It’s Halloween season and what best way to drum up the impending fright fest than scaring the pants off yourself with some horror games. Here in the Philippines, we’re still traditionally rooted to our Undas season and memories of Noli de Castro putting up the best episodes of Magandang Gabi, Bayan during these times with tons of horror productions that even my most drunk uncle can’t brave through. Reminiscing aside, the Philippines has a rich folklore of otherworldly beings and this is where Zeenoh Games draws inspiration with its Early-Access offering in Steam titled Nightfall: Escape. Read on!
This review is based on the alpha build 1.0.7.
Nightfall: Escape, as mentioned is still in early access meaning its still in early development stages and as such, much of the game has yet to be developed or put in. The game revolves around Ara Cruz, a female journalist investigating mysterious disappearances which leads her to an abandoned mansion. Once there, she’s forced to unravel the mystery of the mansion whilst confronted by numerous monsters from Philippine folklore.
There’s really nothing to judge yet as the story isn’t fully fleshed out. As it stands, the allure of a mysterious mansion is quite cliche’ but the game does have an old-school feel of story-telling. We’ll talk more about this later but overall, we’ll leave this up in the air.
Graphics and Audio
In-game graphics for the game is something you’d see on older PSX-era titles. Even on the highest detail settings, the game’s in-game 3D models won’t win any visual awards but given its indie nature, its up to you to judge if it fits your standards. PC Master Race purists who feed off maximum detail settings and live off bragging their screenshots should stay away especially who those who don’t care about the developers or simply don’t know what an Early Access game is.
Going back, the game has cutscenes via FMVs utilizing both 3D and comic art styles. This is one of the better things we see visually in Nightfall and its nice to see an indie dev mixing things up in this department. There’s really plenty of room for improvement in terms of graphics but if you’re like me that enjoy the old-school, original Silent Hill-approach to the visual presentation, the game is quite decent. That said, we’d like to nitpick and say that there’s some parts of the game that need a bit of detailing like trees outside and the rooms needing better light planning. We did see complaints that the game was darker in earlier builds so its nice to see the game is quite brighter right now.
Audio presentation is sparse and aside from footsteps and other effects, there’s really nothing much going on. The game tries to amp the scare factor by inserting some subtle BGM during some instances and it does help bring out the experience more but nothing that would leave you looking to increase the volume.
If there’s one thing we really want to criticize about this game, its the voice acting. The effort in doing the VA is highly appreciated but there is room for improvement and with the opening scene being as long and UNSKIPPABLE as it is, a bit of emotion in Ara’s VA would’ve helped keep the interest high at this point. There is a serious lack of emotion in both Ara and Jolo’s voice acting and this is one of best moment to really leave an impression to the player: Ara’s voice doesn’t evoke any sense of what she is as a person. We know she likes donuts and we can infer she’s brave enough than her work partner but otherwise, her voice acting doesn’t say anything of how passionate she is in pursuing this lead which leaves a flat and forgettable of Ara as a character.
At this stage of development, the game is ultimately a demo and the developers could easily put in or take out some features. On a general view, the game is a first-person survival horror which has you exploring certain areas, accessed via solving puzzles and obtaining items. A unique facet of the game is the bloodlight which lets you see otherwise invisible items in-game. It lets you see puzzle solutions and other hidden clues in the game which can’t be normally viewed via the flashlight.
All throughout the areas are numerous monsters you have to deal with and you, as simple Ara Cruz, have no way of defending yourself. This is one of the coolest aspect of Nightfall: Escape; you basically have the environment as your weapon. While its easy to guess how you’re going to deal with the enemies, executing them is far from easy. As of this writing we have yet to finish the SPOILER and this is mostly due to the game’s physics still clunky at this stage. First, your run speed is really slow. Next, you jump like there’s a serious reduction in gravity. Then, obstacle limits are often times weird, some have magical in-game walls you can’t go through while others you can freely pass through. Ultimately, there’s still plenty of glitches in the game and that’s acceptable but as it is, the current content still requires fine-tuning.
Paring Pugot moves very fast and is hard to spot while moving around inside the church. Pre-planning where to cut the ropes is difficult as you can’t assure if it’ll be timed just right. The Torturer fight also showcases some glitches where dropping stuff on the Torturer will not do damage, only the floor spike killed him in my playthough. If this bug also occurs to Paring Pugot, then its going to be nearly impossible to beat him.
Nightfall: Escape is a promising title and while it is still under-development, the game can still grow from what the developers may have intentionally planned for it. What we’re concerned about is a game like this is heavily reliant on the scare factor and serving it up in steps like this will ultimately spawn various content based on which development stage it was captured from which would lead to the game’s story-telling being presented in various views, muddying what could’ve been a unified experience when the final game has been released.
Speaking of scare factor, the game flounders from being mildly frightening to barely trying. Some places with the monsters roam are blatantly locked down meaning once you’ve engaged the monster, there’s no escape which is a predictable way of saying “try, again.” The puzzles do present a nice touch but some puzzles require obtaining items, most of which are quite obscure or easy to miss.
The biggest question is probably “should I get this game on early access?” and our answer is yes and no. To explain, YES if you believe the developers are doing a good job and NO, just don’t play it yet and wait until the final version of the game comes out.