Nocturnal (XSX) Review with stream
Moody atmosphere blends visuals directly into gameplay
Using a fire sword is awesome and the ending evokes emotion
3-hour campaign is concise and ends before repetition
You’ll have FOMO if you accidently pick the correct path which locks backtracking to get that one secret you missed
Enemies do not respawn (which is nice) but that means there is no opportunity to grind to unlock those last few abilities before the credits roll
Some sketchy areas in the back half of the game makes you wish there were some better checkpoints
Defined as an action exploration odyssey, Nocturnal is essentially a Metroidvania without the Metroid. Although there are some environmental puzzles to solve, this quest is more focused on action as opposed to backtracking while keeping the darkness away with a badass flame sword.
From the opening cutscene, the dark tone is set, letting the player know this is going to be an atmospheric experience. Cleverly, the opening segment acts as a tutorial without it feeling like one. Here, the player learns that swiping a flame with your sword ignites your weapon for a limited time which in turn can be used to set ablaze flammable objective and enemies. This daisy chaining of flame podiums is the main gimmick behind the gameplay but luckily it doesn’t grow repetitive thanks to the compact 3-4 hour campaign. In fact, burning through bushes to reveal a secret, cremating corpses, and setting enemies on fire remains a satisfying experience throughout.
Uniquely, Nocturnal only has a dozen achievements and most are based around finding secret shrines that drip feed backstory. However, the overall stage design has the player always moving in one direction, often removing any opportunity to backtrack. Sure, there is a fear of missing something important, like these hidden collectables, but they sometimes are difficult to miss. Therefore, the sense of progression is constant and inviting, letting the player know they are usually going in the right direction, navigating the dark mist properly.
Combat is also engaging as it punishes haste and button mashing. Designed with finesse in mind, players need to learn when to run, attack, and dodge roll, while performing an occasional ranged attack, into a fluid combo to best the baddies, especially when faced against more than one. Defeating enemies and breaking pots can reward the player with currency used to upgrade stats and unlock new abilities so there is reason to fight as opposed to run. The cherry on top is the fire sword because watching your enemies burn as you escape with a buttery dodge roll is pretty cool. Unfortunately, I finished the game without unlocking all the abilities. Without any opportunity to grind, the pacing is slightly off. I think the reason why I was disappointed with this is because I enjoyed the quest so much.
There is some environmental puzzling solving, some involving quick reaction times, but mostly hits the nail on the head in terms of balance versus difficulty. There were a few segments that required numerous trial and error attempts, making me wish there was a more lenient checkpoint system in place, but it works well most of the time. Even though the player is armed with a sword slash and jump maneuver, the stage design rarely feels repetitive despite the dark atmospheric visuals and enemy types never changing. This is a result of the fluid movement of the playable character and using fire to assist in combat and puzzle solving. Simply put, it feels right, responsible, and constantly satisfying.
I wish there were more games like Nocturnal. Instead of rummaging through a massive open world with hundreds of hours of gameplay, it is so refreshing to play a concise 3-hour narrative designed around one gimmick, in this case fire, that is crafted and polished to a high sheen. The ending, which I will not spoil here, also generates emotion and doesn’t hold the player’s hand, just like the gameplay – the game speaks for itself.
Moodier Than: Mangavania
Much More Streamlined Than: Adventure of Poppe
Don’t Forget About: the Alwa games
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com
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