Mass Effect veteran says Valheim showed him what an "accessible" survival game could look like in a genre defined by games like Ark and Rust

Gun pointed at floating hag monster in the dark,
(Image credit: Inflexion Games)

We all know the feeling. Boot up a survival game, slip into an online server, and set yourself up with a little base so you can be ready to explore the vast and glorious digital landsc – Oh. You're dead. Oh, and now someone's teabagging your looted corpse. Cool. Just wonderful.

When it comes to survival games, PvP is one of the more prolific game modes out there. It draws in the masses and keeps you on your toes for sure, but it takes something special to cater to the discerning lot who prefer PvE survival games.

We spoke to industry veteran and former Mass Effect lead, Aaryn Flynn - whose new studio Inflexion Games is working on survival crafter Nightingale. He's been giving us some insight as to the inspiration for the late 19th-century style, fae realm-walking game, and what it takes to make a more PvE focussed co-op base builder like Nightingale work in a space dominated by PvP.

"The ones that we respect but don't look too much to are the PvP-centric ones. I know there's a huge Rust community, but if you centre your game on co-op PvE, there's just fewer lessons you can take from a game that's so well optimised for PvP like Rust is."

"Valheim's definitely the inspiring one, I don't think you can be a developer in this industry and not be impressed by what they accomplished", says Flynn in regards to their active inspiration for Nightingale.

"When we cemented the bones of the project, Ark and Scum and Conan were the big survival crafting games," says Flynn. "Then along came Valheim, which showed us what a particularly accessible example could look like."

(Image credit: Inflexion)

Speaking to Valheim's accessibility, we're talking easy to learn, but still hard to master. And of course, something that comes with a hook that both players and artists can get excited about. 

"Valheim is a particularly distinct world. We had settled on the Victorian idea quite a while ago. We like the balance between the contemporary, without the trappings of modern day stuff. Creatively it energized our team." As Flynn recalls, their response was something like "Yeah, I like the sound of that. I'd like to push myself to make cool things in that world and challenge myself."

Honestly, I think 'Design some Fae realms with Victorian era flourishes' would have gotten me excited to push my boundaries as a game artist, too. Of course, once the aesthetic was decided, the question was "How do you make sure that it works for survival gameplay?" The answer seems to have been not pushing it in the PvP direction, despite pressure from the competition. And if our recent preview is anything to go by, it looks like that direction has worked wonders for the game, since the devs have had more time to focus on other things.

Nightingale is coming out on February 20th, so now is the time to head over to the Steam page and wishlist it.

There's a lot of competition around the best survival games.

Katie Wickens
Freelance writer

Katie is a freelance writer covering everything from video games to tabletop RPGs. She is a designer of board games herself and a former Hardware Writer over at PC Gamer.