Review – Nobody Saves the World
Drinkbox Studios got my attention with their fantastic side-scroller beat ’em up game Guacamelee! back in 2013. At that point they had my attention because I love that game, and the sequel was fantastic as well. They truly understand how to take old school design elements and wrap them into a modern and unique style with their studio identity. So when Nobody Saves the World was announced, I was obviously very interested. It looked like another wacky concept that I absolutely had to try, and I’m very glad I did because it’s another must-play.
Nobody Saves the World is about Nobody. A featureless, pale, blank slate of a character that only stops being a nobody when you find a magic wand that can turn Nobody into many Somebodies. Your journey begins with Nobody awaking in a rundown shack with no memory or clothes. You quickly find out that the world has been taken over by a great calamity and the only person who could stop it has gone missing. Through some convenient story structure and certain characters incompetency, you discover a magic wand that allows you to take various shapes. It is at this point you get thrown into a quest to save the world and discover who the heck you are.
As I mentioned above, you will acquire a wand that will be able to change Nobody into various characters, and this is the main hook behind the gameplay. The structure is setup like a metroidvania to where certain areas, challenges, and secrets are blocked off until you advance. In Nobody Saves the World, it’s more like these areas are blocked off until you unlock a specific character. The idea of this at first had me worried because in a lot of RPGs I’d find the few characters I like and simply stick with them. However, this game really encourages you to play as all characters through its level design and through making it as less burdening as possible.
What I mean by less burdening is that as you level up your characters, you will unlock additional moves and passive abilities. Depending on the character these moves and passives can also have an element attached to it like Dark, Light, Sharp, and Blunt. Sounds pretty standard, yeah? What is nice though is you can attach other characters moves and passives to any character. That main character will always have its base move and passive, but the other three available slots can be filled with other characters moves and passives. This made me much more willing to constantly change my character for certain challenges because I could also bring along my favorite moves.
Speaking on challenges, Nobody Saves the World is all about them for better or worse. Literally all progression is made by completing different kinds of challenges. Each character you can turn into will have their own set of specific challenges that you will need to complete to earn that character’s XP and base XP. Not only will you level up specific characters, but you also have a base level that will increase your health, mana, and defenses. For example, the slug you can turn into will have challenges starting out easier like “Slow Down 50 Baddies”. Which is easy since the slugs passive makes a goo trail that slows enemies who walk in it. However, the challenges will get harder and even start incorporating other characters moves into other characters challenges.
This gameplay concept is another way it really encourages you to use all of the characters and try swapping their moves, because you can’t level up your base level without doing the character challenges. There are challenges outside of the character ones that will only grant base level XP, like completing dungeons, killing a certain number of baddies, opening up chests, etc. There will also be side guilds you will be able to join like the Thieves, Mages, and Warriors that will give you specific side missions/challenges to complete.
The main mission will have you attacking various dungeons in the different regions of the map that have been taken over by the calamity. These offer the chance to grab upgrade points and to complete harder challenges since enemies in harder dungeons will use wards that you will need to break. You’ll want to equip a character that has challenges specific to removing those wards to complete them. Dungeons are the only place you will find enemies with wards since they aren’t in the open world segments. Dungeons are linear with procedurally generated layouts in case you need to grind out some challenges. Once you reach the end you’ll have a boss fight scenario, but unfortunately this is my biggest gripe with Nobody Saves the World.
Unless there is a dungeon with a particularly hard modifier on it, they’re a pretty easy event. Not that most being on the easier side is bad, it’s just I wish there was a way to add modifications to them myself that increased the rewards. Besides that, the enemy design and level designs often remain similar. To move forward you must “kill a certain amount of enemies” or “find a certain amount of keys” or sometimes there isn’t even a requirement. But that is all the variety out there. Then you get a boss fight that is just a larger version of of the enemies you have already been fighting the entire time or just large waves of normal enemies.
As you complete challenges you are rewarded with a wand and these are used to open up that regions main dungeon mission. For example, you may need to collect sixty-five wands to open up that main dungeon. This can be accomplished by completing any challenge or you can buy them for $500 a pop at the witch merchant. These main dungeons are a bit more fleshed out and are where you will advance the main story progression. The other dungeons are often used as ways to tell a bit of the area’s lore and characters, which I appreciated even if those dungeons themselves got a bit formulaic and in turn a bit boring at times.
The main star here is the world and how it implements all your forms. At one point I rescued a horse stable “dungeon”, which I was then able to go back to with my horse form and fall in love with a gorgeous golden stallion. It was a better love story than Twilight. There was a crashed UFO with badly disguised aliens that I had to find and eventually clear their UFO. A candy house where a witch swears it’s not to lure in children, as well as a corrupted vampire castle that has ruined their way of living. There are so many great moments within the world, the characters, and how well it uses each of the forms that I was always eager to keep going.
Nobody Saves the World has a fantastic art design that is reminiscent of other DrinkBox Studios games, but certainly still has its own flash and style. The cartoony art direction is able to bring plenty of charm to every scene and character while still looking gorgeous. The color palette is bold and bright and is highlighted by the great lighting and effects. The designs of the world are varied from swamps, deserts, jungles, and all sorts of weird dungeon themes. This design variety is also great with the characters through each area, and even the characters you can form into. I think from a design perspective the only let down I have here is that more could have been done with the insides of the dungeon layouts as well as having more unique enemies and bosses for them.
The sound design is also great, but less memorable than Guacamelee!’s themed music and sound effects. It had a very distinct sound design that fit its Mexican theme, where as Nobody Saves the World is a bit more generic fairy tale RPG. Not to say it’s not good, I enjoyed the whimsical tunes while exploring and the more upbeat songs from the dungeons, it just didn’t leave much of an impression. However, the various sound other sound effects are very well done, from the combat and ambient sounds.
Nobody Saves the World is a unique take on the ARPG genre with DrinkBox Studios’ signature style and the end result is something that I completely recommend. While there are some things that I wish were fleshed out a bit more with the dungeons specifically, this was an adventure that I didn’t want to put down. The way the game made me want to keep changing and upgrading characters is really well done by making their world involvement matter in unique ways. There is also co-op if you want to team up with a friend and take on a dungeon as a turtle and robot team with powers from a dragon and ghost. That choice is up to you, but regardless what you choose I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.
The cartoon stylized art design perfectly fits within the theme and tone of the game. The only let down here is the lack of any cool boss designs.
The challenge based system for leveling up combined with the multiple forms you can change into and customize is an interesting take on the ARPG formula.
Sound design has a nice mix of light adventure and heavier more intense music for dungeons. The sound effects are well done with plenty of variety for each form.
I really enjoy DrinkBox Studios take on a metroidvania ARPG game, there are some clever ideas and plenty of humor throughout. I just wish more was done to make the dungeons feel more varied.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Nobody Saves the World is available now on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X.
A copy of Nobody Saves the World was provided by the publisher.