Nightingale Early Access Review: 30 Hours Is All It Takes To Become An Unbelievable Grind

A Nightingale review in progress after 30 hours. The game needs a lot of work.

Nightingale Early Access Review: 30 Hours Is All It Takes To Become An Unbelievable Grind

If you struggle during the opening hours of Nightingale, you’ll never make it to the endgame. And I wouldn’t blame you for giving up. This is such a rich and unique world, lovingly crafted over many years by Inflexion Games, with some seriously impressive Unreal Engine 5 procedural generation technology behind it. There are brief little glimmers where the game world shines. It’s just a shame I don’t want to spend a second longer there.

While the title is still in the earliest of early access, I’ve now reached the “endgame” portion of Nightingale — it only took 30 hours of unintuitive menu grinding, middling combat, and repetitive tasks. My house is a jumble of crafting tables and augmentations, which you need dozens of to craft endgame gear worth anything. The Brass I’m crafting is going to take 25 minutes to finish. It took 30 minutes to build a portal, craft the cards, and mine the Copper I needed. Then another 30 minutes to build a portal, craft the cards, and mine loads of Zinc. It took 30 minutes…ah, you get the point.

Before we dive into the endgame, Nightingale is a survival crafter with a Victorian steampunk setting. You fly around with an umbrella, carrying a Winchester rifle, like Mary Poppins in a Guy Ritchie film. The world is inhabited by Bound and Fae, otherworldly entities that hate your guts, as well as other fantastical creatures like Sun Giants and Eoten walking trees. You explore different Realms by building portals and playing cards — different cards impact the world, such as the mobs that reside there, or the different points of interest you can explore. This all sounds very enticing, until you actually have to play the game.

The Endgame

There are plenty of puzzles and dungeons to explore in Nightingale, except they’re all exactly the same — from their layout to the mobs that inhabit them. When you reach the endgame, the content you complete is just a variation of the content you’ve already conquered. Now you just need to do a lot more of it. A single item of endgame gear — a Dauntless Pickaxe, for example — requires 1,300 Tier 3 Essence Dust. One single endgame Vault will grant you around 150 Essence. It takes around half an hour to complete a Vault.

Vaults are repeatable content, usually split into three different zones: a combat zone, a puzzle zone, and then a boss fight. They are themed around the different biomes (Forest, Desert, and Swamp), and have mobs and settings to match. These are the primary way to farm endgame gear.

I don’t mind a grind. I played hundreds of hours of New World just farming Iron Ore on the same route, over and over again, to build the coffers of my company. And survival crafters are grindy by nature. But usually there’s some payoff, some incredible new gear, some beautiful thing you can achieve, but Nightingale is ultimately unrewarding in its current state.

Take endgame Vaults as an example. These can be completed solo — though I wouldn’t suggest anyone do that — or with your friends, or even complete strangers you bump into at “The Watch”, the endgame social hub. Social hub is a generous term. If there’s an in-game chat, I haven’t found how to use it, so you just need to sort of stare dumbly into another player’s eyes and crouch a few times to see if they want to go into the dungeon with you.

Once you’re in, you’ll face the same variation of mobs you’ve already seen hundreds of — Bound enemies, Wolves, giant bugs, and so on. The puzzle layouts are often identical, but that doesn’t make them any easier to complete — the music puzzles in particular are super frustrating. I actually just stopped completing these in the Realms, but in the endgame vaults, you’re forced to engage with them. They take cooperation and coordination, not easy to achieve with your random silent companions. A little easier to manage with some friends, but still tedious.

The Combat

The entire time you’ll be dealing with one of Nightingale’s most glaring issues: combat just isn’t good. I’ve upgraded my weapon to have enchantments that cause earthquakes on the floor, and it’s by far the most enjoyable part of the game. That’s it, though. There are no other redeemable qualities. Not yet. The firearms are useless, take ages to reload, and seem to do next to no damage to enemies that flit around the screen like moths at a lamp convention. I frequently resorted to just mashing my maul or axe or whatever into enemies over and over again until I’m out of stamina, and they stop moving.

At the end of each Vault, there’s a boss fight. These should be spectacular, but half the time they’re bugging out or just standing still so, you guessed it, you just hit them with your axe or maul or whatever and wait for the huge health bar to decrease. There are some unique boss mechanics for certain attacks, AoEs, patterns you can learn, that sort of thing, but you can ignore them most of the time.

In the end, you’re rewarded with some bundles of Essence Dust, the currency you’ll need to upgrade your gear. No items you can use, no impressive gear. Nothing. Just some glowing dust.


Many of Nightingale’s problems stem from something simple: the game is wildly overcomplicated in places where there’s no need for it to be. I could list dozens of things here, but unlike Nightingale, I respect your time, so here’s as much as I can condense into 300 words.

  • Each type of animal Hide is split into Prey or Predator, on top of that there are different tiers of hide. And on top of that, there is fabled hide, bug hide…all of your chests will be full of hide. Most of it is useless. It raises a pertinent question: why have six hide when one hide does the trick?
  • The same logic applies to ores, gems, ammo types, fibres, cloths, buttons, ingots…there is so much item fluff. You could probably cut the item database by 50 percent and it wouldn’t have a significant impact on how the game plays.
  • You can’t craft from the chests in your base, which should be standard in modern survival games.
  • The hotbar is split between your primary and offhand inventory, 1-5 for your Primary, 6-0 for your offhand. You can’t scroll all the way between the hotbar, and you can only equip five tools at a time. There are more than five tools you’ll need to do regular tasks, so you need to go into your inventory, put the tool into your hotbar and…oh boy. Why? Survival crafters have used a standard hotbar, 1-10, for literally decades.
  • Ore you need for a variety of items are split across different Realms. You need to build lots of separate portals if you don’t want to keep resetting and re-crafting your cards over and over again. This takes…well, ages.
  • NPCs talk a lot. The quest menu is unintuitive. There is sparse but excellent voice acting.
  • They’ve built a beautiful world and filled it with repetitive puzzles and challenges. I can’t help but think Nightingale would’ve been better served as a much tighter narrative experience, with the extra Realms and Realm cards added in much later on in the progression. Most of the time in games, less is more.
  • The tutorial is long and hard to complete if you’re not familiar with the genre. The game really gets off on the wrong foot.


Like many others, I waited for Nightingale with anticipation. In theory, it’s a brilliant game filled with interesting ideas and world building. In practice, it is going to need some drastic work over its early access period. I have hope that the team at Inflexion Games can turn it around if they’re willing to respond actively to player feedback over the next year. Early access is just that — getting the game out there so that you get more data about what players actually want.

Nightingale has been developed by a passionate team, but at times it seems like they’ve got a little carried away, forgetting some of the fundamentals of what makes an enjoyable survival crafter. Palworld, Enshrouded, Valheim’s Ashlands update…gamers are spoiled for choice, and unfortunately, Nightingale is currently on the bottom rung.

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