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Breaking Down Nightingale TGAs Trailer With Art Director Neil Thompson

As one of the more highly anticipated open-world survival crafting experiences expected in 2023, Inflexion GamesNightingale has continued to maintain an air of mystery about what players can expect. However, the team has decided to pull back the curtain a bit during The Game Awards 2022, debuting a trailer with more gameplay and world-building details. 

To help us make sense of it all, Neil Thompson, the Art Director of Inflexion, shared important details and significant learnings that can be gleaned from this latest teaser. 

Nightingale is a fantastical adventure full of history and a fair share of secrets, with both humanity and the Fae as critical parts of that story. 

“We wanted to show more gameplay, what players would actually be doing moment to moment in Nightingale, and this year was an opportunity not only to show more gameplay, but also to reveal some of the new things that you can do within the game,” said Thompson.

The trailer starts by showing Realmwalker in his element, exploring parts unknown, while the sentient tree-like Eoten goes about its business. Many of the flora and fauna in Nightingale have a life of their own, and it is up to the player to decide whether to approach peacefully and crank up the aggressiveness. There are always rewards to gain, but also a potentially hefty price to pay.

The trailer cuts to the inside of a foreboding temple structure, its darkness illuminated by the torch that the Realmwalker now holds in a first-person view that players can come to expect during their time in the game. From the darkness steps out a minion of the Fae, a member of the Bound faction known as the Firespitter, spewing all of its hate and disdain for humanity. 

“They are always aggressive towards humans; there is no bargaining with the Bound, and they are just hellbent on doing you harm in any realm. They also spawn when you’re trying to open portals as well. We have this idea that they’re kind of in the interstitials between realms and as you try and open these portals to gain access to new realms, the Bound will come and try and prevent that.”

While the creature certainly resembles humanoids, the origin story of the Bound makes for some interesting insights into the workings of Inflexion. They started off as human prisoners “that were taken by the Fae and compelled to kill all other humans essentially.” The team felt it was too dark a premise and went against the good fun players will experience in Nightingale, said Thompson.

Instead, positioning the Bound as magical entities born out of vats freed Inflexion from the restrictions of the human form. Now, they can “play with scale” and “expand the palette” to create all sorts of enemies, even if some of them still retain an “almost ceremonial aspect” from their original roots.

Although just armed with a hammer, the Realmwalker is able to beat back the onrushing foes with some magical help, the first time the studio has shown off how tools can be enhanced by such forces. It is helpful to have tools that can aid in construction, but also as defensive armaments.

It isn’t reserved for the aspect of combat either, with the umbrella acting both as a shield against rain and also a great tool for gliding when jumping from heights, a significant moment towards the conclusion of the Nightingale trailer.  

As for the Fae, their presence can be felt not just in the danger they pose, but also in the many portals that have been left behind. 

“The reason humans can go through portals is that they’ve learned to embrace the use of Realm Cards. All portals in the world are Fae by nature; they’re not built by humans.”

Every time Realm Cards are used, Realmwalkers get transported to a procedurally generated world full of surprises and change. Even when using the same group of Realm Cards, the system built by Inflexion will ensure that players will “never get the same result twice.”

Yet, not all Fae are hostile in Nightingale, with Puck being a great example, as seen in the trailer. While “his motivations are impossible to understand,” it would be wise to see past the aid and rewards provided by such a being, who also happens to be narrating the entire showing.

And right on cue, we are treated to a variety of biomes and creatures that could be the next port of call for eager Realmwalkers, each providing different challenges and opportunities. Of it all, two of the standout creatures are the Carnute and the Harpy. 

The former acts as a sort of ecological guardian; should players go around killing wildlife wantonly, it will arrive on the scene and attack, resurrecting creatures along the way. And as Thompson warns, “if you play in harmony with the world, the world will not push back. But if you choose the more violent route, then get ready.”

As for the latter, the team drew inspiration from the Guillermo del Toro film, Mimic, as its basis. A creature that can disguise itself by “bringing the wings around and putting its head down” to almost look human, it is not only a danger in the swamps it calls home but also to settlements, where it loves to steal stuff and hoard it all back at the lair. 

Speaking of settlements, Nightingale will have plenty of room for customization, whether for the architecture side of things through different tilesets or on a character basis, with gear and equipment.

“Buildings are very much at the heart of Nightingale and a demonstration of your creativity. But also when you’re further out in the realms, you can use it for strategic purposes,” Thompson said.

Unfavorable terrain can be overcome with the right tools or with smart planning, and strategic building can make it easier to take on creatures of immense power like the apex creature, Ishmael, who makes an appearance towards the end of the trailer. Beyond just utility and safety, buildings can fundamentally change how players handle a certain realm.

All of the amazing things in Nightingale will be helped by the visual fidelity made possible both through a partnership with Intel as well as the use of Unreal Engine 5. When the aim is to immerse players in fantasy worlds fully, every bit helps.

“It’s a great thing for us, in terms of trying to produce a mysterious and fantastical aesthetic, because there’s a subtlety that’s required with the lighting because we’re doing a lot of atmospheric perspectives, exotic lighting and visual environments; it’s phenomenal.”

Needless to say, the anticipation for the game will only increase following The Game Awards 2022, and it would make perfect sense. While the game is still some time away, the hope is that Inflexion continues to refine what already looks impressive, and deliver the ultimate survival experience whenever it launches.

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