Choose My Adventure: Starting on the road to success and self-reliance in Nightingale


A lot of the first few hours of Nightingale are tutorial. That’s probably not terribly surprising considering survival sandboxes need some guidance (and it’s also not a surprise if you read my earlier press preview of this game). Still, since it was all about starting fresh for this run of Choose My Adventure, foreknowledge helped me out – and even got me further than normal.

Basically, I spent the past little while pushing through the semi-guided experience that teaches me as many of the ropes as possible. And this time around, without the benefit of dev access, it felt a whole lot more rewarding, even if the opening portions can seem a bit of a slog.

I’m not really complaining about the opening of Nightingale, really. In fact, I’d argue that as survival sandboxes go, this one’s tutorial gets it right in a lot of ways. Even so, I think back to the first couple of times I started this game against doing it again for this column and find how much more refined it maybe could be.

The very opening bit of the game is extremely on-rails, as I’ve described before, as your created character is plucked from the edge of an trans-realm calamity and guided through three different biomes while suffering the advice and the barbs of the mouthy fae Puck (or Robin, to his friends). But at a certain point, the tunnel begins to widen ever so slightly, letting you experience more and more of the game as you see fit; there are tasks to complete to open up more features, but there’s less and less of a pressing need to do so.

If you’re anyone else, anyway. For me, it was all about getting as far as I could as fast as I could since these opening bits still didn’t leave me too much freedom of choice. The tunnel widened, but I could still see the walls.

However much pressure I put upon myself, I was still having a good time in Nightingale regardless. Partially because this game is absolutely beautiful, and partially because having the ability to more readily travel across different realms was just as motivating now as it was when I had my hands on this one from the very jump. A lot of survivalboxes try to make you feel as if you’re progressing through better tools or somewhat fancier building materials, but the sense that I was familiarizing myself with moving to different worlds felt like a bigger achievement.

Of course, there were still plenty of the usual material progression hills that I had to climb in Nightingale anyway, but over time these were less like direct impediments to the neat stuff and more like a means to my end goal. Or at least it all felt structured to grant that sensation to me, anyway. Others might not feel so charitable, but I think Nightingale toes a pretty good line between letting survival get in the way and using it as a means to outfit for greater adventure.

Of course, the other realm that I was blipping back to from my abeyance realm wasn’t what I’d call super fantastical – it was another forest but with a slightly different color scheme and set of flora and fauna – but the juxtaposition was still there enough that it felt like moving to somewhere else entirely. Going through the steps of unlocking cards, enhancing my equipment, getting rare materials, and eventually conquering my first fae tower all by myself were notable, weighty, and encouraging touchstones along the journey to being a realmwalker.

It’s that continued sense of advancement, the sense of gradual success, the idea that I was becoming more and more self-reliant that pushed me forward more than any other survivalbox I’ve played before. Sure, there’s others that grant those kind of mental rewards, but doing it all in Nightingale really does feel like some of those old Robinson Crusoe-style books where my main character transforms from a shipwrecked piece of flotsam into an adventurer.

Or at least, it felt that way. My clothes definitely didn’t look the part. That’s probably one of my bigger complaints, honestly. The starting stuff looks absolutely horrid.

There are some other complaints I could leverage against Nightingale as well. For one thing, it didn’t really occur to me before that the enemy AI in this game isn’t what I’d call whip-smart, but then I still tried to be as agile and attentive as I could. The last thing I wanted to be was complacent.

I also kind of agree that the melee combat in this game isn’t exactly the best, but then I have played far worse before. I lived through Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Hell, I’ve lived through Elder Scrolls Online. Nothing that Nightingale is throwing at me is going to really upset me.

I guess in the end that earning my way into my realmwalking destiny is bearing a whole lot of weight on what might otherwise be survivalbox annoyances or underwhelming gameplay. I had opened up my own personal portal before when I played in the press build, but doing it this time around felt a whole lot more impactful. And better yet, it opened up a point where I could actually come up with poll choices of some substance.

I’m pretty sure I’m still being guided down the tutorial tunnel, though now I really can’t see its walls anymore. So that combined with my general comfort level with the mechanics I’ve been shown so far has me confident enough to consider branching out. Thus, this week’s poll choices are about main focus for the next leg of our realmwalking adventure.

What should be my primary focus next?

  • Open an Astrolabe realm. After you get the card recipe, anyway. (33%, 20 Votes)
  • Open the Desert Herbarium realm, aka continue the main story. (33%, 20 Votes)
  • Open a different realm instead. You have a portal, play with it. (34%, 21 Votes)

Total Voters: 61

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As always, polling will wrap up at 1:00 p.m. EST on Friday, March 8th. I’m going to have to maybe sit on my hands for the time being, but I am also going to have to admit that doing so is going to be challenging. Honestly, I’m looking forward to whatever comes next one way or the other.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Chris each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures – and you get to decide his fate. Which is good because he can often be a pretty indecisive person unless he’s ordering a burger.
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