Premiering the weekend of PAX East 2012, Nightfall is the latest release from developer Playdek. A veteran of the gaming industry, Playdek focuses on bringing analog games to the digital realm. We here at SitSam had the pleasure of sitting down with George Rothrock, Playdek’s Director of Product and Business Development at PAX East and hearing all about the new iOS game Nightfall. You can listen to the full interview here.
Debuting in 2011, Nightfall is a strategy card game with a dedicated following. Although barely a year old, Nightfall has already seen three expansions to the original set. The game has an urban horroresque motif running throughout its images and soundtracks. It is available through the iTunes App Store for $4.99.
Nightfall offers its challenge to 1 to 5 players, human and AI alike. Available to the player is an asynchronous online multiplayer, with a game timer, as well as a local pass and play mode. There are three levels of AI difficulty for the more misanthropic player out there.
As to the game itself, Nightfall consists of four distinct phases- Combat, Chain, Claim and Cleanup. Through these phases, the player will launch deadly attacks on their opponents, creates chains of cards for devastating effects and minion recruitment. They will also have the chance to claim new cards from common or private card archives and then during clean up they will redraw their hand and play other turn specific effects. The goal of Nightfall involves dishing out Wound Cards. Each game has a “stack” of Wound Cards, 10 cards per player. In a two-player game there would be a “stack” of 20 cards. Now, through effects and minion attacks a player deals wounds to their opponents and when the “stack” is exhausted the game ends. Whoever holds the fewest Wound Cards wins. The premise of Nightfall seems simple enough, but combines with the above with an array of dangerous card combinations and player savvy and there is one intricate card game.
The mechanics of the game translate well enough onto the iOS. All of the game’s functions have a professional polish to them, bugs or crashes are pleasingly absent. The player drags and drops their cards on and off the field with the ease that makes gaming on an iPad/iPhone a great experience.
Game Mechanics Score 4 / 5
Nightfall’s urban gothic atmosphere is a nice addition to the zombie-vampire craze currently devouring popular culture. The game provides it all, including mutants and an array of badass hunters. The background behind the gameplay shifts periodically through terrifyingly appropriate scenes of zombies and monsters. Graphics wise, each card has some well drawn and appropriate artwork. Unfortunately because of the cards’ size comparable to the iPad/iPhone screen, it is difficult to appreciate the artwork. The cards can be viewed in a larger format in the Card Gallery feature of this app. Although the translation is well done, it is not the same as holding the actual card.
The game music, when navigating the menus, or in a non-game mode is slightly louder and more intense than when during gameplay. This music is faster and more driven, and more fitting to the game than when the players are battling. The sequence that plays during the matches is a more monotonous in comparison. While both fit Nightfall’s gothic motif, none of the soundtracks are anything beyond what they are, background music. Stays out of the way, but ultimately forgettable.
Ambience Score 3 / 5
Nightfall delivers two fundamental experiences- fast past, strangely addicting gameplay and bewildering frustration. The game can be played quickly and furiously, or a slower, more methodical pace can be employed. The difficulty setting for the AI really provides the player a range gaming experiences.
The online multiplayer is always a difficulty toss-up but usually provides an enjoyable session. The new timer function allows the player creating the game to set a time limit, so if the player is looking for something to fit in a lunch hour, or something to dote upon through the week, they know what they are getting into.
For a quick five-dollars Nightfall delivers levels of gameplay not usually available in its price range. Where Nightfall shines in the long run, is the built-in expansion capacity. In the game creation menu, there is a secondary menu where the player has access to other the expansions and promo cards, which are locked upon purchase. While the tabletop expansions are already for sale, they’ll become available to download directly into the app. In this newer age of gaming, developers no longer drop a game onto the market and wash their hands of it. Today, developers need to be more dedicated to their product and when the capacity for expansions are already built into the original release, it is certain the game will see frequent and useful updates.
Fun Factor Score 3.5 / 5
When a game as involved as Nightfall is translated onto a digital medium, it can be a benefit to the new player. The computer medium presents the unexperienced from making errors regarding rules or procedures. The player cannot go out of turn, or misuse a card’s effect. The flipside to this of course is that the computer cannot explain to the new player whys and hows of their game moves. To this end, Nightfall comes with a tutorial, a card gallery, and a rulebook. The difficult part is that all of this might not be enough for the new player. It helps to turn the computer animation speed to its lowest setting and be very attentive. Still there are times when the AI completes a move resulting in sheer confusion.
A game with such involved strategy is a wonderful thing, but also notoriously difficult to translate to the digital. Sometimes a tutorial cannot take the place of a friend’s guiding hand.
Guidance Score 3 / 5
I found Nightfall truly enjoyable, and I look forward to the expansions. A part of me is even interested in picking up the physical game to share with my iPad-challenged comrades. There is a lot to like beyond the gameplay. The dedication to future expansions demonstrated by the developer is a good direction for the industry as a whole. Where Nightfall runs into trouble is that it pushes the limits of transition from analog to digital. While pushing limits is generally a good thing, the limit here is not one of technology or imagination, but of translation. Nightfall does the best of any game I have played in smoothing this transition, but the worry is that an extended learning curve could turn off new players. This is the risk a game like Nightfall runs, but I recommend to sticking to it, the rewards are a wonderful gaming experience.
Final Score 3.4 / 5
Written by Andrew