Nightenfell: Shared AR

Nightenfell: Shared AR – Game Review (iOS)

You know, every day I wake up in the morning, I turn on my iPad and look for great new augmented reality games. It doesn’t happen every day that I found an AR game that gets me excited. Today I came across a new AR game called Nightenfell: Shared AR and this game actually got me excited.

What is Nightenfell: Shared AR?

Nightenfell is a singleplayer and shared co-op multiplayer augmented reality game for iOS and Android, developed by Hookbang.

Nightenfell: Shared AR game screenshot
A beautiful AR game with impressive rich visuals and fun basic spellcasting gameplay

In this game, players need to get together to protect the world from an incoming storm of comets.  Up to 4 players can play the game in the same physical space. The goal of the game is to try to defend four mushrooms as long as possible. If a mushroom gets hit, you can tap and hold to replenish its health. A mushroom can die if it takes too much damage. If all mushrooms are gone, it’s game over.

The game works like a first-person shooter. You can cast spells using your magic wand directly at comets, which damage and destroy them.

Each player has a want with a different color.  The color is significant when you play with other people. During gameplay, you’ll encounter shielded comets in different colors. A shielded comet can only be taken down using a wand of the same color. When you play alone those shielded comets will only be in a single color, same as your wand. When you play with friends, each player needs to make sure he or she is targeting the shielded comets with the same color as their wand.

This is a very interesting mechanic that makes sure that each player has an important role in the battle, instead of just letting all players an option to shoot down everything all together.

At the center of the gameplay area, you’ll notice a few wizards. Those wizards can summon a Time Rift that freezes all comets for a few seconds. To summon a Time Rift, you need to aim your wand towards the rift, if it’s already charged, and tam and hold to summon a Time Rift. This time-freeze ability is useful when you encounter many comets or when a boss comet appears in the sky alongside other alien enemy anomalies.

Let’s take a look at some gameplay before we move on.

Gameplay Experience

You can certainly tell that the game was designed with a great deal of attention to all the fine details and a lot of creative thinking was involved to make sure the game not just look great but also feels great to play in augmented reality.

Shooting comets using a magic wand with bright particle effects
The beautiful bright particle effects make shooting comets a fund and satisfying shooting experience.

Nightenfell is basically a wave shooter with increased difficulty. You start with a few comets and reach a point where you need to deal with many threats at the same time. There is one anomaly that looks like an octopus when you shoot it, it blows up leaving a dark cloud behind it, render anything inside untouchable. There might be more types of enemies at higher levels, but I played the game alone, so I wasn’t able to get too far.

This means that players will need to prioritize what to shoot first, the large boss comet, the regular comets (can also split into smaller comets at higher levels), shielded ones, etc.  It becomes even more fun when playing with friends because each one can take a different angle, guard a different area and prioritize different enemies.

Playing alone was still fun. I was able to progress further and further each time I play. Still, one thing that definitely lacks in this game is a progression system. You can get Wizard Level 5, but this is just a score-based achievement and has doesn’t upgrade anything. This means that you eventually get to a point where you cannot progress further because the wave just become too difficult and you can do nothing about it.

It would be amazing (and in my opinion, essential) to have a progression system in this game. For example, having an option to increase the level of your wand, unlock new wands with different abilities, being able to cast different spells rather than just the default option.

This way, you can even enjoy the game better when playing alone, because you can unlock new things. When your friends come over, you can show off your new epic wand and the new spells you unlocked. However, if the developer goes that path, I think it would be better to have a pre-defined level system, so players won’t have to fight from the beginning until they get to a difficult wave—it can be very tiring.

If for example I am stuck at level 20 and need help. I can invite my friends to help me out. The game can be balanced to match the increasing number of players, so the fight will still be challenging and satisfying.

There is also no loot system here, which is very disappointing as well.

The game itself is really fun, and I’m sure it is much more fun when playing with friends. Unfortunately, like in many great augmented reality games that I’ve played previously, something had to be left out and that thing impairs the gameplay experience.

The game definitely feels like a soft launch and incomplete. I would have asked for an online matchmaking, but this is probably too much to ask, and first, the developer needs to add those important features that I’ve mentioned before anything else. I understand that some developer wants to try out to see if the game goes well and then decide if to add more features, but that’s where the problem lies. If those features weren’t that important, no problem, but not having a progression and rewarding loot system for a game like this will lead to fewer downloads, probably some negative reviews, and it will hurt retention. It might get to a point where the developer sees that things don’t go that well and he decided not to add new features.

Having said that, things can go the other way around. I did see AR games that lack some key features, but they were entertaining enough to convince players to continue playing. I can only speak for myself here. I personally won’t continue to play it for long without having those features. Now, if there is something great to look for when I get to a certain level, I want to know it ahead of time, but the game doesn’t tell me anything about it, so I assume that there isn’t anything waiting for me when I get to I don’t know which wave number, 100.

The game has a nice list of achievements and a global leaderboard (I’m currently ranked #1with 302,546 points!), although it’s nice to have those features, I think that the game will be so much better with a rewarding progression system. I was actually searching the menus to see if there is any way to unlock a new wand, but I couldn’t find anything.

Oh, a suggestion for the developer. I don’t get any damage feedback from shooting the boss comet. I first thought that I don’t deal any damage to it, and the splashing of light was a poor indicator. I want to feel that I am damaging it. Something that I think needs to be improved. Also, the accumulated score presentation at the end it very slow in my opinion, should be made faster.

Game Visuals

Nightenfell: Shared AR is a beautiful AR game. The game designer has done a fantastic job here. It kind of reminds me the game ghosthuntAR, graphics wise, with all the colorful and vibrant visual effects.

The game takes a good use of the gameplay space to create an engaging and fun gameplay experience, especially when played cooperatively. The game darkens the scene, making the comets appear brighter, even if you are playing in a bright place.

Before we move on, please take a look at those stunning screenshots from the game Nightenfell: Shared AR.

I enjoyed seeing the glowing comets slowly moving down in the 3D space towards the base where the mushrooms reside. The game relies heavily on colorful and glowing visual effect to produce an aesthetically pleasing visual experience, This, alongside well-chosen sound effects, helps create a satisfying shooting experience.

Shooting in this game felt more like spellcasting than shooting with a gun. You have the nice floaty animation of the wand with a beautifully animated projectile that is reflected in an arc towards the target, rather than being shot directly to it.

The volumetric lighting effect at the top alongside a great choice of colors and correct position of lighting, all helped to create a mesmerizing atmospheric scene. In some ways, it takes you out from the real world scene because of the dark filter, but the unique atmosphere is needed to make the visual effects pop and help deliver that unique atmospheric feeling.

The one thing that really annoyed me is actually the text font for the mid-screen game progress update. I mean, you have those gorgeous visuals and a text that doesn’t seem related to the theme of the game.

The game visuals remind me of the moment I entered the portal in Alice in Wonderland AR quest game. It was a really great experience, and for a moment I felt like I was back in that place again, it was a nice recollection of another great experience that I had in the past.

Augmented Reality Experience

The developer has created one of the best game introductory tutorials that I’ve seen in an augmented reality game. You can see that the developer paid a good deal of attention to many design guidelines.

The moment I launched the game I knew exactly what to do, how to scan the surface, how to play the game in easy and simple step-by-step instructions, the game has indicators showing the off-screen locations of comets, the game has a good pace that doesn’t require very fast rotations, etc. I did wish there was an option to play the game in landscape orientation as well, but it wasn’t a big issue. Usually, I prefer that orientation because it allows me to make landscape-oriented photos, which I personally prefer using in my blog, but other than that, I had no issues playing it in vertical orientation whatsoever (it’s good to have both options though).

The Comets have a trail of particles that give an indication of the direction which they are traveling in the 3D space. The rotation of the wizards in a circle and the design of the little garden, which is the game’s surface, also helped deliver a better sense of depth to the game. It was quite needed due to the inability to easily detect shadow movement in that dark scene.

A few words about the Multiplayer

I played the game alone, so I can’t give any comments about the multiplayer. That being said, I’m sure it’s going to be much more fun when playing it with friends.

For example, when I played alone and I needed to heal the mushroom, I couldn’t heal the mushroom and shoot the comets at the same time. When playing with a friend, one guy can heal the mushroom while the other players focus on comets. Therefore this game can become more interesting to play when playing with friends.

I also liked the local co-op multiplayer idea because the game does require communication, and it’s very easy to do when you have your friends right next to you.

The color idea is also great because it necessitates communication between players in order to make sure the shielded comets are taken care of by the person who can shoot them down, the one that has a matching color of the shield.

I can clearly tell that the game mechanics were well thought through, but as you read in this review, I have my own wishes that I want to be fulfilled in future updates.

Conclusion

Nightenfell: Shared AR is a very good augmented reality game. It has captivating visuals and fun and satisfying shooting mechanic.

The main problem is that the game doesn’t feel rewarding and other than just progressing through, I don’t know how many waves (with increased difficulty), the player has nothing to strive for, other than just having the best score.

Playing with friends on a shared space is a great feature that makes it stand out from the rest. This feature however actually demands that the game will have those very much needed progression and rewarding system.

The game can stay like that, but I think it’s just a missed opportunity, especially for a multiplayer Augmented Reality (AR) game. I mean, there is basically nothing wrong with having a score-based game with a global leaderboard, but once you play this particular game everything in you just wants this game to be more than what it is at the moment. I think when you play it you’ll understand, but you might like it the way it is.

I want to believe that this is just the initial release and the developer has plans to add those features, but even then, I don’t think that making the game like you have to start from the beginning is the right game design choice. The other thing is that this is a paid game, so for a paid game, I do expect it to be somewhat more fully featured.

Having said all that, I definitely recommend downloading this AR game and don’t forget to invite your friends to play with you as well. Joining a co-op game is easy by just passing a numerical passcode to the other players, if you are the host, or entering the lobby passcode if you are joining a host.

After playing quite a few mediocre AR games in the last couple of weeks, it’s nice seeing a more exciting title for a change.

Get this game and have fun. I will stay on alert for upcoming updates. Let’s hope that the best is yet to come. Cheers.

Download the game from the App Store here.

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