Nocturnal Preview

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  |    |  Category: Preview

On the PAX East show floor, was an interesting game on display. A side scrolling action game Nocturnal by developer Sunnyside Games. I went in not knowing much about this game and was surprised at what I got to experience.

You play as Ardeshir, a native to an island society he now finds shrouded in fog. Armed with a strong fire that can cut through the perilous fog and a sharpened blade, you explore the island to uncover what has happened to your people. Along your journey, you’ll find notes and letters that flesh out the backstory to the mysterious fog and what happened to its inhabitants. You start off on the outskirts of an island, rain pouring down as you make your way into the castle.

The visuals on hand are a mix of Prince of Persia-esque, middle eastern aesthetic and gothic architecture. One thing you’ll immediate notice is the billowing smoke effects. The black and gray thick fog permeate the levels you traverse, twisting and winding to fill the halls and rooms. Fire is the key. When you have a active flame source on hand, it cuts through the dark with a striking animation. I was floored with how smooth and seamless the effect looked so much I spent time running back and forth like a stealthy ninja to awe at how well the dev team did here.

The smoke is not just visual though, it plays into the games core mechanic. You as Ardeshir will take damage in the dark if you do not have fire to cut through. It was unexplained as to why but it will kill you if you linger too long. So you must look for aid in the way of lit torches, sconces and the like to blaze a path through. Also, you’ll encounter puzzles beyond the darkness you’ll need to solve to continue on your journey. Altering the environment by burning growth to unlock a platform you can control or cutting down a rope to release a drawbridge are just some of the things you’ll encounter in your playthrough.

Nocturnal screenshot

It’s not all puzzles and traversal mechanics, combat plays a large roll too. Imposing enemies with swords and spears, large hulking beasts and other creatures stand in your way. They can be seen in the shadows thanks to a considered art style and visual cues. You’ll be forced to contend with them as sometimes you’ll be locked in a room and have to battle it out. Luckily combat is fluid, enemy animations tell when they are about to strike and Ardeshir is equipped with a dodge roll. Blocking or parrying is curiously absent, although I didn’t feel like these mechanics felt missing or were needed in the time I played. Unsure if that will be added in later, is unlockable ability behind a skill tree or just something that the developers chose to omit from the game entirely.

Speaking of skill trees, a simple upgrade tree was available, powered by currency dropped by enemies. I was able to gain an ability that would consume some fire to heal myself which added some variety to the early part of the demo. Given the general stated completion time, I would assume this tree won’t be seeing much more if any new skill options.

Nocturnal screenshot

Options for speed runners have also been taken into consideration. The ability to skip cutscenes and streamline runs so players can focus on the perfect line to the end. This is welcome to see and considering the level of detail in the combat and movement mechanics should go over well with the speedrunning community.

Nocturnal was definitely a high point on the PAX East show floor. The game in total is about five hours in length which feels like a good amount of time to tell an interesting story and provide engaging and varied gameplay. Sunnyside Games is looking to release on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S and X later this year. You can check out the trailer below and wishlist on Steam.

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