Review – Vigil: The Longest Night

"When the night falls, demise of man"

Overview

Developer Glass Heart Games
Publisher Neon Doctrine
Genre Action RPG, Indie
Platforms PC, Switch (Reviewed)
Release Date 10/14/2020

Vigil: The Longest Night is the debut game from the studio Glass Heart Games. Taking inspiration from Castlevania and Salt and Sanctuary, Vigil combines gothic horror and brutal combat, blending them into a 2D side-scroller. There is quite a bit of ground to cover, so let’s get to it.

Content Guide

Sexual Content: It’s possible to remove all of Leila’s armor, leaving her in just her underwear. One armor set that you can find is called “bondage armor.”

Language: There is some strong yet brief language. Players will encounter a**, d**n, d**k, and at least one instance of f***. This is an enormous game, so there may be more that I missed.

Violence: The game world is saturated with violent imagery. Eldritch abominations are everywhere, usually with some part of their body rotting. There is blood and occasional gore when fighting enemies, but the majority of the violence is in the background. Some areas later in the game are incredibly grisly. You find piles of corpses and bones, there are people hanging upside-down from the ceiling in chains and positioned in such a way as to resemble having been crucified, to name a few. Almost all of the bosses are also gruesome to behold.

Someone get some eye drops for that poor pillar!

Spiritual Content: The story revolves around a phenomenon called “the longest night” taking place in the story. Most characters worship a sun goddess, and the Vigilant Order works to re-awaken her to bring the sun back to the world and end the longest night. Almost all of the major plot points include a great deal of spiritual elements. One mission early on involves fighting a beast at the gates of death. There is also a tongue-in-cheek encounter in a temple where a character tries to convert you to the religion of Beardism. His farewell is, “May the Beard be with you.”

Alcohol/Drugs: You visit a tavern on occasion, and some of the patrons are drunk.

This game is rated T for Teen on Switch.

Eating while playing not recommended

Review

In Vigil: The Longest Night, you play as a woman named Leila. She is a member of the Vigilant Order, a group dedicated to protecting people from monsters and bringing an end to the phenomenon called “The Longest Night.” To accomplish this, the Vigilants seek to resurrect a goddess they refer to as The Shimmer, a light-giving deity whose death left the world in a state of neverending nighttime. The faithful hope that, by restoring their goddess, the morning will finally arrive.

The game starts out with a couple of tutorial menus to introduce you to the controls. Then it throws a couple of weak monsters at you so you can get a feel for the combat. After about ten minutes, the training wheels are ripped away as you encounter your first boss. I realized at that moment that I had severely underestimated the difficulty. It took me five tries to get a handle on it and take it down.

Time to git gud

The story really begins after you kill the ugly beast. I’m not totally clear on everything going on in the plot, as you have to rely heavily on intuition and context clues. Unfortunately, there is no codex feature to explain the narrative, and at the time of this writing, the game’s wiki provides no further information, either.

From what I gathered, the narrative seems to get its inspiration from the Shinto story of the sun goddess Amaterasu hiding herself in a cave and plunging the world into darkness. Just like in that story, evil monsters run rampant in Vigil’s world, and Leila is tasked with killing those monsters—like a Witcher, but unpaid—as well as bringing the goddess back (which mirrors the goal of the other gods in the Shinto story). Vigil’s story isn’t a retelling of the Shinto tale, but it certainly bears a lot of similarities.

Defeating bosses is easy: just hold the sword, and strike!

The soundtrack is phenomenal. Every song encapsulates the atmosphere, and in many cases, perfects it. Vigil’s world is dark—literally, metaphorically, and spiritually—and depressing. The melancholy music drives the point home. It’s even pleasant to listen to outside of the game. Mad Pale Raven is my favorite track, even though I almost rage quit at its corresponding gameplay section. The symphonic metal provides excellent motivation to take on a difficult boss.

There is one more reason I love the soundtrack: it’s how I learned about the game. The composer, Jouni Valjakka, is also the vocalist and guitarist of the Samurai-themed progressive death metal band Whispered, one of my favorite bands. Since I learned that he wrote the soundtrack, I’ve been eager to play Vigil. The icing for me is an in-game weapon that is a named after a Whispered song. Incidentally, that song’s lyrics sum up the game’s story, as well as the parallel Shinto story.

Masterful reference

The gameplay places the game firmly in the Souls-like category. There isn’t really a pause screen, just a menu that comes up while the rest of the game continues. You can recover health at owl statues, the game’s save points. However, doing so—regardless of whether you actually save the game at that point—causes all of the area’s monsters to respawn.

There are a lot of other nuances to the gameplay that keep things fresh. As you level up, you gain a point to use in one of five skill trees. Four are for the different weapons you can use: swords, heavy axes, daggers, and bows. You unlock new attacks as you progress through the tree. The fifth path is for general stats, such as increased health or stamina.

In combat, you need to keep an eye on your stamina gauge. If it’s depleted, you are given the exhausted status effect. While in that state, you move slowly and can’t attack or dodge until the stamina gauge is replenished. Thankfully, the bar only takes a couple of seconds to refill, so it’s relatively easy to avoid exhaustion if you play it smart.

Whoa, Evangelion flashback

There are a plethora of outfits to obtain and wear. Each piece of clothing has its own stat effects, either positive or negative. Oftentimes you can get hats from killing monsters, which adds a macabre aesthetic.

I enjoyed some of the game’s other miscellaneous features, such as the often-humorous item descriptions on the loading screens. I also appreciate being able to teleport between any previously visited save points, and the double jump you gain partway through the game significantly improves the experience. On top of all that, you can even remap the buttons, at least on the Switch; I’ve seen complaints that the Steam version doesn’t allow that, but I have not had a chance to verify it myself.

This isn’t even the full map

The game is massive. There is no shortage of side quests to do, and some of them take you all over the game’s world. Indeed, there were some quests that I didn’t finish, as I didn’t see anywhere else I could go. As it turns out, there are several more areas that I just hadn’t seen routes to on the huge map. Also in those areas are bosses and abilities that I knew nothing about until stumbling upon them in the wiki.

While Vigil does many things well, it is certainly not perfect. There were a few lines of dialogue that didn’t make much sense due to poor translation. Some of the abilities later in the game are also a little clunky, and I can’t count how many times I died—or nearly so—because of accidentally launching myself forward. One more flaw is that you can be locked out of some of the side quests without warning. Once you hit a certain point in the story, it’s too late to go back and finish them.

I noted at the end of the content guide that this game is listed as being rated T for Teen on the Switch. I found conflicting information when searching for the rating, as neither the ESRB website nor Steam list one, and the trailers on Steam indicate the game is rated M for Mature. Given the level of violence—especially what is depicted in the background—and the (admittedly brief) use of strong language, I can’t help but think it was inappropriately rated for the Switch, and is more aptly rated in the Steam trailers.

What am I even looking at?

Conclusion

Vigil: The Longest Night is an outstanding game, especially for a debut. The few flaws I could find are miniscule in comparison to where the game excels. Fans of challenging adventure-platformers would do well to give this one a chance.

The blood moon rises once again

The Bottom Line

 

Vigil: The Longest Night is an outstanding indie title for fans of challenging action platformers steeped in gothic horror.

 

9.0

David Koury

Writer and gamer residing in the wasteland that is Nevada.

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