Nightingale is a stylish, shared-world survival crafting RPG built by a team of ex-BioWare developers, and its fantastical setting is home to many interesting, beautiful, and horrific beasts. One such class is the Apex Creature, a collection of fierce foes that serves as a boss of sorts for their particular biomes. We got a look at the Sun Giant in a Gamescom trailer back in August, but during our recent visit to Inflexion Games, we experienced battles with two more: the dragon-like Humbaba and the giant tree-like Eoten.
You can watch a full battle with a Humbaba in the video above, but we also had the opportunity to speak about these impressive creatures’ designs with Neil Thompson, Nightingale’s art director and head of audio; and Steve Klit, Nightingale’s concept art director.
The Apexes are meant to be the iconic creatures of each biome, so the designers wanted them to represent the environment well. Because of their importance, their designs went through much more iteration than your average ambient creature – they wanted them to be unique-looking.
Thompson said they always knew they were going to implement some sort of “Apex Creature” combat, and Humbaba was the very first one. A very early piece of concept art displays Realm Walkers pulling Humbaba, then known as Ishmael, through a portal. The idea behind it was to create a beast reminiscent of the white whale that you, as a Realm Walker, would have to hunt and take down–an homage to Moby-Dick. It’s one of many homages to our very real history and lore present in Nightingale.
The Humbaba resembles a huge, lumbering land dragon more than whale, but doesn’t quite fit the bill as a generic dragon or dinosaur either. Thompson explained that the team explicitly didn’t want creatures that would look sci-fi-esque, so they wanted to avoid a more classic dinosaur look. Because Nightingale is uniquely a gaslamp fantasy rather than medieval fantasy, its creatures are a little more out-of-the-ordinary from what you would generally expect, too.
Coming up to the Humbaba from a distance or from behind, it’s difficult to get a good look at its face–but its human-like expressions sure did surprise me when we finally got up close. Speaking about the concept art, Klit said, “The face on that creature had a real kind of humanity to it that we retained in the final version that I think was really cool. You could kind of feel the personality when you’re looking into the face.”
In general, they wanted to avoid making the big Apex Creatures dumb – it’d just be too easy to make things aggressive for the sake of being aggressive. Though the Humbaba can’t be bartered with like the Apex Sun Giant and Eoten, it won’t attack you on sight just because.
“It was important that even something like Ishmael [Humbaba], which is a huge, big dragon beast, there’s something in the face that looks like there’s something behind those eyes rather than just murderous intent,” Thompson explained. Klit continued: “It’s like it’s thinking. It’s feeling, it’s sussing it out. It’s kind of like Smaug, how that was represented in Lord of the Rings and the Cumberbatch performance behind that. It felt like a character, not just a piece of wildlife.”
When threatened, the Humbaba will attack with large, slow movements and poisonous breath; and call upon a legion of disturbing Harpies to assist. The fight can be a formidable and arduous one, and from what I saw, even a group of the most prepared players can be taken down by this boss.
New Nightingale Screenshots – January 2024
The Humbaba can be seen from quite a distance, but the apex Eoten can look just like one, large, scary-looking tree before it’s disturbed. Unlike the Humbaba, the Apex Eoten has smaller counterparts, but its size, complexity, and imposing nature set it apart.
As for its inspiration, Thompson explained that everyone likes the Ents and Treebeard from Lord of the Rings, so the team wanted to create their own version of a tree creature. Unlike the Ents and Treebeard who have very distinct faces and even arms and legs, however, Nightingale’s Eotens are more natural and could very easily blend in with regular trees. Still, Eoten do have sort of facial shapes hidden within their knots and bark. In combat, the Eoten employs long range attacks with its roots, proving to be a daunting opponent to fight.
These Apex Creatures can be found in their specific biomes – Humbaba in the swamp; Eoten in the forest – when using the Hunt major card when opening a portal. They can also be found in the multiplayer “Vaults,” dungeon-like challenges meant for the endgame. The materials harvested from these creatures prove to be incredibly valuable for the average Realm Walker, so hunting them is well worth it.
In the future, Nightingale developers hope to include a Bestiary in the journal, where players can learn more about these fantastic beasts and where to find them. As far as anything else players should know about Nightingale’s Apex Creatures: You shouldn’t always kill one. Flint concluded: “They’re not meant to just be chopped up. Give ‘em a chance.”
This is just one of a short series of Nightingale exclusives this week. Look out for more soon!
Casey DeFreitas is the deputy editor of guides at IGN. Catch her on Twitter @ShinyCaseyD.