Review: Nightbound

Nightbound is a fairly direct implementation of tabletop RPG in Twine. The initial screens conscientiously provide a warning about browser cache refreshes, conventions used in the game, and some background that will inform the player’s choice of character class. After picking a class and gender, play starts immediately.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

I only played the game for about twenty minutes before hitting an error that put the game in an unwinnable state, but during that time, there wasn’t much to the story. The player arrives on a boat, spends the first night in an inn, and heads out for some adventure. No sooner did I walk out the door, than I was set upon by highwaymen. Or creatures. I don’t really remember.

Combat seems to be a real focus: the screen shifts to a nicely formatted mêlée view, with stats for you and your opponent and a list of actions that you can take, offensively and defensively. I managed to survive my first battle and leveled up immediately, with a corresponding boost to my stats. About two game moves later, and I found myself in another battle, and then another. In each battle, I picked up some items, and some of these items may be helpful in future battles, but by and large the novelty of the combat system wore off quickly. It never seemed to my advantage to do anything but just try to beat the heck out of the opponent with a frontal attack. For a game so focused on battle, not a lot of attention was given to flavor text describing the fighting.

I didn’t get a lot of text between fights, so I have little to no sense of the character, which runs contrary to the sort of role playing that I enjoy (the role part). I suspect that due to lack of story and motivation, most players will only get so far in this game before they move on to greener IF pastures.

Between battles, the narrative of the game is more conventional hypertext, with relatively sparse links. Unfortunately, until the mouse hovers over those links, they are the same color as the rest of the text, so players may easily overlook some options, which hampers interactivity in a game that is already overly linear.

As mentioned, the battle screen is distinctive and works fairly well, but both it and the inventory screen have some issues with vertical spacing. As these screens grow, information does not fit without scrolling. A more compact design would be preferable.

The bug that ended the game for me occurred during a fight with the clockwork soldier. At some point, his hit points went negative but the battle didn’t end. There is no option to break off the battle or try to flee, so all I could do was fight him until my own hit points ran out.

Evaluation

Story: 3

Voice: 3

Play: 4

Polish: 5. On one hand, the author put some thought into tabular layout for combat and inventory. On the other, there were some editorial issues. At one point, I came across the text “>>CHECKPOINT REACHED”, and I have to guess that was a debugging comment that was not pruned from the final version.

Technical: 6. I gave a point for doing more programmatically than most Twine games.

JNSQ: 0

Preliminary Score: 3.8

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