Nobody Saves The World - A Handy Sidekick But Not The Hero We Needed
Xbox Series, Xbox One, PC
Drinkbox Studios have long been one of the most prominent and beloved independent developers in the business. With the likes of Tales From Space, Guacamelee 1&2, and Severed, the studio has never shirked from changing up their work, and has never missed the target, consistently creating exceptional games. We’ve seen side-scrolling platformers, MetroidVanias, first-person dungeon crawlers, and now, in 2022, with Nobody Saves The World. Drinkbox are giving us their first action-RPG. While everything Drinkbox has touched has turned to gold so far, Nobody Saves The World is their first misstep, a game that lays it on a bit too thick, that consequently, despite having a strong foundation, quickly grows tiresome.
Nobody Saves The World leans into old RPG troupes with the amnesiac protagonist. As ‘Nobody’ you awaken lost and disoriented in an old shack, upon leaving it and exploring your surrounds, you happen across “Randy The Rad” an aspiring wizard who has lost his master, Nostramagus. While Randy ponders the fate of his master you actually get proactive and discover Nostramagus’ wand, unlocking powers within you to change forms – at first into a rat, and eventually into more an more human and animal forms as the game progresses. Drinkbox’s exceptional sense of humour, on display in almost every prior game oozes through every crack of the game, from the environments you explore, to the names of the cast, and the lines they deliver. It all comes together in a hilarious whole as Nobody journeys out to save the world, learns a lot about himself and what prompted this amnesia in the first place, the reasons why he can use Nostamagus’ wand a a lot more. The punchlines come thick and fast and mostly stick the landing.
Nobody can take on about a dozen different forms, from rats, to slugs, mermaids and necromancers, and each have their own unique skillset, some that favour melee, others that are more ranged. As you level up overall, as well as level up each form, opportunities emerge to mix-and-match the passive and active abilities from different forms to create wrecking balls capable to thwarting the myriad of threats ahead of you. Everything works together in isolation, and when combined which is a massive credit to Drinkbox, but it’s what they then ask of the player that is the problem. As you progress through the world a host of dungeons, key ones of the core plot, and optional ones all emerge. The golden path of the game asks so much of players however that those optional dungeons will feel compulsory very quickly as players need to grind frequently to level up their forms, to have the star power to open some doors, and to simply hold their own in combat.
Checkpointing, especially in the dungeons is especially brutal, with the dungeons themselves clearly having been designed with certain form load-outs in mind. With so much potential cross-pollination of skills available, it can be quite hard to identify which form is best given that some can feel similar and boast the same elemental perks. There’s always a right tool for the job, but even with it ready to go, and the right passive and active abilities equipped it can still be incredibly tough to progress, forcing further level grinding. Merge all this with hefty conditions for some dungeons, beginning with the over-the-top number of stars required to enter, to the then excessively demanding survival conditions (things such as status ailments last 5x as long on top of a damage multiplier for ‘baddies’) in some cases, drives up the difficulty in ridiculous ways.
So in the event that you hit one of these brick walls, how do you overcome it? That’s where the grind comes into play. Each form carries with it a rank, you’ll begin as a lowly F rank before ascending to an S. To make that climb, you need to complete quests, not the standard video game quest, but form-specific quests that are 99% of the time directly related to combat; kill a certain number of baddies with a particular skill, inflict a given amount of cumulative damage using a particular attack and passive buff. None of them take a whole lot of time to complete in isolation, but for each form to get anywhere near their maximum rank, you’ll need to complete in excess of 10-15 quests. On top of all of that there’s upgrade coins that you’ll find which are then spent to upgrade each individual passive/active skill – but in order to upgrade up to certain points you need to ensure the form is at the appropriate rank… it can be extremely tiresome, and artificially blows out your game-clock in ways that just aren’t fun.
Each piece of the Nobody Saves The World puzzle is superbly conceived, but it just doesn’t come together in a cohesive whole; it’s a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, each trying to do too much, and it drags the experience down. As if all of this isn’t already enough, but the game supports co-op play, which while a lot of fun, further adds to the already cluttered experience.
What isn’t a drag however is that unmistakable Drinkbox style. The gaunt, exaggerated faces, the vibrant use of colour, and a visual style that is distinctly their own, Nobody Saves The World looks excellent. With a large overwork to explore it has given the team more opportunity than ever before to spread their wings in terms of their visual style as they explore what is possible within different biomes, to great success. The production quality is equally high when it comes to the use of sound effects and the soundtrack which complement the on screen action, and the environments you’re navigating perfectly.
While there is so much to like about Nobody Saves The World, it trips up in one key facet – cohesion. Each element is excellent on its own, but together there is a lot of bloat that makes a game that really should have been 12-15 hours in length, last another 10 hours longer than it should. Don’t despair though, while Drinkbox have set the bar incredibly high in the past, and Nobody Saves The World doesn’t quite hit the heights of their previous works, there’s a lot of fun to be had, solo, and with a buddy.
Nobody Saves The World was played on Xbox Series X with a code kindly provided by PopAgenda