Hands-on preview: Nightingale prioritizes worldbuilding in a world worth exploring

Walk the many Realms, Realmwalker

Recently, successful survival-crafting releases like Palworld and Enshrouded have turned early 2024 into a competitive market for the genre. Inflexion Games has been crafting their take on the genre, Nightingale, for over five years now.

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In just over a week, it will be released in Early Access with a plethora of content readily available. I had the opportunity to spend a few days in the world of Nightingale and explore all its many realms. I know you may be getting worn out with all the survival-crafting releases of late, but trust me when I say you’ll want to save room for a bite of Nightingale.

Nightingale Preview Screenshot
Screenshot by Inflexion Games

An endearing yet whimsical world

Alongside previewing Nightingale, I also had the chance to chat with Inflexion Games CEO Aaryn Flynn, Art Director and Head of Audio Neil Thompson, and Director of Production Leah Summers. All three are former BioWare developers who, quite frankly, know how to create special worlds. I’ll have that interview up later this week, but one of the key points of that interview reverberates when detailing my time with Nightingale: the world-building is what sets it apart from all the other titles in the genre.

Nightingale is set in an alternate-history Victorian timeline that the developers refer to as “Gaslamp Fantasy”. If you’re not sure what that means, don’t worry, neither did I. It’s similar to Steampunk in my opinion, although I was told the two are vastly different. But it seems like Gaslamp Fantasy is rooted in a more magically-infused world than Steampunk.

Anyway, humanity has constructed a network of portals that connect the various realms to one another. However, the portal network collapses and it’s up to the players to search out these portals, repair them, and explore the many realms in search of the fabled city of Nightingale.

A solo adventure…

The first part of my hands-on let me explore the world of Nightingale on my own. After a brief tutorial that taught me all the basics—how to gather materials, craft, and build a base—I met Puck, a seemingly nefarious Fae who offers me help, but I’m pretty sure has his own agenda. From here your adventure becomes mostly open-ended. You explore a realm—essentially a 2km map of a specific biome—while gathering more resources, defeating creatures, and exploring points of interest in the realm. If you find a realm you like, you can throw down an Estate, which allows you to start building structures in that area.

You’ll also come across Realm Cards that allow you to open portals to new realms. At first, you need to find designated Portal structures scattered throughout each realm. But, eventually, you can create your own Portal structure at your Estate, and then explore the realms as much as you want.

Realm Cards have certain tags that dictate the biome and features of each realm. Every realm is procedurally generated, but the cards you use to activate the portal will shape it. For example, use a Desert Realm Card and you can expect to be in a desolate desert where you’ll have to worry about keeping cool.

You’ll also find cards that can specifically shape an existing realm further. Let’s say you already found where you want to call home, and have built up an Estate there. You may eventually come across the Blood Moon Card that will transform your existing world to nighttime with a giant red blood moon in the sky. But not only is it now nighttime, the enemies in this realm are tougher and grant better rewards.

Nightingale Screenshot Early Access
Screenshot by Destructoid

…or create a city with friends

Eventually, you’ll create better equipment from resources obtained by killing tougher creatures. You’ll proceed through various qualities of Realms—think the traditional white, green, blue, and purple qualities—fighting tougher enemies and getting better resources along the way. There are even boss encounters that require you to tackle them with a party.

You can have up to six players in a party at a time, which not only makes killing bosses easier but allows you to work together to build your Estate. You can choose to share your Realm Card with your friends, allowing them easy access to your realm and therefore your Estate if you want to allow your friends to visit.

As part of the hands-on, me and five others ventured deep into a higher-level realm to hunt down an Apex Creature. After tracking the beast through some harsh swampland, we eventually encountered our target: Humbaba. It was not an easy fight, nor a quick one. Even with appropriate level gear, we kited the Humbaba all over the swampland while trying to dodge its poisonous attacks and massive damage output. Many deaths later—especially from Inflexion Games CEO Aaryn Flynn, who Humbaba seemed to have taken a real liking to—we finally felled the beast.

I ended the session carving up meat from the Humbaba carcass, which I learned would be useful for crafting some yummy food with some helpful buffs. I enjoyed my hands-on preview of Nightingale, but like most games of this genre, I think the true fun will come from experiencing the journey with others in the vast social landscape Nightingale has to offer.

Even though Nightingale is launching into Early Access, it seems like there’s a ton of content already here. I’m looking forward to jumping in with friends and building up our own realm while advancing through the different qualities of equipment. After speaking with the Inflexion Games devs, I’m hopeful about the future of Nightingale as well. They plan to stay in Early Access for about a year, using player feedback to shape and mold the game during that time.

Nightingale launches in Early Access on Steam and the Epic Games Store on February 20 at a launch price of $29.99.

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Steven Mills
Staff Writer - Steven has been writing in some capacity for over a decade now. He has a passion for story focused RPG's like the Final Fantasy franchise and ARPG's like Diablo and Path of Exile. But really, he's willing to try anything.