Depending on your own personal level of genre fatigue, anticipating a new survival crafting game like Inflexion’s upcoming Nightingale might immediately conjure an image of swinging an axe at a tree, forever, like some cursed Sisyphean lumberjack. Trees, trees, and more trees is the order of business, but if ex-BioWare general manager Aaryn Flynn’s evident passion for worldbuilding holds up when Nightingale launches in Early Access for PC “later this year”, this could be one genre entry that can actually see the forest.
Nightingale sees your frock-sporting, gaslamp-swinging Victorian adventurer spat out in a hostile ‘Fae Realm’ after falling foul of a dodgy portal meant to whisk them away to the safety of Nightingale, a magical city that serves as the final bastion of humanity in the wake of catastrophe. We’re yet to see any substantive gameplay, but if last year’s The Game Awards announcement trailer is anything to go by, there’s some beautiful art direction and ingeniously creepy creature design bringing these Fae Realms to life.
“We want to give players a world that they feel connected to, that feels alive and rich with history,” Inflexion CEO Aaryn Flynn tells NME, “it was something before they got there, and will be something after they leave.”
“The thing that got us excited in the earliest days of developing Nightingale was the idea of crafting a new universe with some rich worldbuilding. A lot of survival crafting games build on existing lore and understanding of how things work, that they build on over time. I think we were ambitious to say “what if we put worldbuilding front and centre?” and made it a foundational piece of our game.”
“A big element of worldbuilding to me is, as a player, can I begin to understand the rules of this world?” he adds “Can I interpret those rules and be predictive? And yes, you can in Nightingale” Flynn brings up the day/cycle, and suggests this affects how the player will approach their interactions with the world.
While Nightingale will feature NPCs, Flynn says the game is less focused on the interpersonal relationships and lengthy storyline one might associate with a traditional BioWare game.
“It’s very much a sandbox, but we want to offer players some structure in how they’re going to explore this world. But there isn’t this overarching quest – beyond finding your way back to Nightingale. It represents a north star, and you’re going to be thinking about how to find your way back.”
From Mass Effect’s Genophage to Dragon Age’s conflict between the mages and templars, I’ve always admired Bioware’s storytelling for at least attempting to show the consequences of what might seem like typical heroism in a less self-reflective setting, so I’m keen to know if Nightingale’s aesthetic adoption of noble, British explorers – and the colonial baggage this entails – will see any examination.
“We aren’t making a colonial simulator,” says Flynn “There’s a couple of things in the lore we want to offer to players to make that clear, that we can offer at a later date.” Indeed, there’s already some hints that players will be able to make progress in the Fae Realms outside of conquering, combat, and acquisition.
“It isn’t always the case that you’re there to go and slaughter something. There might be a better way to go and achieve something. Players should have that choice, and have consequences to that choice” says Flynn.
If you’re itching to jump into Nightingale’s shared world survival crafting earlier, you can sign up to hear about early playtests here. You cannot, at least not yet, romance the Harpies. “You heard it here first.” says Flynn.
Nic Rueben is a a freelance journalist and columnist for NME.