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Nightingale preview: Survival potential in a gorgeous realm-hopping fantasy setting

Dan Lipscombe

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Nightingale preview: Survival potential in a gorgeous realm-hopping fantasy setting

Featured Image Credit: Inflexion Games

It’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for Nightingale. It’s a fantastic survival game that tries many new things and gets most of them right, however, it’s being released in a year already swamped with survival games and it’s only February. We’ve only just had Enshrouded, which is very similar, plus Palworld which took the survival genre and injected it with Pokemon-type creatures, with all the games here also being early access titles.

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Of course, if you’re a fan of the genre, you’re eating well. However, each game is already very weighty and bursting with things to do, so will players make way for another contender? I feel like the only way Nightingale can thrive is to go hard on its themes and tropes because, after all, once you’ve built one campfire, you’ve built them all.

Nightingale aims to compete with the recent juggernaut, Palworld

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In the preview hands-on I took part in we got to experience the first few hours of the game, being shown how to do everything via tutorial worlds and starting with basic crafting. What you have to understand about this game is where its uniqueness lies and beats out other survival games. And that’s in its magical realism, a world where the realms of fiction and fantasy bleed into the human world allowing us to see fairies and magical creatures.

Puck
Puck

An easy example of this is our tutorial guide, Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, gorgeously rendered in sparkling metals, glowing almost ethereally as he floats before you giving directions and pointing out the deep lore behind why humans are escaping into new realms. On that latter point, the game’s intro and recent trailers give a great breakdown of this world and how we ‘realmwalkers’ end up adrift in these new lands.

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Getting right into it, Puck tells me to go off and find sticks, stones, some berries. All staples of the survival genre. I build a campfire, a bedroll, as well as a place to keep the rain off. This is all done in one biome, a forested area filled with trees. Once the initial steps have been taken, Nightingale unveils its hand and I’m given some cards. These cards are used in a portal machine which, well, they open a portal to another biome.

Through my initial hour, I go off to experience a swamp and build more things, then a desert where I learn about heat and cold and how to monitor these as well as stamina and hunger. So far, so good. Eventually, I got to visit my ‘respite realm’ where I would start my proper journey and learn to survive - I chose a forest because I knew I’d need wood. I’m a simple man.

Nightingale
Nightingale
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As I exited the portal, I roamed the wilds looking for a place to call my own - in the full release you can play among other players - I passed intriguing ruins and tall buildings from which I could hear horrible creature sounds. In the distance, buildings poke over the horizon begging to be explored, and everything is stunning. Running the game on a 4060 I couldn’t turn on all the bells and whistles, but Nightingale still managed to take my breath away. It featured the most watery water, some luscious lighting, and remarkable textures filled with details.

While I opened this preview talking about Enshrouded and Palworld, Nightingale did set itself apart by offering up the most interesting open-world I’ve seen for some time. I’m a sucker for fantasy literature and everything I came across in this world gave me the thrill that fairy tales did when I was a kid. The whole ‘gaslamp’ style offers something we rarely see in games as so many titles strive for sci-fi trappings or more high fantasy tropes. It’s a world where lore bleeds through at every angle, whether that’s broken statues or buildings adorned in gold trim and runes.

Speaking of buildings, you will want to build your own house - eventually a small settlement - using pre-fabricated pieces that easily snap together. It doesn’t take long to have a large house set up in the respite realm and you can fill it with crafting tables and chests, creating a proper home that will protect you from wildlife and the elements - it’s amazing how much hail can damage your body.

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Nightingale
Nightingale

While I could sit here and wax lyrical on the many options for building your base, or surviving the realms, much of this can be seen elsewhere. Crafting tables do crafting, a tanning station creates leather and straps, we’ve seen a lot of this before. That’s not to poo-poo at Nightingale’s extensive systems, you can expect the obvious, and the obvious is done very, very well.

What I’m eager to see when the game enters early access, is how the realm cards factor into play, apparently there will be over 50 cards to choose from. Somewhere out in the respite realm, you will find another portal and a nearby machine. You’ll find realm cards on your travels which can be inserted and whisk you off to new biomes where the bulk of your tasks will be completed, and you’ll battle with the Bound, a nasty enemy type living within the realms.

I only did a spot of fighting, mostly in a huge obelisk/pyramid thing and I have to say, the combat wasn’t as satisfying as every other aspect of the game. I often found myself just waving a sharp weapon around battering the enemy until they fell down. There’s no real need for tactics and the AI seemed a bit, well, dumb.

Sadly, I only got a few hours with Nightingale due to time constraints, and I was left feeling pretty gutted. Three hours was nowhere near enough time for me to properly delve into new realms, or link up with the developers to play some co-op. What I did see left me eager for much more. I’m hoping to discover more frightening beasts, plenty of fae characters, and bold new worlds to explore.

Topics: PC, Steam, Preview

Dan Lipscombe
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