How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. It takes a while for the game to open up, but when it does, you'll have plenty of places to explore and grow.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~16 hours
Review Info: Vigil: The Longest Night was played on PC using the Steam version.
Buy Vigil: The Longest Night if you like…
- Grotesque Horrors
- Stamina-based combat
- Open exploration
- Enticing mystery
- Multiple Endings
▼ Review continues below ▼
There was a time when games were new that every title released was taken at face value. You learned the premise of the game – whether it be that you were a gorilla trainer or a boy with a sword – and that was all you had to go with. It’s been more than 30 years since video games started entering into the mainstream, and that environment has changed completely. A language has formed unique to the medium, and it’s impossible to go into any game without the expectations we take from our history of playing other titles, especially when you’ve been gaming for a long time. Vigil: The Longest Night clearly takes a lot of inspirations from modern influences, and that exacerbates that need to make comparisons. Because of this my first few hours with Vigil weren’t very good. Even at this last moment as I am writing this final review, my brain is still dancing between giving Vigil a score of “Great” vs. just “Very Good” as I try to put aside my biases and go back to that simpler time when I could judge Vigil for what it is, and not for what it isn’t. “What Vigil is” is an intriguing mystery wrapped up in style and incredible music, with fun exploration and the occasional amazing boss fight. Vigil is something I can’t help but love even though my memory is screaming that other games have accomplished what it tries to do in better ways. It makes Vigil: The Longest Night a bit of a curiosity for me, and I think curiosities deserve their due credit.
The sooner you can let go of the idea that Vigil: The Longest Night is a Souls-like platformer in the vein of Salt and Sanctuary, the happier you will be with it. Vigil has the stamina management based combat of the Souls-like games, but that’s about as far as the comparison goes. When you die you’re taken back to your last save, losing 100% of the progress you made since you visited the last check point. Potions must be purchased rather than replenished at “bonfires.” While checkpoints do cause enemies to respawn, they also respawn whenever you load a new area, more similar to Castlevania than any Souls-like. In fact, the death mechanics and atmosphere in general make Vigil feel more like an Igavania Castlevania title more than something purely inspired by From Software’s work. It just happens to have more complex combat than than most Igavania games.
Even though the combat is more complex than a Castelvania game, it still feels a little bit lacking compared to a Souls-like and that’s mostly due to a lack of consistency. When you attack enemies it shows the damage you deal, but also when you “miss” an enemy it displays the word “Dodge”. “Missing” isn’t just a matter of swinging your sword and it not connecting with your foe, but it’s also for instances where the enemy has i-frames. The most intuitive situation when these i-frames come up is when an enemy is rolling or otherwise dodging. Where the issues in Vigil arise is when the enemy “dodges” when there’s nothing to visually indicate that was a fair action on their part. It’s like the game just sometimes decides it’s time for you to miss. An early example of this are the skeleton enemies, which “dodge” while they are swinging their attacks at you. In a “Normal” Souls-like, the windup is usually a great time to take a risk and try and strike for hitstun – stopping the enemy’s attack and getting in your own. That feeling of denial followed by the enemy’s attack coming down on you leaves a bad impression, especially if you’re playing on the hard difficulty where every hit point matters. Combat also lacks that visceral crunch to it, which could likely be blamed on the sound design. The music is often way louder than the sound effects, which are fairly tame anyway. The animations are also slightly “floaty” which reduces the kind of impact that gives combat a strong and exciting feel to it. For the first few hours of the game until you can strategize with your build a little more by leveling up, combat feels pretty disappointing.
Intermixed with loose-feeling combat, the first few hours also have a sort of confusing story to follow. NPC dialog is wordy, and the uniform presentation style makes them generally unmemorable. This is an especially bad observation given that the game does put a heavy emphasis on talking with NPCs and doing quests. As a Vigilant your playable character is sort of like a demon-slaying investigator, thus you’ll be sent to find missing persons on your main quest, or checking out more subtle mysteries as a side activity. Not all of the early NPCs are completely bland – I did have some feelings for some of them, like I hated that guy who smacked my face with his slingshot every time I talked to him – but in combination with the “lackluster” Souls-like combat, I felt like I was going to have the sorry duty of conveying an overall negative opinion of Vigil when the time came.
At the risk of spoiling too much though, the game does get lot better. It’s almost like they were developing a game and decided to do a reboot, but kept their first attempt as a prologue. The prologue does help add an air of mystery to the game’s world, if you can make it far enough to discover it, so I hesitate to say that the game should have just cut it. But at that at a certain point in the game suddenly NPCs seemed more interesting, your role in the game’s world more crucial, and the newer monsters lack the same issues that those Skeletons I mentioned had. Some of the combat problems are resolved just by unlocking new abilities, but I think the most important change is that Vigil’s focus shifts from a linear combat game into an exploration focused Metroidvania. It’s as if Vigil: The Longest Night was fettered down by its influences – trapped in a state of identity crisis – and then suddenly it was set free to become its own thing.
That metaphorical freedom becomes reality when it comes to Vigil’s game world. You’re given an insane amount of autonomy on where you can conduct your investigations. There are NPCs that strongly suggest places you could visit – and indeed some of them lead to important movement upgrades – but you can also ignore what anyone says and access a very large portion of the game at any time. If you’re not checking your notebook constantly to see updates on the quests you’ve collected, it can almost be overwhelming. For me though, this exploration was the best part of the game. I wandered far into the trees and into the waterways just to see where it ends, and along the way I discovered quests and secret passageways containing new spells or crafting materials that made my efforts a delight. Some of the exploration can be a little bland, with maze-like hallways where the only treasures are boring consumables or piles of gold. However there were enough especially intriguing secrets that a little bit of blandness was less of an issue. As your movement skills increase, flying through less-than-interesting corridors was also still a fun thing to do.
NPC quests are still a major emphasis for the game, and the dialog is still wordy, the biggest difference is that what everyone has to say is more relevant to your interests. As the mystery of Vigil evolves, I gradually became more engaged in finding out who the major players were, and what the source of the world’s problems were. Vigil doesn’t go too far beyond the cliches you might have come to expect from a game with its setting, but even with some questionable presentation woes it was enough to be gripping to me; I had to see everything the game had to offer. If you don’t enjoy doing quests though, this may not be a feature for you. Luckily there’s enough to discover in the way of combat encounters that there may still be fun to be had for a combat hungry player.
Once I really started gaining enough levels to exploit the skill tree and specialize in specific weapons combat became a bit of a roller coaster. Playing strictly on the hardest difficulty it started out as annoyingly frustrating because it wasn’t exactly what I expected, then it became routine and almost boring once I developed a dominant strategy. But then I came across a few bosses that showcased some masterful boss design, and I was able to try my build strategies out on them. There are four weapon types in the game, each with its own skill tree, and it’s fairly easy to shift play styles if you know what you’re doing. While each weapon type shares an almost exact moveset with any weapon in that category, each individual weapon has stats that favor different playstyles above others. For instance, with the dagger class of weapons – which I started with – there’s a pair of daggers that increases the damage you deal with thrown items, letting you put all of those boring consumables you’ve collected to optimal use against a particularly hard boss. Your weapons and all of your armor pieces can also be enchanted with various effects, letting you customize your build in unique ways. The rate at which you find crafting materials is fairly rapid, encouraging experimentation at a low permanent cost. Tackling some of the game’s most hidden bosses was reminiscent of the greatest games I have played, even if not all of the content was the same quality.
“Greater than the sum of its parts” is perhaps an overused cliche, but there’s nothing else that better describes Vigil: The Longest Night. It’s always hard for me to heartily recommend something that takes some work to get into, but sometimes the most hidden gems in gaming are the gems hidden within themselves. Underneath a wonky prologue and some problems with sound, animation, and even localization is a fantastic exploration platformer with layers of depth that you can really sink your teeth into. I think that Vigil is likely going to develop an enthusiastic niche, and in spite of some perhaps surface level issues, I think it deserves it.
Combat has its ups and downs, with some conveyance issues that take some getting used to. However there are enough really good boss fights to make up for the weaker encounters
Like most Metroidvania games with a heavier combat and exploration focus, Platforming isn't extensively tested, but there are a few points that provide some challenge, even with Vigil's floatier physics.
The rewards for exploration aren't always worthwhile, but there are enough intriguing things to find to keep the world vibrant and the mystery strong
Puzzles are not a focus for Vigil: The Longest Night
While somewhat confusing and maybe a little incoherent, there's enough mystery there to make you want to see what's next
The backgrounds are absolutely gorgeous and any still screen of the game is going to be pleasing to the eye. In motion however the animations can be a little stiff, and the action isn't always conveyed in the best way.
The music breathes atmosphere into the world, and is good on its own merits.
Three difficulty levels with a new game + mode and four skill trees to choose between - plus a section of the game you where you can challenge 3 areas in any order you please equates to a high degree of replayability.
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