Hunt the Night's dark fantasy world makes an excellent first impression. Immediately you find your way into a corrupted fortress to take on its many horrors and reclaim a place for humanity. It aims to offer gameplay that’s somewhere between Bloodborne and Zelda, combining fast-paced combat with puzzle-filled dungeons. Everything’s there for a good game, and Hunt the Night does show some potential at times. But the overall experience is just not enjoyable, as you slog through clunky combat, annoying level design, and a rushed story.
The story is centered around Vesper’s journey to seal the Night, a state of constant darkness that has almost wiped out humanity. It’s a grim setting, with corpses littering each area and very little (non-hostile) life to be found. Vesper herself is branded a traitor due to her father’s betrayal of The Stalkers, the group aiming to stop the Night. As a game that takes some inspiration from Bloodborne (and Souls games in general), a lot of this story is told via optional text rather than cutscenes. You’ll find feathers that act as the final memories of dead Stalkers, and notes often give more lore on the area you’re in.
However, Hunt the Night does feature cutscenes for key story moments, and it's easy enough to follow along without reading any of the option text. The story itself is serviceable, mainly just giving you a reason to visit the next monster-ridden area, though it feels rushed. After being quickly thrown from area to area in the latter half, it became hard to really engage with what little story there was. This all leads to a finale that has little real impact, involving characters that aren’t very interesting.
If the story is more of a reason to explore some weird and deadly places, then the exploration and combat are what make up the meat of Hunt the Night. Areas often offer lots of hidden chests to find, containing equipment, collectibles, and even the occasional magic spell. They’re never overly complicated (outside of one place filled with poison that makes it hard to determine where you are), and it’s satisfying to finally open a chest that was taunting you when you first arrived in the area.
Unfortunately, while the overworld areas are simple but fun enough, the dungeon areas feel lacking. Most are pretty linear, with the main choice for most being “Which path do you want to take first?” Puzzles, which seemed like they’d be a big focus of Hunt the Night, consist of following a simple pattern found on a note, then going to a specific area in the dungeon. Pull levers in this order, interact with objects in this order, put in these specific numbers — puzzles are rarely engaging or offer any break from the combat.
And the combat… it’s bad, in a number of ways. Vesper has access to 4 different melee weapon types, along with 3 guns. More melee weapons can be bought or found in chests, though they only offer more damage or the ability to apply one of two status effects. Guns can be upgraded to add selectable passive effects, though the starting pistol ends up being the most useful. Builds, in general, aren’t really a thing, due to the lack of variety with gear.
A lack of builds or weapon variety wouldn’t even matter if the basic combat was actually fun, but it never is. Vesper can only melee attack in 4 directions (ranged weapons have full 360-degree aiming), making spears awkward to use. Meanwhile, most enemies can only face left or right and have been given wide swings and large AOE spinning attacks to make up for this. Combining this with ranged enemies and the general high damage you take, and it can make for some very annoying encounters. Most rooms can be rushed through, though you’ll frequently be locked into an area and forced to fight waves of enemies. Later on, Hunt the Night has a habit of spawning waves of the most annoying enemy types that aren’t fun to fight.
Bosses don’t fare much better. In fact, they highlight more issues with how combat is handled. Telegraphs are often poor, giving you little to no time to react, with lots of bad hitboxes ensuring you get hit regardless of whether you dodge or not. Oddly, the first few bosses are the worst offenders for this, with later bosses generally being better for telegraphs. They still suffer from weird attack patterns, combining attacks that make it impossible to avoid taking damage at times. I don’t think there’s a single boss that’s actually memorable outside of its visual design — one large boss midway through was actually pretty fun until I had to slowly take out 2 more health bars after the main fight was already over.
As you’re dealing with the jank combat, you also have to deal with some grating hit effects and constant screen shake. What makes both of those things strange is that the sound design and presentation in general are actually very solid outside of combat. The environments are beautiful, with the boss and ambient themes being far more memorable than the actual gameplay. Character and enemy sprites are a little strange though. Vesper is smoothly animated, though she looks out of place visually compared to every other character. Enemies are also inconsistent, some having incredibly smooth movement sprites while others stutter in comparison.
Hunt the Night - Final Thoughts
It’s genuinely a shame to see the atmospheric world be wasted in such a way. Combat is wonky and repetitive, areas don’t offer any real puzzle-solving opportunities, and the whole experience comes across as rushed later in the game. Outside of the music and some sprite work, Hunt the Night doesn’t do anything better than the games it’s inspired by.
Hunt the Night was reviewed on PC using a code supplied by the developer.
- Excellent soundtrack
- Atmospheric environments
- Jank combat
- Rushed story
- Bland puzzles