Nightingale is an upcoming PvE open-world survival craft 'em up by Inflexion Games, a studio led by former BioWare boss Aaryn Flynn. Imogen (RPS in peace) spoke with him earlier this year about the game's gaslamp fantasy setting and why they chose to enter the survival genre gauntlet, among many other things. At this year's Summer Geoff Fest, I caught up with Flynn for another quick chat. This time, we dug into the game's recently revealed card crafting and realm-hopping features, as well as the choices you might make along the way.
As a Realmwalker, your aim is to reach the mysterious city of Nightingale by flitting through portals. Once upon a time these portals formed a network that ran as smoothly as Japan's subway system, but it has since collapsed, meaning it now resembles a bus timetable out in the sticks. There is some hope, though, as you're able to craft Realm Cards that'll give you some semblance of control over the chaos, including weather, challenges, and biomes. Feeding them into the game's procedural generation machine spits out a realm that – in theory – meets those conditions you set out on paper.
And as for that card crafting system, it looks as if you'll set the foundations of a realm by picking three or four cards and melding them together. I asked whether you're able to build a deck of permanent cards you draw from, or whether they're consumed with each use. Flynn admits that they've not quite nailed this down yet.
"Truthfully, we haven't decided yet how it's gonna work. I think it'll depend on how we ultimately balance it. It's not intended that the realm card crafting itself is supposed to be to grind or anything like that," he says. "But at the same time, we do want going through a portal to be a very conscious choice. And so, if we have them consumed, then you're like, 'Okay, do I really want to go onto here?' If we do, 'Let's go do it'. So, we just gotta get the balance right when we playtest that." Obviously, it's all up in the air, but there's a sense that they're going down the consumable route. This would make sense, right? As - like Flynn mentions - they want realm hopping to be a "conscious choice" as opposed to grabbing an Uber every five minutes.
"we're leading you on a hopefully richer set of storylines to meet other NPCs"
Aside from hopping between realms and building bases, Nightingale sees you chase down the magical city of the same name. But it's not been explicitly stated how the game's structured to help you do so. Where you might have Valheim, V Rising, and Terraria tasking you with building a home, crafting and powering up, then hunting a sequence of progressively difficult bosses, Flynn tells me that Nightingale both a bit more open-ended than this, and more story-focused.
"You do have quests. But I don't think we're as structured as Valheim, like 'Go kill five gods to earn the favour of Odin', you know? Instead, we're leading you on a hopefully richer set of storylines to meet other NPCs and stuff, and they'll each have things to do," he says. "Some of those might be kill a boss, some might be something else, right? And some might be, 'Oh, well, I've got two ways to solve this'. So, I think some of that RPG history is going to come out from us in that side of things."
Thinking about it, what Flynn says rings true. V Rising, Valheim and Terraria are fantastic games, don't get me wrong, but they lack NPCs with any character aside from the odd voice line. Building a bond is difficult when all they're interested in is sending you away on a quest or selling you stuff in total silence. When I ask whether you'll build meaningful relationships with any of the NPCs in the game, Flynn says that "they'll give you objectives," and "failing to meet those objectives isn't going to do you any favours," giving away nothing more than a wry smile. It seems like Flynn's BioWare past, that RPG history he mentions, is indeed spilling into Nightingale. He does let me in on a little something else, though.
"What we're trying to offer for Nightingale is not every interaction has to be lethal. If you look at our original trailer, there's a moment where the giant bends down and puts his hand up like this." Flynn copies the gesture. "And you can actually give the giant an offering rather than just killing it, and then progress things that way."
The giant is just one of the creatures shown in footage so far. Opposite us there's a big screen rolling footage of the forests and red skies, all of which are inhabited by many species of nope. While card crafting sounds rather exciting, it does have its limits when it comes to the number of biomes you can force it to crank out. I ask whether it's able to generate a realm with a mash of environments, and Flynn says right now it's one biome per world. "But give our technology a little more time to do stuff like that," he adds, so perhaps the procedural machine could evolve to better accommodate our requests.
But with all this realm-hopping, how's one meant to build a home? Aren't you just going to shift between realms and forever be stuck in a cycle of leaving your base behind and constructing ill-fated new homes? Wouldn't that be tiring? Exhausting? Agonising? Well! Flynn tells me that they've got it covered, don't worry. "You can build your base in whatever realm you want. And then once you build your base there, you can declare that as what we call your 'respite realm'," he explains. "And once it's your respite realm, then that's where you're gonna log out, log back in, and then you can go adventuring from there. But there's no universal specific realm that is always the one you go back to. You decide which one you want it to be."
A massive relief, basically. Although it's going to be hard to pick just one respite realm as your home, especially as you'll bounce between realms all the time. From the latest Summer Geoff Fest trailer, it looks like there are some lovely looking spots, like hazy woodland zones and murky marshlands and sandy deserts. You're just going to have to choose wisely or reassign your respite later down the line. Because realms are procedurally generated, it's hard to get back to one specific place. Flynn says if you really really like somewhere, you'd be wise to make it your respite realm and move your base there - or else just move on to new adventures.
I'm curious about Nightingale and whether it can actually balance this ambition with meaningful story beats, especially as the card crafting system hasn't been finalised yet. But if it can pull off strong procedural generation that does indeed cater to our cards, then it presents an extremely exciting prospect. Here's hoping that later this year Inflexion's ready to talk about the sort of quests and side activities each biome has to offer. Minerals? Caves filled with bandits? I need to know.