Sunday, March 3, 2024

Social Climbing

So much has happened in Nightingale since I last posted about what I've been doing there, I hardly know where to begin. I suppose I really ought to try to keep to a topic and make some coherent points about the game but really I just want to go "I did this! And then I did that! It was awesome!", like a ten-year old kid telling you about a trip to the adventure park.

Which is pretty much what Nightingale is, come to think of it: a trip to the adventure park. There's a lot of climbing up things and jumping off, for a start. It took me a while to get the feel of both of them, but once I got comfortable with the Climbing Picks and the Umbrella, there was no stopping me. 

They're both slightly more awkward to use than similar options in other games but they work wonderfully when you get the hang of them. They both also have the enormous benefit of being dual use items. Triple in the case of the Umbrella.

The picks make pretty good weapons, which is a big help when you pull yourself over the lip of a cliff and suddenly find yourself staring up at a bear. The Umbrella is a glider but it also keeps the rain off, very important in a game with a deleterious "Wet" condition, and also the sun, which can be even more dangerous in the desert, where you get "Hot" in very short order if you step out of the shade.

Speaking of the desert, I've been spending a lot of time there lately and boy is it harsh!  It's one of the most deserty deserts I've seen in a game, all flat, barren sand, blazing sun and nothing much moving anywhere. I find it quite mesmeric.

The picks are absolutely vital in the desert, something I would not have predicted. The storyline has you making a portal to a Desert Herbarium Realm in search of one Nellie Bly, who supposedly can help you on your quest to get back home to Nightingale. But first you have to find her.

It's a Tier 2 realm, meaning you'll probably want to have upgraded all of your gear to Refined quality, although if you've upgraded the stuff you got from Twitch drops, that probably still has the edge. That campaign has been extended, by the way, and if you already got the drops once, you can get them again. I did. I'm going to give them to Dora.

I made Refined versions of most of the rest of my gear but it was a faff (Cf the post linked above.) and I was trying to save on mats, so I left out a couple of things I thought I wouldn't need, like the Sickle and the picks. As it happens, even if I 'd wanted to replace my Simple Climbing Picks, I wouldn't have been able to. I hadn't noticed then, but I didn't have the recipe for the Refined ones. Unlike most of the others, it didn't come with the upgraded crafting station.

Worse, I was trying to keep my bags as clear as possible so I could fill them up with loot in the new Realm, so I didn't even bring my old picks along. That turned out to be a major error of judgment.

Since Nightingale uses procedural generation to create a unique version of each Realm when you crank the handle on the portal, I can't say for sure whether Nellie Bly is always to be found hiding away on a completely inaccessible plateau, surrounded on all sides by sheer, eighty meter cliffs, but that's where she was in my Realm. 

I knew where to look because quest NPCs are marked on the map, albeit in the vaguest fashion possible. I could see her marker but I couldn't figure out how to get to it. It looked like it was up on top of this gigantic pile of rocks but it could equally have been in a cavern hidden somewhere inside or even a cave beneath. 

I spent a good hour trekking all the way around the giant mesa, looking for a way up, in or through; a road, a track, a path, some crumbling sandstone steps - anything. There was nothing. Nothing but blank rock.

It looked like I was going to have to climb the damn thing. I contemplated the idea of going back and getting my Simple Picks or, better yet, making some Refined Picks, which would presumably make it easier, somehow. Luckily, I didn't immediately map back to Abeyance Realm home because while I was still wandering about the sands, I ran into an Essence Trader, who just happened to be selling the recipe to make the Refined Picks.

That confused me. Didn't I have them already? It tells you in the sales window if you've already got something and greys it out so you can't waste your Essences. The Refined Picks weren't greyed out, which is how I discovered I didn't have the recipe. 

In retrospect, I wonder if the whole point of not giving you the recipe for the Refined Picks up front is to clue you in to the fact that you're going to have to climb the cliffs to find Nellie. That would mean she's up there in all Realms. Or else I'm reading too much into it, which is always a safe bet.

Anyway, that's where my Nellie was and I did indeed have to buy the recipe, portal back home, scrape up the mats, make all the subcombines, then make the picks and come back.

Boy, it was some climb! As I mentioned, Nightingale is one of those games with multiple buffs that all stack. You need a lot of stamina to climb or you will fall and break your leg. Breaking limbs is a thing in the game. A very annoying thing. 

You might even get really unlucky and die, if you fall really far. Done that. Didn't like it much. Don't recommend it.

Luckily, you can buff up your stamina in all kinds of ways. I ate a bunch of different meats and berries and almost doubled mine before I began the ascent. It was enough, although only just. 

Once I'd found her, Nellie had plenty to say. Not out loud, because so far Puck is the only character with a speaking part. Everyone else communicates in writing. I won't give too much away but suffice it to say Nellie does not have the answers you're looking for...

...but she knows someone who might. Isn't that always the way with these things? And don't they all have just one little thing they want you to do for them before they'll tell you where to go next? Actually, you'll be lucky if it's just the one.

The next stop on the story train is Victor. I won't tell you his last name. Maybe you can guess. One of Nightingale's more corny design choices is bundling in as many familiar 19th century personalities as they've been able to glean from their battered copy of Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopedia. They don't make any differentiation between actual people and fictional characters, either. 

I have an exceptionally high tolerance for whimsy but even I find it a bit much when someone tells me the device they're working with was designed by Nikola Tesla and Marie Curie, working in tandem. Victor, naturally, turns out to be exactly who you think he's going to be, unless of course you thought he might be Victor von Doom, which wouldn't have been that much of a stretch, given some of the other people who turn up.

Naturally, Victor doesn't live in the same Realm as Nellie. I mean, why would he? Sure, it would be convenient for anyone trying to find him but if you had the power to spin up private realities all your very own, wouldn't you go live in one, too?

At least he doesn't live on top of a cliff. No, he lives on top of a tower. Nice little set-up, actually. Two rooms and a balcony. I'd take it as a holiday let, especially with all that glorious sunshine because, yes, it's another Desert Realm, the wrinkle this time being that it's a Desert Astrolabe Realm, not a Herbarium.

I had to go home and make the cards first, before I could go there, of course. And since I hadn't finished with the Realms attached to my two existing Portals, I had to make a new Portal, too. That's three so far.

The whole thing is starting to remind me of Valheim, where I ended up with more portals than I could keep track of with a map. Fortunately, you can rename Portals in Nightingale, so at least I won't have to put up a whole bunch of hand-made wooden signs this time.

One of those earlier Portals just goes to a Realm I made as an experiment. I was farming that one for T1 Essences but I don't really need those any more, especially with the 500 or so I already have, so I suppose I could let that map go and re-purpose the Portal when I need to find the next link in the chain.

The other one, though, I want to keep. Bass Reeves lives there and I'm kind of in the middle of a deal with him. He's a lawman, tracking down a fugitive. I'd never heard the name before so I didn't think anything of it when I met him, but wouldn't you know, last night I noticed a show on one of the streaming services about the real life Bass Reeves. 

He was"a runaway slave, gunfighter, farmer, scout, tracker, and deputy U.S. Marshal" according to Wikipedia. Even when you don't know who people are in Nightingale, it turns out you're supposed to. I'm going to have to start googling everyone from now on. (Oh, look! Here's Nellie!)

I got sent to find Reeves by Wilhelmina Sasse, who doesn't appear ever to have been anyone other than herself. She's a journalist and she wants to know what Bass is up to. He's told me because I did some stuff to get him to trust me but he swore me to secrecy and now I have to decide whether to keep my word or sell him out to the gutter press for a handful of silver. (Actually, essences, but that doesn't have the same resonance.)

This is one of those inflection points, where you can tell you're playing an Early Access game. For all Nightingale's many merits, there are a lot of those. You can choose to keep Bass's confidence and not tell Wilhelmina what she wants to know, but if you do, there's no way to finish the quest. It just sits there, giving you the fish eye.

I'm leaving it like that in the hope that they eventually patch in an ending for those of us who value honor over personal gain. Or just don't trust the press.

Meanwhile, I'll be busy working on the shopping list of components Nellie wants for her machine. Victor's just the start of it. I'm sure every other bugger I run into will want something, too. Just as well I'm not planning on going anywhere for a while.

Forty-seven hours and counting...

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