Are you keen to try out Nightingale when it launches later this month? Let us know below.