I got sent a press release for Noctuary, and the key art and artwork itself captivated me. I instantly responded, wanting to get a chance to review this game. Luckily, I got the response I was looking for, was handled a copy to which I played the heck out, and can now provide my thoughts about the game itself.
Game Name: Noctuary
Release Date: November 28th, 2023
Noctuary is a hybrid between an isometric action combat game and a visual novel. You are in the role of Illuminators, Fancia Dream, and Alina Nightsong. On an early training mission, you come in contact with an illuminator without memories of her life. Your goal from then on is to take this mysterious illuminator to various locations to see if she can get her memories back. The gameplay loop is doing side quests that are usually more visual novel sections with story sections mixing the visual novel story with the action combat.
The best thing about Noctuary is the art. Each character design and background oozes so much love and passion into the world in which this game is set. The first thing that grabbed me about this game was the characters’ design and the personality shown in their images and cinematic renders. There is also a lot of variety in colors and shades with each design that makes characters unique in appearance. It is a masterclass of design and aesthetics.
Noctuary was created with much love and passion; you can tell from the writing. Not only is there a lot of lore, character-building, world-building, and story in this game, but it’s written extremely well in terms of grammar and readability. Smaller-budget games and even bigger ones will have issues with grammar and punctuation all over the place. Noctuary looks like it had a lot of time spent making sure everything was picked over and would give an English teacher goosebumps. I also really love having the reference guide during dialogue. When you get a new word, you can bring up the reference guide, and it will have a few pages of information that will expand on the story and the world you are in.
These characters have a unique playstyle and multiple weapons they can use. For example, the character Fancia Dream is a ranged DPS character that can use an arsenal of weapons like a bow or a magic staff. You can choose to do a lot of damage at once or a little bit through a constant stream. It helps with being able to dodge at the right time as well. There are a lot of effects that show on the ground you are at and allow you to adjust your strategy pretty quickly on the fly. Alina is a close-range character who also has a diverse arsenal, from spears to giant swords. I preferred to spend most of my time in close range and being able to change characters on the fly, which let me experiment with each of them regularly.
In most visual novel-type games, the gameplay is a hard balance to find, sadly Noctuary fits in that medium as well. It tries to be an isometric action RPG as well as a visual novel, but I found that the balance is not there. The entire first half had small sections of combat, with most of the side content just being visual novel storytelling. The second half had a better combat balance than the visual novel, but it felt like there were too many difficulty spikes in the combat it has.
The character AI for party characters or enemies in general is pretty bad, which is disappointing. While you are doing your best to attack the enemies that are engaging you, and pretty much mainly you, even though you have a party member on screen, your ally will do nothing worthwhile. Despite there being a close-range fighter and a far-distance fighter character, and regardless of who you choose to play as the party character, they will stay in the same place and not do much of anything. Sure, they’ll dish out some normal attacks, and even some special skills, but they won’t hit a lot of the time. They are good at dodging attacks and not getting hurt, which helps when you want to switch out to the other character, but it makes you feel like you are doing most of the work.
Noctuary is a very pretty game with a very interesting world with some dynamic characters oozing with personality. The artwork and music are well worth the cost of the game. That said, the combat and some programming mechanics can sometimes be frustrating. The balance for the first half of the game is mostly the visual novel as a setup for the rest of the game, so if you are here for the combat and how fun it is to play, you will have a bad first impression of this game. If you are here for the story, the characters, the art, and the music, though, it is well worth a recommendation!
Noctuary is available on PC.
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Noctuary is a beautiful visual novel filled with fantastic art, amazing writing, great music and well done Chinese voice acting. The combat is not nearly as thoughtful.
- Beautiful art
- Dynamic and unique characters
- Well written
- Character programming for combat is not done well
- Poor balance of Visual Novel to Combat