The Nightworld is a perfect example of game with tons of potential, but a lack of drive. The game tries to be a stealth-based combat game with some RPG elements, with a look reminiscent of classic Black Isle Studios games like Baldur’s Gate and Fallout. Indeed, had the developer tried a bit harder, the game’s setting and engine could have made for a superb full-on sci-fi RPG.
Unfortunately the game focuses on only stealth-based combat, and while it’s an interesting attempt, the Nightworld feels unfinished. The game tells the story of a changed world, where the sun can’t penetrate through a polluted atmosphere. Food is scarce, order and government are a thing of the past, and roaming gangs of thugs are the new power in the game’s city. The player takes the role of a mercenary trying to get by, which means completing missions for money and food.
Taking it from all sides.
The game’s mission structure is excellent. In between missions, there is a communications interface that lets you select the new mission, with details of how much it’s worth and the objective. Some missions provide new weapons and armor as well, and stores offer a variety of goods (especially health packs). The Nightworld is played from an overhead perspective and controlled entirely through screen taps and swipes. Tap where you want to move, tap an enemy to aim at it, and tap the enemy again to open fire.
Stealth is the major facet of the game play. There’s no user mechanic for engaging in stealth– if you’re in a shadowy area the games pops the word ‘hidden’ above your merc. Sneaking up behind an enemy (or just rushing them, actually) allows you to perform a melee kill by swiping over the enemy. These cinematic kills are fun, but get repetitive after a while.
The problem with all this sneaky gameplay is how unreliable it is. Oftentimes, you’ll be standing in a dark spot, yet not be marked as hidden, while the game might say you are hidden when standing next to a burning barrel. Ultimately, while the game is playable, the stealth just feels too broken. Also, since sneaking is so important, the lack of any kind of radar map is annoying and the enemy indication arrows are haphazard at best. Sometimes these indicators pop on and work fine, but frequently they never show up at all.
Why use a gun when you have two perfectly good fists?
Your merc’s pathfinding is nonexistent as well, so you have to baby step him everywhere. The hit detection is remarkably imprecise when attempting to close in on an enemy for a sneak kill. Inevitably, just tapping near an enemy causes your gun to aim at him instead of actually moving your merc closer.
Finally, no matter what the mission objective is– be it eliminating gangs or stealing food– the gameplay never really varies. The dark, grungy levels all look similar and there’s little incentive to explore the entire map beyond just looking for guys to kill.
On the plus side, the game does look excellent and the third-person camera works well. The Nightworld has some entertainment value and, with a bit more time and care, could have been an intriguing stealth game. As it is, though, the game is buggy and underwhelming.