Nightingale is a gaslamp fantasy set in an alternate history of the Victorian era. It's inspired by Susanna Clarke's book Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell along with numerous fairy and folk tales.
The story begins when the Fae make contact with humanity, bequeathing their magic to a privileged few and then vanishing for hundreds of years. Humanity uses Fae magic for science, industry, and to build a network of portals into the Fae realms. As the game opens in the late 1800s, the Fae have returned and the portal network has collapsed, stranding human travelers in the Faewilds. Their only hope is to find a way back to Nightingale, the origin of the portal network and the last known human city.
Inflexion Games' leadership are veterans of BioWare, who created the popular Mass Effect and Dragon Age series. Those games are best known for their rich narrative, branching choices, and memorable characters. One of Nightingale's goals is to explore what rich storytelling looks like in a survival game. Rather than storytelling through conversations and cutscenes, as in an RPG, the goal is to use world-building, environmental storytelling, and lore to create a narratively rich setting for player adventures. Inflexion wants players to feel like citizens of a place full of choices to make and story to uncover.
Offering players meaningful choices so they can take a leading part in their own stories is a major design goal. For example, the reveal trailer shows a giant which players can either slay or befriend. The purpose of the Realm Card system is to give players control over what kind of world they travel to next, allowing them to further shape their own gameplay and storytelling. The game will also have NPCs (including historical figures like Marie Curie) who provide quests and who can be recruited to live and work on a player's estate.
All magick in Nightingale comes from Faerie. After studying humanity for millenia, the Fae bequeathed magick to a privileged few and then vanished for centuries. Magick is used for science and industry, but its most important application is the opening of Portals to the Fae Realms.
Simply put, a 'Portal' is a gateway between worlds. Natural and Fae Portals have existed since time immemorial. However, humanity's access to Portals is more recent and less reliable.
The ancient Fae-worshippers were the first humans to attempt Realm travel. In England, the 'Druids' learned at the feet of the Fae to conjure their own short-lived gateways. In the 1560s, Dr John Dee refined these Druidic rituals to keep Portals open indefinitely--the first Transept Arches.
Modern humanity used Calcularian difference engines to access the Realms. But the Fae magick underlying it remained the same. That is, until the Pale came and the Portal Network collapsed...
Access to magick is uncommon, but over the course of the game players will learn to wield magick and use it to enchant their equipment. Since portals are powered by magick, presumably the Realm Cards that control the portals are magickal in some way. Further details are yet to come.
The most powerful wielders of magick are the Fae themselves, but they come with their own mysteries and do not invite questioning by mortals.
- Ex-BioWare boss Aaryn Flynn sings all about Nightingale (Eurogamer)
- Inside Nightingale: How ex-Mass Effect devs hope to conquer the survival genre with better world-building (GamesRadar)
- How Nightingale Will Draw From the Lessons Of Mass Effect And Dragon Age In Crafting Its Magical World (IGN)
- Realm Cards: Endless Adventures Across the Fae Realms (Nightingale Blog)
- Nightingale Closed Beta Targeting This Summer; Devs Reveal New Details and Images (Wccftech)
- Realmwalker Compendium: Portals & Humanity