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Embrace the night. Live the nightmare. Climb from rags to riches as a modern Vampire in a city where your secret has been revealed.
Embrace the night. Live the nightmare. Climb from rags to riches as a modern Vampire in a city where your secret has been revealed.
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Nighthawks Exposed #3 - Let's Talk Freedom

Posted by Richard Cobbett
27 likes

We've talked about the lore, so let's spend some time on the actual game. Nighthawks isn't a fixed story, and it's not a simple series of question marks with associated quests. Instead, it's a mix of life simulation and RPG... but what does that mean?

Put simply, it's about freedom. Each Act of the story is up to a month long (with the overall story taking place over about three years) and within a few boundaries, you get to do what you want with that time. Work on your friendships. Pursue side-quests. Explore. Work on your various stats. Wander around and have random encounters. It's up to you.

Should You Choose To Accept It...

Instead of a main quest chain, the majority of the game focuses on more general Objectives. In the first Act, that's a simple one. You have to pay your hotel bill, which means making money. Later, they get more complicated. To accomplish your Objectives, you go out in search of stories, from rumours collected by your bartender, Becca, to random encounters on the street, or direct requests from other characters. These stories and the decisions you make during them also help define your character, your place in vampire society, and how other people think of you. Get caught lying too often, for instance, and your Untrustworthy reputation will follow you around until you can shake it. Don't do favours for people, and they won't be there to do them for you when you come calling. It's essentially a life-simulation core that splinters off into modular stories, each exploring a different facet of the world.

(Incidentally, if you're thinking this structure sounds a little bit like the second chapter of Baldur's Gate 2, have a cookie. It's very much inspired by that...)

What makes things more complicated is that along with doing this, you have to feed - be it hunting for blood or making other arrangements - and the passing of time isn't just a counter. If you're caught out by the sun, you'll fry. If you go too long without eating, that'll cause its own problems. This isn't like survival games where you can't go five minutes without drinking your body-weight and similar - you don't need to be constantly hunting. Staying healthy is however a priority, one made harder not just by thirst, but by blood corrupted by drugs, alcohol and disease.

In addition, other characters in the world have their own lives that will usually take precedence over your problems. They're not a party in the sense that they're your minions, but characters who may - if it suits them - be willing to join you for the night. They won't always be available. Madame Lux, for instance, is employed as a stage magician, and can't go adventuring when she has a set to perform. That means that if you have a quest you want to bring her along for, you have to choose whether or not to wait until she's available, go alone, or maybe bring someone less suitable along. As well as make it worth her time.

On top of this, you'll also encounter more traditional quest-options as you explore, with regular characters having their backstories and current-day problems to unlock and get involved with, opportunistic work that's randomly generated if you're in urgent need of quick cash or favour, and critical path quests that advance the main storyline to its wildly divergent endings. Honing your skills will also swallow up time, as hours pass while you attend nightschools to learn languages, or practice hand-to-hand combat in the docklands fighting pits. Such things may cost you much of a night, but can pay dividends when you find yourself having to translate something... or punch someone through a wall.

Balancing The Scales

Don't worry if this sounds fiddly or overly complicated. In particular, the passing of time is intended to be meaningful, but not torturous. Most timed events are based on a day-by-day system rather than making you rush around the city to get somewhere at a specific hour. On a wider level, you'll get both plenty of time to accomplish what you need to in each Act, and clear advice on exactly what that is and how long you have.

The intended feel is that rather than feeling like you're racing against the clock all the time, that every click is a move in a chess game against the world, with the limits there to make those decisions more meaningful. And, of course, to encourage replay. If you only play Nighthawks once, you'll find it an incredibly responsive, satisfying adventure. If you come back, you'll find just how much more there is to discover if you try different powers, make different friends, and pick different choices. This is a city of stories. Write yours.

Comments

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    1. Richard Cobbett Collaborator on

      Hard to say! There'll be a lot of replay value though, for sure.

    2. Emil Amundsen on

      How much gameplay will be repetitive content?

    3. Richard Cobbett Collaborator on

      The timer system is basically one choice = one minute, with travel and some options like waiting in line at a bar taking longer. Just to put that into context, that works out at a pretty big baseline of about 480 'turns' per night. And that's deliberate. It's more about keeping the sunrise and key deadlines in your mind, rather than being hyper-restrictive.

    4. Hiroshi Mishima on

      I'll be honest, I've never been a big fan of *time* management in games. Resources, okay, choosing which quests I have to do that might cancel another, all right.. but I look at games like Ephemeral Phantasia on the PS2 which had this wonderful island to explore but you're trapped in this awful "you have X hours in the day and time is ALWAYS ticking" mechanic. It's why I could never get into Shenmue, as well. I wanted to explore the town, talk to everyone, but if you did that you got nothing done and the day ends and you're boned.

      Mind you, Nighthawks probably doesn't use a real-time system of time passing, but one based on actions. You make a choice, time passes, and that I can understand. Colonel's Bequest, an old point and click game by Sierra, let you explore the mansion and its grounds at your leisure BUT if you came upon something significant or overheard a couple conversations, then time would pass. Both of these are far more reasonable.

      I'll be honest.. I'm not really sure what to expect from Nighthawks. It's a text-based game and I have so little experience with those anymore. I played a few internet games back in the early 00s, and there were a few text adventures I have little recollection of from the Commodore 64.

      I backed this cause it's ambitious and sounds really interesting from what I've read, but I honestly don't know what I've gotten myself into.. haha!

    5. Richard Cobbett Collaborator on

      Yeah. I've loved the concept of a lot of those, but then they've made the noose too tight. Not only do I want to avoid that, the design is built to allow things to be easily tweaked if players get their hands on the alpha/beta and are either "I don't care about time" or "The timer is too brutal."

    6. Caitlin Blanchard on

      This sounds much better than sime of th frustrating resource management games I've played. More like... a weighting your decisions thing. Do I go here tonight or do I miss this opportunity. Sounds cool.

    7. Justin
      Superbacker
      on

      Sounds very interesting, and the included aspect of time seems like it will help maintain immersion. Looking forward to getting my hands on it (or maybe I should say sinking me teeth into it? ;) ).

    8. Richard Cobbett Collaborator on

      Yep. Part of my plan is that you'll be both encouraged to use the time well, but also to be able to go "Okay, well, I'm sorted there, let's..." While balance is always tricky, I don't intend it to be a hardcore challenge, or to take away time for wandering around and smelling the flowers. I don't like feeling rushed either. But a *little* pressure adds a lot of spice.

    9. Blessed on

      An excellent post Richard, I am quite hyped for this ... a near 2 years wait! You are right about not wanting the player to feel rushed. When I am rushing through a game, I do not stay want to go explore, i find myself trying to rush to the objective before it expires, and that is not fun.

    10. Richard Cobbett Collaborator on

      As I said on the main page, it's an ambitious plan. An unambitious one wouldn't be worth your time :-)

    11. Lars Westergren
      Superbacker
      on

      This sounds great!