Nightingale – Impressions

How Early is too Early Access?

If you’re setting out on any journey, listening to people who have already made said journey is wise. Heeding the advice of those who came before, but don’t blindly trust everything they tell you. For example, when that individual giving you advice is Puck. A folklore legend known for mischief, they could tell you any number of lies, including if your game is ready for early access.

This is Nightingale, an open world survival game that… Wait, didn’t we already do this? Really? Three? in one month? Well they say you can’t have too much of a good thing. The one with the balls? No, the one with the Shroud? OH The one with the cards. Right right right.

From Inflexion Games comes Nightingale, an open world survival game that gives you and your friends not just one sandbox, but multiple. As you become Realmwalkers, with the power to travel an arcane portal network to different destinations. The underlying theme throughout all of this is a gorgeous gaslamp fantasy Victorian setting that allows the game to have a brilliant aesthetic to build upon. Sadly you won’t see much of it in the early hours of the game, outside of the few NPCs you run into, I’m hoping this changes as Early Access progresses, as there’s a lot of interesting ideas just below the surface for Nightingale to build upon.

And try to build upon them it does. Nightingale is dripping with theme and style. The different realms you can visit each have a wonderful design, not only in regards to the environment but also the creatures that inhabit it, and so much more. 

Nightingale screenshot showing the In Game UI

Let’s break it down. At the start of the game you’ll be greeted by the aforementioned Puck, a mysterious fae who helps you become a realmwalker and understand the task at hand. Things are in peril, as they are wont to do, but have no fear, Puck is here to set you on the path. How you might ask? By helping you traverse between the realms in a quest to save your home realm from the pale. The answer to salvation lies within the city of Nightingale, which has been cutoff from the regular route, meaning to find it you’ll have to navigate through the labyrinthian arcane byways that connect the realms together. There is a story here, and a main quest line for those that want to follow it. With snippets of lore and more world building to be found scattered around the realms, detailing other journeymen and women who have already walked these paths.

But that’s not really what’s at the core of this game. And if you’ve played one open world survival game in the past, you’ll know that the core loop is going to be the same in most of them, punch trees, hit rocks, eat berries, and die to wildlife. The key important thing when it comes to survival games, is the setting in which you’re doing those things, and the wonderful flourishes of unique ideas that the developers paint around within them. Nightingale shines here, Inflexion have done a great job right out of the gate at making their world, well… Worlds, feel interesting and worthy of exploration. The forests can feel dense and populated by wild creatures running amongst the trees, the desert is barren in places, with an oppressing heat, and the swamp is filled with filth water… Filled with it, I’m never getting that stink out, I think some of it even got in my mouth. 

Running around in these realms you’ll find your inventory getting loaded up with different materials, and something that was enjoyable from a looting perspective (not so much from an inventory perspective) is that different creatures will drop different versions of items. When crafting, your recipe might call for Meat, but which meat you use is totally up to you, and will have different effects on the outcome based on which you choose. Personally I love that, sure once I’ve gotten past that discovery portion of the game I’ll have optimised the fun out of the situation and know the exact items to use. Until then though, I’m awash  with items to discover and check out and craft with to make different versions of things.

Nightingale screenshot showing NPCs

But what are you gathering all of these items for? In each realm you can find Mythical/Legendary creatures to face off against, as well as puzzles, and challenges to test your might against, granting you rewards and an ever important essence currency that’s universally used to buy different schematics and resources to craft bigger and better things, or even realm cards to visit other realms for you to explore and plunder. Essence plays a big part in Nightingale, coming in a variety of different tiers, you can get the base version by breaking down items in your inventory to give you a stable supply, and the higher ones, will mainly be coming from completing the trials and puzzles you find scattered around the realms.

Aaaannnnnd… Here’s where Nightingale begins to wobble a little bit. Those challenges and creatures you’ll be battling against, won’t really put up much of a fight, or even a challenge, the AI in its current state is truly lacking. The hardest part about the boss fights is trying to stay focused while whittling down an obnoxiously large health pool before you succumb to low stamina. A system which is more than just frustrating, it’s downright aggressive.

The stamina system in Nightingale, if you maintain food buffs, and rest, is a totally respectable design, unfortunately, at the other end of the spectrum, and in the early stages, is something that just feels badly designed and unfairly punishing. First impressions are important. It doesn’t matter how a game feels after 50 hours if you don’t get past the first 5. Nightingale’s starting stamina bar is far too oppressive and restrictive. Additionally if you aren’t well rested, your bar shrinks. And I’m not sure if this is intentional or a bug, but with 20% rest remaining, you can end up with 2 stamina left. Not even enough to swing a weapon, so you’re helpless. If this was the situation when the bar was fully empty, I’d not like it but I’d understand, but when the bar is still 20% filled, that’s not fun.

Speaking of not fun, the entire inventory system can be an exercise in frustration. Weight and Quantity can’t both be seen at the same time at a quick glance, you either need to hover over the items, or change the sorting option. This is then compounded by the fact, that the same icon is used for a fair amount of items, and you’ll need to hover over each to see which ones you want to keep or yeet. You also have a weight system as is a standard affair in survival games. When over encumbered you want to drop stuff off in a box, the game doesn’t tell you your current weight, so you either need to exit out of the box and check, or see if the over encumbered message is still in the background behind the windows. Oh, and just sliding it in here before I forget, the loading times are… Let’s be polite and say not great.

Nightingale screenshot showing inventory and storage system

I’m not going to mention crafting from storage, or a lack of offline play, both of those issues have already been addressed by Inflexion, and credit to them, they’re working on solutions to both. The crafting from storage was mentioned even before release as being worked on. I’m just hoping that these other issues can be ironed out as well. A lot of these issues I raise, are UI based, that’s it, and they can be fixed with time, and feedback. Inflexion Games have tried to keep the gaslamp theme running through Nightingale’s UI and there’s always going to be a balance when you’re going for a stylised UI design of theme vs clean, but that is exactly what Early Access is for, refining down those issues and making the players interaction with the game as smooth as possible. 

There’s glaring issues with Nightingale at the moment, and they’re on a key level. The UI is integral no matter what you’re doing, and the AI is while not being at the top of the list, needs to meet at least a base level for you to enjoy your engagement with the game. There’s no sugarcoating that, right now, Nightingale is a frustrating game to play, and if you can oversee those frustrations it can sink into tedium. Which to me, means you’re robbing yourself of a more enjoyable experience further along the development road. Currently it’s not deserving of your time… YET. 

I say Yet, and it’s important. Nightingale is fun, not only is it fun, it’s unique, the setting is perfect for a game of this genre, and what’s even more impressive, is that this is a genre that is stacked, stuffed, and a struggle for a new game to break in to. Every direction you look there’s a heavy hitter, and I want Nightingale to stand with those games.

You’ll have noticed that during these words, I only briefly discussed the realms, and that’s because I wanted to end on a positive, a high note. There is no note higher in Nightingale than the realm system. It has so much potential, so much room for evolution and adaptation as the game grows. The ability to create new biomes, or new creature sets, new cards for a myriad of reasons, and slot them in to the current system, to build upon all of the ideas that already exist in the game, not to just replace them with new content and make them irrelevant, which we’ve seen time and time again. To add to them, to integrate with them and just expand the options available to the player. When choosing a realm to jump to, you select cards of different sizes and difficulty, as well as a biome type, smash those together and presto changeo you have a realm to walk. Additionally you can craft minor cards to impact the realm as well. Want to just fish? You can craft a card so you don’t lose rest or gain hunger while fishing. What about a realm of eternal night? A realm with low gravity? There truly are so many combinations that you can stack on top of each other, the card system deserves nothing but praise. 

That’s a cool system. That’s a unique system. To me the card system on show in Nightingale is like, the fluid combat in an Arkham game, or the Nemesis system of the Middle earth games, it’s a great idea, that gives a lot of room for ideas, and holds a lot of fun for the players. It’s ideas like that, which we need more of in games, and it’s why I’m keeping my eye on Nightingale during the Early Access period, to see what they do with it.

Nightingale screenshot showing Puck character NPC

Thanks for watching, we’ll see you in the next one.

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Dave Spanton

Dave Spanton

Unable to juggle or whistle, Dave handles the PR side of things at LT3 and also is one of the main content creators for the site. Which means if something's broken, you can most likely blame him.

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