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There aren’t too many games out there where you can play as a Nobody (ability-less humanoid), a rat, a ranger, a guard, a horse, a magician, an egg, a slug, a bodybuilder, a ghost, a rogue, a mermaid, a necromancer, a zombie, a monk, a turtle, a robot, and a dragon. Most RPGs would have you build a party and swap different characters in and out to overcome certain enemies, but in Nobody Saves the World (NStW) these different characters are all you and you can swap them at will through your magic wand. The classes are locked in a character tree and are unlocked via leveling a combination of lower tier characters. Characters get leveled up through various class quests, with one exception being the egg and the base Nobody character. The egg is leveled up simply through finding nests scattered across the world, and the Nobody is leveled through main story completion.
NStW was developed by Drinkbox Studios, who is most notably known for Guacamelee and Severed. It’s clear that Drinkbox took inspiration from The Legend of Zelda with its familiar combination of overworld exploration and dungeons to explore. One notable difference in NStW is that there’s no gear or equipment to collect, rather you can equip the skills of other classes as well as passive skills that can enhance your attacks or increase the resources you collect.
The main gameplay loop in NStW consists of getting your quest to go into a dungeon, kill a baddie, and then continue. The main dungeons are locked by stars, which are obtainable through completion of side dungeons, side quests, or being purchased at vendors. The star requirements seem to exist only to guide the player to the correct areas, but otherwise are simple to collect. Character levels and progression are where the game is truly unique.
Each character starts at grade F and gains Form Points through character quests. The quests themselves are all very mundane and usually consist of using the character’s attacks a certain number of times or defeating a certain number of enemies. It would have been nice to see each character have a unique or special quest tied to their progression, but instead we are given a quest that states, “Kill 25 enemies with Gnaw,” and when you finish, you are welcomed with a quest that states, “Kill 50 more enemies with Gnaw.” Character grades are also soft-capped by the Nobody’s grade, and, as previously mentioned, that is capped by the main story progression. I found it to be exceedingly simple to get every character maxed well before you got the next Nobody upgrade. As the characters rise in grade, they unlock more ability slots and more ability types, eventually being able to equip skills from other characters.
The quests also adjust to be more complex: instead of just using a certain skill, you will be required to use combinations of skills. With 18 characters to level up, this quest-based levelling process gets quite tedious and forces you to use skills or characters that might not necessarily want to use. Some people will see this forced variety as a good thing, but I personally see this is a negative. The core of this game is to have a huge variety of characters and skills, and you’re given the freedom to equip the skill loadout you choose, yet this quest mechanic neuters those freedoms.
In addition to the character specific quests, there are repeatable generic quests which can be bought from the vendors to earn core experience points that are not tied to any character. This core experience is what will increase your base stats, like HP, damage, and defense. If you are having trouble clearing a specific dungeon, grinding these infinite quests can help out. Each time an infinite quest is completed, the requirements increase, but they should be purchased as soon as possible since you will be doing the tasks anyways. Vendors also sell permanent stat increases that progressively get more expensive as you go. It is highly recommended to buy these upgrades whenever you can to ensure that you’re scaling at the same rate as the game.
The game’s dungeons are a combination of diverse and repetitive. Each dungeon has a very unique aesthetic between the environment and music. One of the first dungeons you will explore, to rescue a horse, has giant carrots and other horse and stable-related decorations. However, every dungeon has the same end goal, which is a multi-wave battle, and winning will result in some treasure. As you progress through the game, the dungeons will have modifiers that will add wards to enemies, making them immune to certain damages or make it so you cannot change characters inside the dungeon. Similar to the character quests, these dungeon modifiers force the player to use a certain combination of skills.
While discussing the game’s diversity, the lack of enemy variety cannot be ignored as enemies are reused both on the overworld and in dungeons. The only real variety is if you stumble across an elite enemy or a regular enemy that has a ward, but this is not true variety as it’s only changing the attributes of existing ones.
Technically, the game is very solid. The combat feels tight, and mixing up attack, defense, and healing is very simple. I played the Xbox version on an Xbox Series X, and performance was as expected, with no slowdowns or frame drops that were noticeable. I really enjoyed the art style of the game. It was reminiscent of a beautifully drawn, colorful graphic novel. The complete environment is truly a joy to explore, and the dungeons especially showed some amazing design choices.
The game has a great sense of humor overall, with some very interesting and quirky characters, but the story is generic and forgettable. As previously stated, I played NStW through Xbox Game Pass, but I would not have been disappointed buying it for its suggested $24.99. While the dungeons are procedurally generated, there’s very little reason to ever replay them unless you die and are forced to restart it. The generated dungeons all end up being very similar, just varying slightly in layout. Each character form is very well designed, and they feel unique and special. While some forms are notably stronger than others, the balance across all of them is decent. This balance is also partially due to the fact that you are forced to level up all of the forms and keep them all right around the same levels.
The biggest issue I had with the game is how grindy it felt. I have mentioned a few times that to collect Form Points you need to use specific skills, fight specific enemies, or use specific skill combos, and every form has to be leveled up individually. There is a point in the game that’s essentially the halfway point, and when I got there and opened up more of the game, I just felt like it was never going to end. It unlocked more character quests to start getting them up to A & B ranks, and more dungeons were unlocked, but it was simply more of the same. The dungeons themselves offer good variety in their thematic elements, but the “procedurally” generated layouts and such do little to make them less monotonous. I cannot remember ever going into a dungeon again after clearing it unless I died (which only happened once or twice) and had to restart it, and the game does feel very easy overall.
While the abundance of characters and skills makes it seem like there are all of these unique styles to play, there is always an optimal character or skillset to overcome any hurdle. Some games increase difficulty through increasing enemy stats or enemy volume, but NStW seems to push difficulty through handicapping your character. As previously mentioned, later dungeons will have restrictions on them to limit skills or the characters that can be used. I typically dislike this type of forced difficulty in games since the developers realize that there are certain build types or gameplay styles that will make the game too easy, so instead of better balancing the game, they simply say, “You can’t use that skill; use this instead.” This mechanic just adds to the grind of the game since you are forced to level everything up equally, or else you’ll run the risk of being underpowered for a specific dungeon
Overall, I do think that Drinkbox did a great job with this game, and it is a decently fresh take on a genre that has had an abundance of titles released recently. If you are a fan of ARPGs or just need a chill game to smack some baddies around in, then Nobody Saves the World will fit that quite well. During my review playthrough, I did feel a bit burnt out, but when I went back to finish some spots afterwards, the charm of the game was back. Whenever a game gets too grindy, taking a step away for a bit can break you out of that rut and make it enjoyable again. Personally, I would really look forward to a second title to build on the great foundation that this game has laid out. I hesitate to say that some sort of loot or inventory mechanic would fit into this game, but I did find myself missing that as it’s a staple in most ARPGs. While not perfect, NStW is definitely on my recommendation list to check out. Not taking price into consideration, I feel like this is a perfect game for the Switch and its portability. You can complete a dungeon quickly while waiting or during a break. On the other hand, the game is available on Xbox Game Pass, so that is the platform to check out if you’re already a member.