Salt and Sanctuary meets Chinese papercutting
There are some great games that fit our publication so perfectly, and Vigil: The Longest Night is right up with its retro feel and indie freshness. The debut title of Taiwanese-based dev team Glass Heart Games with publishing being handled by Another Indie, Vigil: The Longest Night is a beautifully-animated 2D-side scroller featuring horror elements with inspiration from Salt and Sanctuary and Castlevania. Already rated “Very Positive” on Steam with 476 reviews at the time of this writing, Vigil: The Longest Night is shaping up to be a sleeper hit that absolutely no self-professed retro games fan should be sleeping on.
Vigil: The Longest Night opens up on Leila, a member of the Vigilant Order, who suddenly finds herself being tested by a mysterious being. As the test seems to be related to the appearance of hideous beasts that need slaying, Leila obliges, eager to secure her nearby village of Maye and find her sister, Daisy. As Leila continues to battle these monsters, she learns there’s a lot more to their existence than first glance, and three different endings provide players with three possible conclusions to this horrifying tale.
The first thing that struck me about Vigil: The Longest Night were the graphics. They’re GORGEOUS, and screenshots don’t do them justice. Please be sure to watch the trailer at the end of this article to see the fluid animation and graceful animations because it will absolutely hypnotize you with its mesmerizing motion. The dev team implemented the art of Chinese paper cutting for their unique style, and, coupled with the creepy creature design and dark surrounds, the game is absolutely atmospheric, providing an unsettling, immersive experience.
When it comes to gameplay, I’ll be blunt — the keyboard control scheme for PC could be better. AD moves (side scrolled so no WS), J attacks, space jumps, F restores health, and shift dodges, amongst other things that felt clunky instead of completely smooth. Luckily, Vigil: The Longest Night features full controller support, which I would highly recommend. Trying to play on the keyboard was a tricky endeavor, and switching to the controller provided the smooth, seamless experience I was expecting.
When it comes to design, Vigil: The Longest Night excels time and time again. Leila’s outfits changed depending on what she wore with each piece of clothing looking simply badass. The towns were meticulously crafted to look as lively as they were dark and moody, filled with NPCs that had plenty of emotion in their facial expressions. And the enemies? I could go on all day about the fifteen diverse boss battles, where each one forces players to adopt wildly different strategies to attain victory. From towering beasts to quick-footed knights, to grotesque, putrid creatures to beings that force you to jump from fiery platform to fiery platform, Vigil: The Longest Night will feel familiar in the hands of Metroidvania fans who cherish the classics of yesteryear, eager to play something that pays homage to the giants of the genre.
One thing I really loved was the level up segment of Vigil: The Longest Night. After battling enough baddies, Leila will gain enough experience and level up, allowing players to put a skill point towards unlocking a new skill, be it in swords, axes, or general abilities like jumping higher, etc. This will come in handy during the NewGame+ mode, which starts players back at the beginning with everything they’ve learned along the way, allowing previously inaccessible areas to finally be explored. Coupled with the random savepoints and minimal amount of items and gold given throughout, Vigil: The Longest Night reminded me of how great games of the PS2 era felt. Although Vigil: The Longest Night has the body and soul of a classic 2D sidescrolling metroidvania from the SNES era, it has the mind of a PS2 exploration/adventure game akin to Onimusha. I was looking at a SNES love letter, but it felt a lot more like the PS2 games that defined my teenage years — a perfect marriage of two incredibly strong generations.
I’ve saved my surprise favorite for last — the music. Oh, that music! It’s such a shame that the baroque rock style has kind of died down, because those elements are so fantastic when applied to the interactive video game medium. I’m happy to report that Vigil: The Longest Night brings this back with a vengeance, legitimately forcing me to listen to my favorite Japanese visual kei bands after setting down the controller to continue the vibes. My favorite was probably the Mad Pale Raven battle music, that baroque / speed metal combo an absolute banger that does not quit set against one of the coolest level design in the game. *chef’s kiss*
Vigil: The Longest Night has something for everyone, but, again, hardcore retro fans are probably going to get the most out of this one. I say this because there are a lot of little things here and there that relative newcomers to the genre might strike as a negative but older fans will hardly scoff at. For one, localization issues are slight, but noticeable — you can tell this was not translated by a native English speaker. Additionally, the full story isn’t easily given, rather earned by searching every nook and cranny, even going back to previously cleared areas after unlocking new skills that enable better exploration. Items are also hard to access throughout the game, as they’re stored with one NPC instead of at save points scattered throughout, meaning planning your items carefully becomes part of the strategy. Again, hardcore fans of the genre may consider this par for the course, but these could certainly throw off some players not accustomed to such elements.
Recommending Vigil: The Longest Night is incredibly simple: if you’re a fan of Metroidvanias and you loved Salt and Sanctuary, you can’t afford to pass this one up. With a stunning art style and design that delivers all the right spooky notes and diverse boss battle tactics, Vigil: The Longest Night has my vote for one of the greatest hidden gems of 2020. Retro-gaming fans who adore Castlevania must add this title to their library as soon as possible for some familiar gameplay with a fresh feel. Pick up Vigil: The Longest Night today to “uncover the truth behind the eternal darkness, Leila’s mysterious sister, and the eldritch horrors that stalk her in a world that has forgotten daylight.”
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Switch, PC (reviewed); Publisher: Another Indie; Developer: Glass Heart Games; Players: 1; Release Date: October 14, 2020; MSRP: $21.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of Vigil: The Longest Night given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.