Vigil: The Longest Night

Vigil: The Longest Night

Vigil: The Longest Night wears its inspiration sources on its sleeve. Developers will straight up tell you that the game was made as a deliberate homage to Salt & Sanctuary and the Castlevania series. This, of course, brings in “inspiration by proxy” into the mix with Salt & Sanctuary being a love letter to the Dark Souls series. It might be a fun exercise to dissect the game like this. Visual motif, story progression pace and tone, from Bloodborne. Tempo and choreography of the combat, from Dark Souls. Character design inspiration, from Salt & Sanctuary. And that upbeat background music piece that is played in the graveyard location sounds like an outtake from Symphony of the Night.

But as entertaining as this dissection would be, I'd like to instead admire the fact, that Vigil is bigger than a sum of its parts. A small Taiwanese indie developer managed to pull off a great feat. The game is not just a wink to the fans of the inspiration sources, no: it deserves its place among and maybe someday it'll be regarded as such.

It all starts inconspicuous and restrained without a hint of future depth. The Protagonist is not customizable, you're just simply dropped off at the start of the game. You play as Leila, a recent graduate of a mysterious order called The Vigil, who is returning to her hometown after being away training to become the member of the order. You are on the outskirts of a settlement in the woods. Just a few steps away are some undead enemies hungry for your blood.

First boss

Two types of attack, danger evading dodge-rolls, stamina bar, enemies respawning after their death — similarities are unmistakable. But if you don't know them, these basics are easy to grasp. Overall difficulty is smoothed out by some quality-of-life improvements. You can teleport between local save points. Manual save is possible too with special items that are available in abundance. Active quests are tracked in a special UI. That doesn't mean that they point you to a specific place on a world map with a marker or any such help. The hints can be pretty obtuse, but some memory aid, at least, is a welcome thing for sure.

There's also a world map that fills automatically as you progress through the world. Not having it would be one step too far, considering that some traversal back and forth and revisiting old areas is critical, and you can't rely on landmarks being visible from afar. It won't lay all the secrets bare in front of you. It will be very stingy with revealing new portions of the world. Parts of it will seem like it is trying to play a trick on you. It doesn't help that there are separate underground and surface maps, and both are huge. It is vague supplement to your memories of traversing the game's world.

It's not foolproof and that's by design: Vigil holds some of its secrets close to the chest. There's no shortage of things you might miss: bosses, quest lines, whole areas are completely optional. The journey is, of course, non-linear and the game's world will change in response to your actions. Piecing together what is really happening is a task in and of itself. The game's characters will mention centuries old historic events and phenomena that are a complete mystery to you. Picking up on subtle clues about the world and cross-referencing them between conversations with different characters makes for quite a challenging detective mini-game. The main story is a lot easier to decipher. That is not to say it is straightforward. The story would involve time travel, NPCs deliberately lying to you and a fair share of symbolism. At the end of the day, if you just press on you'll get to the end of it.

Trapped by the skeletons

The journey towards the end is not a cakewalk, but it is not riddled with insurmountable obstacles either and there's fun to be had along the way. Paradoxically the journey feels bigger than it actually is. When you zoom out all the way it looks like the map is enormous, but in practice it'll be a fairly compact experience. The path you'll make through the world is largely shaped by story bits and by unlocking traversal abilities. Those are the fairly standard double jump, slide and dash (plus an optional air dash). You unlock them as rewards for beating certain bosses and not all of them are mandatory, true to the spirit of a genre focused on exploration and uncovering secrets.

And there's a lot to unravel if you're willing to go through with it, multiple endings included. A true gem. It wouldn't be a stretch for Vigil to be put on the same shelf as all the games that inspired it.