Hunt the Night review

A certain red-headed witch in a certain seven season HBO series once said, “The night is dark and full of terrors.” It rings true for Hunt the Night, where darkness falling heralds the uprising of unholy creatures affected by the corruption of the night, damning humanity again and again.

In the 9th Age of Man, Darkness is falling and Vesper, a virtuous member of a group called “The Stalkers”, is tasked with protecting Medhram and dispatching horrors with her weapons and abilities. Living beneath the shadow of her father’s sin, she hides a secret weapon, Umbra, a powerful demon that possesses her body and connects Vesper to a dark power.

You could argue that Hunt the Night is somewhat a top-down pixel-art “baby Bloodborne” – the environments and monster styles, themes, and challenging combat support this. Even the story (damned civilisations, a repetitive and cyclical nature of events, a singular hero capable of breaking the wheel) is fed through character dialogue and item descriptions – all Souls-likes tropes we have since come to know and love.

Vesper undertakes “Hunts” where she explores perilous trap filled dungeons and castles to end the reign of the dark creatures that lurk within. Powerful rewards boost her stats and abilities, making her a force to be reckoned with which will come in handy. Vesper must use her powers and Umbra’s to defeat the deepening twilight.

Like any good action adventure worth its salt, Hunt the Night offers challenging tactical combat, requiring nimble reflexes and some careful consideration if you don’t want to wind up as monster meat like the squads preceding you. Swapping Moonstones around can add helpful buffs, while dark magics boost your damage dealing options. You can also upgrade and experiment with your weapons to create your own balance of damage and health preservation.

As Vesper progresses through Medhran she is faced with miasmic terrains that are atmospheric enough without the whispered weeping and quiet sobs in the soundtrack and creepy sound effects. The music plays a big part in creating atmosphere and tension, and does so well, considering the collaboration with Secret of Mana composer Hiroki Kikura.

The boss battles that you know are coming at the end of each area are intense and often involve multiple stages. The careful sound design adapts to the battle, a helpful aid to those who notice as it can indicate a decent window to do big damage. I often forgot most tools and weapons at my disposal as I fought for my life and died frequently. They’re not so ridiculously difficult that you’ll be stuck on them for too long, as a little patience, move-set learning, and equipment management will eventually clear the way. The battles are frantic, a rush of finding the time to attack, healing, and dodging. There is little room to breathe, and you never quite feel comfortable enough.

For all the power-ups and upgrades to your weapons, Vesper still feels squishy and takes a pounding. I always felt like I was just a slight step behind being properly and appropriately powerful. There’s no real opportunity to grind for anything as upgrades are made via purchases so good equipment will only get you so far; skill gets you the rest of the way. This feels like a slight handicap to the player’s detriment, but it’s a fair one that makes the final taste of victory all the sweeter.

Exploration is open to a degree, you’re free to go into any avenue you have available. Paths will sometimes lead to treasure or loop back around on themselves to unlock shortcuts, all the while you’re mindful of how much health you have left and how far away the next opportunity to replenish your stock of tools could be. But there is no hand-holding or clear direction.

Once you have reached the Stronghold and taken on Hunts, it’s up to you to find them on your own. The NPC survivors don’t have the same darkness killing power as Vesper, but they’ll offer what services they can to help. The open approach to exploration feels generous but does have the drawback of leaving you unsure where you left things and where to go next if you have taken some time away. However, spelunking into the dungeons is rewarding in its own way as you come across “feathers” which expand the story of the word or offer helpful hints to puzzles further in, and weapons.

Players familiar with these action adventure style games will likely get through Hunt the Night in around 8-10 hours. It doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, but what it has to offer is tasty, beautiful, and appropriately creepy.

Hunt the Night is out now on PC. Developed by Moonlight Games. Published by DANGEN.

SCORE
8