Nocturnal Review – Fiery Fights and Foggy Nights

Nocturnal Review – Fiery Fights and Foggy Nights

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4, Sony PlayStation 5, Microsoft XBox One, Microsoft Xbox Series X/S, Windows PC, Steam

Game Name: Nocturnal

Publisher: Dear Villagers

Developer: Sunnyside Games

Genre: Action, Adventure

Release Date: June 7th, 2023

Nocturnal by Sunnyside Games

Nocturnal is a side-scrolling action platformer with a side of puzzles. The game is built around a central theme of fire and darkness. Wielding a sword that can be ignited with flame to push back a shadowy fog, the protagonist must use both fire and blade to fight umbral creatures and more corporeal enemies alike. Featuring a beautiful world realized with stunning graphics, Nocturnal unifies its visual and gameplay themes into a slick adventure.

I Hold with Those Who Favor Fire

“Soldier of the Enduring Flame” Ardeshir has returned from a hard journey to find his island home covered in a shadowy fog. Naturally, he sets out to find the source of the darkness in order to bring it to an end.

Fire itself is the core weapon against this shadow; Ardeshir can ignite his sword and use it to spread fire to other objects like braziers and torches. While his blade is ignited, it does more damage, and some enemies are entirely immune to non-incendiary attacks. Unfortunately, the sword only stays lit for a few seconds, and finding sources of fire to re-ignite it is a constant concern.

A more sinister problem is that the misty shadow suffusing some areas of the island will begin to hurt Ardeshir if he doesn’t have fire to ward it off. Nocturnal works hard to leverage this central mechanic; many puzzles are built around staying close to sources of fire to re-ignite the sword regularly, while others demand quick reflexes to reach lit areas quickly whilst dodging attacks from various enemies.

Fight Fog with Fire

Threats come in an assortment of types, ranging from standard humans with a variety of weapons to shadowy creatures connected to the fog. I found I enjoyed the fights offered by the humanoid foes: watching for their movements and anticipating their attacks makes for fun, timing-based combat. The shadowy entities are no less challenging, though, and they tend to emerge in large groups deep in the darker areas of the island.

A simple but effective skill tree can be explored as Ardeshir levels up (a process achieved both through combat and exploring). Nodes include increasing the duration of sword ignition, gaining new attacks, and consuming the fire on your blade for healing purposes. This last ability becomes a key power and balancing offense with necessary healing is crucial to some combats.

There are also many hidden letters to find throughout the game that provide valuable lore about what happened to the island.

Fanciful Fog

Nocturnal really shines in its environments and its visuals; the island Nahran is beautifully realized with stunning open plains and atmospheric depths to explore. It’s a shame that the internal areas tend to dominate the game as the outdoor locations are a real treat for the eyes. That said, there are advantages to this juxtaposition, and Nocturnal does a great job of making the emergence from the depths feel like a breath of fresh air.

Nocturnal is a focused action adventure game that borrows its subtle storytelling and ruminative characters from the likes of Dark Souls. Its puzzles offer a decent challenge, and the combat is engaging, always forcing careful choices between aggression, avoiding environmental threats, and defense. Adventurers and puzzle fans alike can expect an engaging and atmospheric experience with Nocturnal.

Nocturnal is available via the Nintendo Game Store, Sony Playstation Store, Microsoft Store, and Steam.

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