Nightingale Review
Image: Inflexion Games

Nightingale review – Fantasy with friction

Gaslamp fantasy and Realm hopping.

Nightingale always feels like it’s pulling me one way or the other, and it makes me unsure of how to feel about it. While the breathtaking visuals and intricate building mechanics keep me grounded and wanting more, the confusing story and repeating POIs make me less than inclined to stick with it. 

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As an Early Access title, I can tell it has a lot of potential, but Nightingale has a long way to go. There are times when I was sucked into Nightingale’s gameplay loop and found enjoyment out of the survival crafting experience. But the stale combat encounters and semi-empty environments soured the game and left me looking for more.

Puck
Screenshot: PC Invasion

A world of wonder and weird

The world of Nightingale is endlessly creative, with its deep lore and procedurally-generated Realms that players can create. It’s one of a kind and has a lot of mechanics and features I’ve yet to see in a game before. There are times when I can’t help but stare at the sun as it sets every evening, the visuals are pretty captivating. 

The story is described through introductory cutscenes and a Shakesperean-speaking Fae who follows you through the tutorials. A part of me enjoys these Victorian and fantasy Fae worlds colliding, but the story can occasionally get convoluted. I know that my character is on their way to the main city, but it’ll take you around 20 to 30 hours just to get to the good stuff.

Although this story is intriguing, the lack of characters driving the story and the fact that I played this single-player only left me feeling lonely. Sure, you can find NPCs, but they’re not that interesting, and you can recruit other NPCs who typically just act as pack mules since they can get carried away with breaking down trees that’ll fall on your base if you aren’t careful. I had to quickly take away their tools before they destroyed my base.

Nightingale Review Tower
Screenshot: PC Invasion

Survive and thrive

What Nightingale excels at is the survival and base-building aspects of the game. This is probably the most fun I’ve had in a game when it comes to base building. It’s extremely intricate and user-friendly, and a ton of quality-of-life issues were dealt with before launch, which I appreciate.

I loved crafting my base and purchasing crafting recipes to decorate, but I found the system for getting these recipes a little tedious. In Realms, you can find new Essence Traders who sell interesting crafting recipes for items and builds. As much as I enjoyed seeing what new things they had to offer, you had to collect enough Essence to purchase them, which is either gathered by meticulously extracting a bunch of items like Fiber or completing locations in the Realms like Fae Towers.

It’s an interesting loop, but one that didn’t keep me engaged for that long. Completing Fae Towers felt more like a chore than something I wanted to explore, and traveling from my Abeyance Realm (my home Realm) back to the higher-tiered Realm for resources, just to go back to my home Realm again was a bit of a hassle. This got easier once I could build my own Portal (I built my home on the opposite corner of the map from the main Portal, which was my mistake), but I still wish this gameplay loop was a little more engaging.

How To Move Buildings And Structures In Nightingale
Screenshot: PC Invasion

Home sweet home

Like I said, the most enjoyment I got out of Nightingale was crafting the perfect home. It wasn’t much, but it was something I was sort of proud of. The building mechanics are very easy to manage, especially since you can easily destroy builds to get resources back, as well as move furniture and other builds with just a click of a couple of buttons.

Outside of base management, I was having a tough time wanting to go back out there and explore new Realms. Sure, I could mash up two Realm Cards to create a whole new Realm to explore, but I was more worried about losing the Realm tied to the story instead of being adventurous and trying out Realm combinations.

I also thought I’d have more fun with the Minor Cards, which can instantly alter your current Realm, but none of them jumped out to me. Sure, there were many good bonuses to these Minor Cards, but they always came with negative conditions that didn’t feel like they were insignificant enough to try out the Minor Card.

I love the concept of these cards, and it’s honestly one of the most creative things in a game, but a part of me wished to just have the benefits of the Minor Cards instead of the bad conditions. For example, you could play a Minor Card that would plunge your Realm into eternal night and increase your yield of resources, except you’d slowly take damage over time. Why would I want to slowly die just for nighttime exploration and more resources?

Cards
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A bit of a grind

Jumping into Nightingale, I also thought that the grind to a better life than surviving on scraps and low-level gear wouldn’t be so tough, but as the hours dragged on, it started to feel more like a grind than an exciting experience. I truly believe that Nightingale is meant to be a co-op multiplayer experience, as I missed having someone to share my base with and explore Realms with.

This, coupled with the fact that I was blocked out of exploring certain areas in my Abeyance Realm because of my gear score (although it wouldn’t tell me what level I’d need to be at), made me feel like my hard work wasn’t getting me as far as I’d like. The endgame part of Nightingale sounds fun, but the gameplay loop to get there wasn’t as enticing as it used to be during the beginning stages of the game.

And I must mention the load times. Sure, the online-only feature can get annoying at times, but I didn’t experience that many network connection issues. I did feel as though the load times for things like entering my world (which would take a couple of minutes) and entering a new Realm were utterly stretched out. Just to open a portal to enter a new Realm takes a minute or two, and then you wait for the Realm to load for another minute or so. I’m not sure why it takes so long, but it started to bug me the more I played Nightingale.

Nightingale Review Portals
Screenshot: PC Invasion

An uncertain future

Although there are aspects of Nightingale that Inflexion Games nails, such as the base building, much of what the Realms had to offer me lost its luster after spending hours attempting to grind for a better gear score and a handful of resources that would clog up my chests. There is something special here, so hopefully once Nightingale leaves Early Access those parts of the game that shine will stand out, and the dull parts will get fixed up.

6.5
Nightingale
Nightingale is both fun and frustrating in different intervals. It has interesting base building mechanics and beautifully-crafted Realms, but it's held back by a stale gameplay loop and some unfortunate quality-of-life issues.

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Author
Anyka Pettigrew
Anyka Pettigrew has been a Staff Writer for PC Invasion since November 2023 and a Contributing Writer since February 2023. She is a Canadian graduate of a Bachelor of Arts degree who has been writing in games journalism for four years. Anyka is an avid guides writer but also enjoys writing anything from news pieces, to reviews, and even opinion pieces. Having a never-ending passion for video games for as long as she can remember got her into a plethora of genres like action adventure, RPGs, horror, survival etc. Some of her favorite franchises are God of War, Persona, The Last of Us, Zelda, and Resident Evil. She also enjoys reading fantasy and sci-fi books, as well as drawing digital art. Anyka also regularly listens to podcasts on gaming news from 'Kinda Funny Games', and 'Play, Watch, Listen'.