Nightingale could be the survival game for survival game haters
Have you ever had that genre of game that, no matter how many of your friends are playing, you just can't vibe with? For me, that's the survival and crafting genre.
Anything that has me punching trees or spending hours making clothes is an instant turn-off, and that extends to the likes of Ark: Survival Evolved, 7 Days To Die, and even Minecraft. And yet, there's something about Nightingale, Inflexion Games' debut title, that has me intrigued nonetheless.
A moment in time
The universe of Nightingale is a fractured one, but there's one constant - it's all stuck in 1899. This means there's a degree of anachronism that gives it a sort of Bioshock or Fallout feel, despite being set decades before each. Old-timey firearms and Mary Poppins' style umbrellas are key parts of your toolkit for combat and traversal respectively, and you'll need them.
After a network of portals collapses, players are trapped in the realms of the Fae, where they'll need to harvest materials, build shelter, and move between realms to find what they need to make it home.
The trump card here (pun absolutely intended), is Realm Cards, which help players target where they need to go. These cards can be earned or crafted, and while they fit the realm-hopping narrative, they're also a great way to reduce the friction of grinding for specific materials.
Using the cards, players can pick a terrain type, time of day, and other variables to help target the loot they need. It's a smart move and reduces the randomness of needing to hunt for specific items and materials.
Realm, sweet Realm
Once players move through the detailed tutorial (another big plus for those of us nonplussed by the genre traditionally) they're able to construct a home and place an Estate Marker. Since construction isn't server-based, I'll never again suffer the ignominy of losing my V Rising castle because I forgot to log in.
While I wasn't able to go hands-on with Nightingale at Gamescom, the live demo showcased tiles snapping together with ease, as the devs constructed huge buildings that can attach to the sides of cliffs, be filled with decorations, and, of course, provide shelter.
The lack of PvP may rankle for some genre stalwarts, but for me, it adds a sense of permanence to a style of game that tends to shift as if built on sand all too often.
It may also help bring some neighbourly love to the Fae realms, too, with players able to set their home points next to those of their friends for the chance to spend quality time together. In fact, players can even go fishing together.
Spiders, Giants, and Harpies - oh my!
All six players in your group can be in multiple realms at the same time, but you'll likely want to keep each other at least somewhat close.
Between winged harpies and skittering spiders (there is an arachnophobia mode for those inclined, myself included), there's plenty to keep you on your toes, but you'll also encounter Apex creatures - powerful foes that offer a challenge for you and your team.
In my Gamescom demo, we saw a team of three devs tackle a huge Sun Giant, capable of launching laser beams from the heavens that could send characters flying skyward, gliding back down with their aforementioned umbrellas.
A hastily constructed sniper tower was torn down, but poison ammo helped whittle the behemoth's health down, backed up by magic spells cast using Fae magic. The whole thing was chaotic and fun to watch, but once the beast was felled, other giants emerged from the gaps between realms to attack, too.
It's clear that Nightingale may hold your hand more than others in the space, but only so far.
Nightingale may be the crafting and survival game that gets under your skin, even if you've closed your heart to it in the past.
With a unique series of settings that allow for smart streamlining of mechanics, explosive combat, and a "stuck in time" visual identity that sets it apart from its often loincloth-wearing contemporaries, it could be a very pleasant surprise indeed.
Nightingale launches on February 22, 2024.