Nightmarchers, Keep Marching
Oh boy. Um. Hi, friend! How are you doing? I hope this preview finds you well. Very well, in fact. Have you eaten today? Are you comfortable? What do you mean I’m stalling? No, I’m not, you’re stalling! All right, all right! Fine, you win!
Have you ever been to Hawai’i? That beautiful area in the central Pacific made up of six islands? I have. It truly is a paradise. The people are friendly, the sights are jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and things are really expensive. The island is also rich in culture, the traditional culture of the indigenous people that made up Hawai’i before their last monarch was overthrown (by the U.S. – and this is a gross oversimplification). That culture is still prevalent today in much of the islands’ decorum, tourist attractions, and more while the Hawai’ian people remain largely ignored. I don’t claim to know a lot about that culture, and I don’t know if the designers over at Wyrmbyte know much either, but you’ll be seeing a lot of it (sort of) in Nightmarchers should you ever pick it up in the future.
The game’s namesake comes from Hawai’ian lore too. Nightmarchers are the ghosts of ancient Hawai’ian warriors that return on certain nights to battlegrounds or sacred sites – according to Wikipedia and a few videos I looked up. From what else I was able to find, just sighting a Nightmarcher may result in harm or death – possibly violent – unless a relative or ancestor of the viewer exists within the ranks of the Marchers. In the case of the game, however, Nightmarchers are this, but are also responsible for ferrying the souls of the dead to the afterlife. Such an event is witnessed within the first few minutes of the game when the protagonist’s son is killed in a bandit raid on their camp. Your own soul is saved just in time by your guardian spirit who comes in the shape of an owl.
Aloha Means Hello And Goodbye. So, Goodbye.
The premise of the game is that the scientists of the world have done something bad, and as such the veil between the physical world and the spirit world are gone. Hawai’i, being so far from the mainland, is cut off from the rest of the world and thus erupts into chaos. People have split into factions that are constantly at war with one another. To make matters worse, the “pig god” Kamapua’a has returned to Oahu in human form and started corrupting humans and Nightmarchers alike to serve his means. (This was kind of weird to me because upon a single search I found that Kamapua’a isn’t really evil.) It is he and his minions that you have to defeat in order to gain control of the island and fulfill your destiny as the descendant of a “Great Kahuna” (another term that is grossly overused in just the first few minutes of the game).
All of this is told to you within the first few minutes of the game’s opening, which makes it a bit hard to retain as you are further overwhelmed with instructions, quests, and weapons that you must learn how to use in a very short period of time; because those raiders are only a few feet away when your spirit guide (for lack of better words) resurrects you. You’re given a machete, which is only replaced a few minutes later by a ceremonial Hawai’ian dagger and a spirit bow. From here on out, the game takes on a very Assassin’s Creed meeting the lovechild of GTA and Fallout gameplay style as you hunt down Kamapua’a’s followers and slaughter them to take outposts and gain control of the island. Killing gets you Mana, which supplies the ammunition to your bow, so the more you kill the more you’ll kill, sort of speak.
I’m going to try and refrain from further complaints about the likely cultural appropriation of this game. Yes, it’s egregious and upsettingly unapologetic, but the problems with the game manage to not stop there.
I mentioned just a few sentences ago how the game attempts to emulate GTA. This is true in that it’s a very open world environment where you engage in missions and quests, but it’s here that the game stops. Currently, there is no way (that I could find) to organize these missions as they come in. The latest one you pick up is what’s displayed on your HUD, which means if you want to prioritize your quests…you can’t. Unless you only talk to one person at a time. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be HUD markers that pop up to distort your sense of direction at all times, however. Determining where you need to go is equally complicated if you don’t place markers on your map because the island atmosphere is so dense in foliage that you’re often making detours to get from point A to point B. This, in turn, clutters up your melee combat in the likely event of you ever being ambushed.
This is also probably part of the reason why I had such a major framerate issue. While this was improved with a major update from the developers some weeks ago, it still has issues whenever Kai (main protagonist) is running or using his spirit vision. Combat continues to be another issue entirely, however. Unless you have a ranged weapon, such as your bow or a gun (the likes of which will take you some time to find), you’re going to have a difficult time with knifing down enemies. Most of them are carrying assault rifles, so unless you can sneak up behind enemies to take them out, you’re going to be experiencing some Benny Hill-esque chase downs while chunks of you are being shot off.
While not only horrendously misrepresenting Hawai’ian culture, Wyrmbyte also does a poor job of recreating the islands. Dilapidated structures, rusted cars, and Fallout style outposts full of raiders and bandits are mostly what awaits players looking to enjoy Nightmarchers. There’s no sense of beauty in the surrounding environment, and given how much you’re on foot, things start to get dull quickly. One may surmise that traveling is intended to be easier and more fun once you gain one of any of your animal forms from the various shrines you rebuild across the island or your horse. While this may make things easier, it doesn’t make things more interesting. Players will still be staring at the same trees, shrubs, and poorly illuminated mountain ranges all across the island.
Much of the voice acting hasn’t been implemented yet either, or cuts out mid-conversation. The HUD instructions and pop-ups are often impossible to get off screen, and some don’t even accurately or fully tell you how to complete the tasks presented. At random moments and locales, enemies may start shooting at you from undeterminable locations, and even shoot through various environmental obstacles, landing hits on you when you can’t even see them!
The aforementioned factions are supposed to add a huge range of story and endgame details to Nightmarchers as well, changing things up depending on which you side with: something else that seems scooped almost directly from the last Fallout game. Because of all of this, and how little of it fits together, it’s hard to figure out what Nightmarchers is trying to be and what it’s trying to offer. It’s also odd that this game is looking for $100,000 in backing with so much already finished (due out Q3 of this year).
Wyrmbyte has a lot to fix before this came is even remotely presentable to the general public though, whatever their goals may be. Right now it’s an expansive open world ARPG with very little of the “A”. There’s also not enough functioning to even meet the requirements of an RPG. I was disappointed in almost every facet of this game, from the gross misrepresentation of a marginalized people’s culture to the almost completely cloned Horizon: Zero Dawn HUD.
Now yes, it’s a small team, and they’re taking on a very big project, but scope is important when starting a project and right now Nightmarchers feels like nothing more than these game developers biting off more than they can currently chew.