Armed with two trusty climbing picks, I sat in the desert heat, looking up at a gigantic cliffside. I had already fallen twice, but that wasn’t about to stop me trying again. After all, as an open-world PvE (player versus environment) survival game, Nightingale has so much to offer, and it’s up to you to explore it all.
In a play session with the developers, I was able to join a group of gutsy Realmwalkers who navigate a web of transdimensional planes after being stranded in strange worlds thanks to the collapse of the arcane portal. We first started exploring the desert realm; we saw ancient ruins hidden away in caves, bizarre and slightly aggressive golden robots who made a living scanning the sandy wasteland, and finally, an abandoned settlement atop a butte (a flat-topped, steep-sided tower of rock). The only problem was that I’d have to make it up there first.
After watching the rest of the team scale the cliffside like it was nothing, I felt like a grounded fledgling that its family left behind. I simply didn’t have the stamina to make it to the top and was probably just one tumble away from breaking both of my legs. Luckily, one of the devs handed me some better equipment and clothes, which, in turn, gave me a higher ceiling of stamina. So, after a hearty meal of a piece of meat, I was finally able to complete my ascent up the cliff.
It was a lot of effort, but it was worth it. Once I caught my virtual breath and looked out at the view, it suddenly hit me just how big this realm really is. I could see distant mountains, old ruins, and, crucially, a Fae Tower. After gliding over to the tower and defeating the beasts that lay within it, we completed a simple parkour puzzle and climbed to the top.
After reaching the summit, we unlocked locations on the map and had the chance to use minor cards. In Nightingale, there are major cards that players can use to choose between which biome they want to traverse and minor cards that will slightly change the atmosphere of each realm. We tried a menacing Blood Moon, which plunged the desert into eternal night, a Tempest card, which triggered rain but made spells more powerful, and finally ended on the Thin Veil, which let us jump higher, glide for longer periods, and decrease fall damage, my favorite.
Nightingale isn’t just about exploration; every now and then, you also have to stand your ground against the various fantastical and twisted creatures that lie within the realms. Armed with magical melee weapons and a hunting rifle with enchanted bullets, we ventured to the Swamp realm to try and hunt down the infamous Humbaba.
This beast towers above your average Realmwalker; it even makes the derelict cathedrals in the realm look relatively small. Trudging through the swamp on all fours, it swings its body carelessly as it destroys everything in its path. Fighting this creature wasn’t going to be easy.
After tracking the beast down, thanks to a spell cast with the ornate knife, we were able to quickly locate the Humbaba and set up some defenses, which mainly boiled down to hiding atop a steep hill and a lone sniper tower. Once hurt, the Humbaba will viciously attack and chase players. Don’t underestimate this creature when you play; it's terrifyingly fast for its size.
Luckily, I had other players by my side to aid me in taking down the monster. As a team, we were able to lay some loose strategies out before engaging in a fight with the Humbaba; while some took to high ground to be long-ranged fighters, others were in the thick of it, dealing melee damage and confusing the beast. It was going so well until the creature high-tailed it out of there, forcing us to abandon our posts and chase after it. Thankfully, once we found it again, we managed to make quick work of it, mainly due to the overwhelming amount of magical ammo, the poisonous effects of which quickly wore the gigantic creature down.
Switching between gear is also seamless if you have everything in your hot bar. Using the magical umbrella to glide away from precarious situations is often a lifesaver or just a great way to traverse the muddy swamp lands. I wasn’t expecting the fights to be so entertaining, but now that I’ve had a taste, I can’t wait for more.
One eye on the future
If you’re a fan of survival games, then Nightingale deserves your attention. The fighting is fluid, varied, and incredibly fun with a team by your side, while the realms and various minor cards can customize these worlds further and have so much to offer when it comes to exploration.
There’s also the construction system, which allows you to build intricate and unique bases. With various themes like Tudor and Japanese Edo, there are a ton of ways to build and expand your homestead. I took to expanding my humble little base while playing solo, collecting resources, and cleaning up a wooded area overlooking a lake was peaceful and a lot of fun. You can happily take on bigger beasts by yourself, but I’d rather leave that to co-op and enjoy perfecting by corner of paradise on my lonesome. On the other hand, you can expand bases into neighboring realms so you and your friends can create a superstructure that extends between dimensions if you wish to do so.
It’s exciting to see everything that Nightingale has in store for players as it enters early access on February 20. It’s clear that more features will be added throughout the period, which is expected to last around a year. Hopefully, this means new build types, minor cards, and maybe explorable locations. Regardless of what’s to come as it stands right now, Nightingale is well worth checking out alone or with a group of friends.
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Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications.
Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.