Never Ending Night has some big aspirations and it does things right that are honestly usually missed by other games and that’s what separates this game from the rest of them. Atmosphere and tone are done so well here and really helped pull me in, but when it came to the gameplay department I was yanked right back out. Don’t get me wrong, there’s good stuff here and I’d still recommend keeping it under consideration. I wanted to enjoy it more and I am looking forward to future updates and games from Dot Dream, but I would have a difficult time confidently recommending this release. There may be enough good that can be salvaged for some but there may be too many missing components for others to experience the remnants of good that could still be enjoyed.
Never Ending Night begins with a mysterious and compelling cutscene that immediately catches and holds your attention. I instantly wanted to know what was going on in this world and what my role was in it. I was reminded of Limbo. I was reminded of Journey. I was hooked. I just wish I’d stay hooked because I very truly wanted to love this world and dive into this experience head first and experience all that it had to offer. I know that I’m going to keep playing but this definitely isn’t something I will be able to binge over the course of a few days. I’ve had my fill of this meal for now and it’s unfortunately a bit more sour and mostly just seasoning.
The story and atmosphere of Never Ending Night is what seasons it so well. It’s just a shame that there’s a nice layer of seasoning but not a lot of meaty flavor underneath here. I want to sink my teeth into this world but there’s just not a big and hearty amount of quality gameplay here to give me my fill. This game can be fixed though and I know that it will continue to improve over time. I know Dot Dream will continue to develop and I’m hoping the next release from them has fewer issues. They definitely have potential and got the more difficult things right that are usually missed among other developers and games. The missed potential here is just such a shame. I’m hoping this is a universe that Dot Dream continues to add to and build off of in the future. I’m just hoping there are less issues with the game design and improvements to the gameplay.
Never Ending Night is a beautiful, dark, and mysterious world. You will explore and learn more about it as you travel with your sidekick, who is more or less the Navi of this game. The dialogue is snarky, charming, sweet and even self-aware at times. It’s in these moments that the soul of the developer really shines through the darkness of all that is wrong with Never Ending Night. The characters are compelling and the world is filled with imagination and wonder. Your ability is even mysterious. You pulsate a light and can manipulate objects and enemies. I enjoy the mechanic and find it interesting. I just wish that it didn’t control so sluggishly. The physics feel off too and it makes it hard to enjoy what is happening around you. The world doesn’t behave and respond in the ways that you’re led to believe it will. It’s incredibly distracting and just detracts too much from the experience. I almost wish this were a movie, like the movie 9 because if I could watch this world behave the way it’s supposed to then I would be entertained so much more.
There are moments where things line up and work the way that they should and it’s here that you can see the vision the developer had. I just wish that there had been more developmental time because when these moments happen I can envision a more polished and stable version of this releasing on Xbox Live Summer of Arcade a few years ago and just sitting down on summer vacation and having a blast with it. I think the developer knew there were some issues with Never Ending Night though and decided to try to fix the issues it had with the addition of the free update, ‘Knight’s Saga.’ This is more enjoyable, but what I love so much about the main game is sort of lost here. My favorite part about the main portion of the game is the mysteriousness that drove me forward. The compelling and unraveling narrative that pushed me to try to grin and bear through the many gameplay issues is largely gone. Knight’s Saga still has some interesting aspects but feels almost out of place and has many of the same issues that plague the main game.
There were so many times where I just got stuck and had no idea where to go. I hate when this happens in games but I get even more frustrated when it’s apparent that I’m not at fault. Good game design needs to make sense and too often in Never Ending Night and the Knight’s Saga update it just wasn’t intuitive. Furthermore, it’s almost a back and forth between the game design not making sense or it making sense but the player being hindered by physics issues or getting stuck on a wall while trying to jump. There’s just so much holding this game back from the glory it seeks to achieve – and it’s heart breaking.
Never Ending Night hits so many of the right notes. The music is moving, sweeping, but also features an elegantly minimal design that compliments the look and feel of the graphics. Emphasis is done so well here. From a minimally, yet beautifully, designed background to a delightfully designed row of notes that matches the movement of the player and the story, Never Ending Night gets atmosphere. Maneuvering around the world can feel sluggish at times with a controller but it doesn’t always fare too much better with a keyboard and mouse. It just feels a bit delayed at times or doesn’t line up with what the player envisions and expects within their mind. The world sets expectations that the actual gameplay just doesn’t line up with.
There’s some good here. There truly is. I can honestly say that while this game is hard to recommend, if you’re looking for a world that wants to be explored and have some patience and spare time, you may enjoy this game. Just know that there are plenty of issues and, unless the developer intends to keep supporting this game, the love this game wants to receive so badly may not ever get sent. I am going to keep working through this world because I believe in it. I just can’t objectively expect you to do the same. I look forward to future releases from Dot Dream though and am hoping that there are more updates to come for Never Ending Night, to help remove the smudges from the beautiful painting that I know lies underneath.
A PC Review Code for Never Ending Night was provided by Dot Dream for the purpose of this review
To follow Josh’s bittersweet journey through Never Ending Night and see what he thinks of lots of other games, make sure to follow him at @mrjoshnichols to see all his frequent gaming updates. As always, make sure to follow us at @bagogames to see many more reviews like this, and more!