Nightmarchers hands-on preview: In the apocalypse, there is self-cooking bacon

Scientists screwed up Hawaii, your son is killed by raiders, and now it’s time to put it right. Destroy evil, restore Oahu, and make the islands safe again for Hawaiians, tourists, surf shops, and ABC stores.


Note: Nightmarchers launches today on FIG

Nightmarchers kicks off today (January 17th) on the community distribution and crowd-funding platform FIG, offering both equity and rewards opportunities, with an overall goal of $100K. (You can back Nightmarchers on FIG here.)


The events of Nightmarchers take place 50 years after a cataclysmic event plunged Hawaii into its current apocalypse. Hawaii is completely isolated from the rest of the world, the fate of which is unknown.

You play as a survivor named Kai, whose son is killed in an attack by raiders. Driven by vengeance, Kai is mysteriously chosen by the old gods of Hawaii to reclaim Oahu from the evil plaguing it—the villainous Pig God Kamapua’a. (An undeniably evil god who admittedly might be justifiably a little bent after watching countless generations of people eat his yummy subjects in Luaus.) 

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Sneaking up on some raiders in the early game using my Uhane Vision.

Dammit science. You ruined Hawaii.

How did all this happen? Science! Fifty years prior to the events in the game, scientists on Oahu somehow damaged the barrier between our world and the spirit world. (My guess is they were pursuing dangerous, advanced technology—like Vortex Pineapples, Spam Grenades, resurrecting Elvis, or maybe a beam weapon to turn cane spiders into cats—who knows?)

Whatever happened, it f*cked up everyone’s favorite vacation spot real good.

Quicker than you can say Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the Hawaiian islands plunged into darkness and the once lush, beautiful jungles… are still pretty lush and beautiful in the game, but populated by filthy survivors in run-down, shanty towns. And all of them are at the mercy of Kamapua’a and his zealous raiders.

Nightmarchers march at night. And wreck you.

Nightmarchers, according to Hawaiian mythology, are ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors. And despite their rather non-threatening name they are not to be trifled with, dragging people away to the ocean if they so much as look at a Nightmarcher.

In Nightmarchers (the game) they have been corrupted from their already not-terribly-cheery purpose to serve the severely-less-friendly (and utterly vile) Kamapua’a.

Even if you’re in stealth mode when a Nightmarcher is near, doesn’t give it even a little side-eye. Early in the Nightmarchers alpha, I failed to hide well enough during my first Nightmarcher encounter. Drums thundered while the Nightmarcher pursued me, making a constant whoosh noise as it teleported after me.

I ran like a lunatic to escape. I got lost in the panic and eventually jumped off a cliff into the ocean, slowly swimming back to the shore far from my original location.

I thought I had lost the Nightmarcher, but brief reprieve was followed shortly by a whoosh, a whack, and my death.

Nightmarcher01
A Nightmarcher. Even hidden, if you look at them too long they will see you and attack. (Credit: Wyrmbyte Studios)

New world, familiar mechanics

The setting for Nightmarchers is an interesting mix of post-apocalypse and Hawaiian mythology. Survivors still rely on modern weapons, knowledge, and technology, but Hawaiian gods, mysticism, and magic all live.

And as the chosen one of the Hawaiian gods, you are initially equipped with a humble set of mystical powers that includes Uhane Vision, a ‘spirit’ bow, and a mystical knife.

Uhane vision is a special vision mode similar to those used in games such as the Batman: Arkham games, although it paints the world in vibrant, psychedelic colors. The spirit bow can be used for ranged attacks and to mark and track enemies when you’re scouting. The magic knife is basically your stealth kill weapon.

You can also gain powers from Hawaiian gods by rebuilding their Tikis to honor them. You can, for example, gain the ability to turn into a bird and fly (an essential movement power) or turn into a shark for underwater travel. (No, you can’t eat people as a shark—not yet anyway. But Wyrmbyte indicated they are considering implementing this due to popular demand among the game’s supporters.)

Modern guns meet old-school mysticism

In addition to many other magical powers you can acquire (one of which includes summoning your own Nightmarcher), you can also pack an AK-47, Molotov cocktails, and wield a large variety of moddable, modern weapons.

You can also customize every weapon with both real-world items (scopes, extra ammo clips, etc.) and magical parts. Want an AK47 that spits magical lightning bolts or spews fire? You can make one if you have the right parts.

Like some of the games that inspired it, Nightmarchers also has a crafting system for creating consumables like health packs, ammo, and other items.

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Free the people!

Like Just Cause, the main goal in Nightmarchers is to free the surviving villages and towns of Kamapua’s grasp.

Capturing an outpost is generally just a matter of killing all the bad guys in it, which can be found in sniper nests, wandering around as guards, and sometimes (per the video game bad guy playbook) standing conveniently next to exploding barrels.

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There are also many side quests and events to pursue, and you’ll definitely want to restore Tikis for the Hawaiian gods to gain new powers. Broadly speaking, you can probably expect roughly 20-30 hours of play to complete the story for a single faction.

Enjoy a virtual apocalyptic vacation

Kokohead_crater

When you’re running through the jungles of Oahu in Nightmarchers, you’re basically running through the real Oahu. Wyrmbyte accurately recreated  Oahu (about 500 square miles) based on maps and satellite imagery, populated it with around 50 villages and other locations, and then painted it all with a lush coat of apocalypse with accents of Mad Max.

“In recreating Oahu, we basically made the world larger than the original Skyrim,”
—Scott Brown, President of Wyrmbyte Studios.

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Self-cooking-bacon is not actually your friend

You can approach base-raiding in whatever manner suits your playstyle and equipment, using a mix of machine guns, magic, and mayhem, or perhaps stealth, sorcery, and sniping—or any combinations thereof.

During my virtual vacation in the jungles of Oahu I stumbled upon a massive base— probably one I should have left alone given the early stage of the game I was in—and there were flaming magic boars guarding the gates, in addition to all the usual riff-raff of wandering raiders and snipers.

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Stalking my prey…

I would normally prefer to befriend self-cooking bacon, which seems like a real boon in an apocalyptic world.  But my Uhane Vision identified the flaming bacon brothers as enemies, so I gunned them down safely from 100 meters away with an AK-47.

Unfortunately, my victory was short lived. Although I was able to pick off a few raiders and blow up a few barrels, eventually I was overwhelmed and whacked with machetes, shot, and burned up by multiple raiders.

Thankfully I died close to the dead self-cooking boars. If you’re going to die and respawn, you may as well do it to the smell of bacon on a sunny tropical island.

Rebuilding Oahu

After you liberate an outpost, you can choose to rebuild it to serve one of 4 factions: TRI (The Research Institute, i.e. scientists),  Oahuans (natives/survivors), Ali’i (Hawaiian Royalty), and Lava Dogs (Military personnel).

Factions_screen

The factions in a sense serve as the “classes” of the game with regards to building your skills. Each faction corresponds to a skill tree, and aiding factions unlocks additional abilities in its respective tree.

But if you want to reach the highest level abilities available for a specific faction and see the faction’s ‘end story’, you have to generally stick with that faction and free/rebuild captured outposts to serve them.

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Uhane Vision lets you see and mark enemies so you can track them.

Each faction has their own agenda and story. TRI represents the scientists who screwed things up in the first place but may be working to fix things. The Ali’i are basically descended from native Hawaiians and survivors. The Lava Dogs are descended from marines and ex-military personnel stranded after the cataclysm. The Akuna represent ‘old world’ Hawaiian royalty.

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Using Uhane Vision to mark and track enemies while planning an attack on an outpost.

Impressions

The setting for Nightmarchers (Hawaiian myth and fantasy in the apocalypse) is unique, and the game definitely has potential if it can maintain a high level of quality. It will inevitably be compared to the many AAA open-world games that inspired it, all of which were built by AAA studios with AAA budgets. THAT is a scary list to be compared to, and it contains games like Just Cause, Skyrim, The Witcher 3, Dying Light, Fallout, and many others.

It’s daunting, to say the least. But honestly, I enjoyed the bits of the game I’ve played and recognized its potential, even in this early, raw and unrefined state.

And there is a lot of development work for Wyrmbyte, who hopes to launch Nightmarchers for PC in mid-2018.

(And if you’re interested you can help them reach that goal. See below.)

Nightmarchers launches on FIG

Nightmarchers kicked off today (January 17th) on the community distribution and crowd-funding platform FIG, offering both equity and rewards opportunities, with an overall goal of $100K. (You can back Nightmarchers on FIG here.)

Backers can support by investing in Fig Game Shares that pay a return based on the game’s future sales. Stretch goals add additional features, quest lines, powers, and more.
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