Is there still room for originality in the world of Diablo-style action RPGs? While games like Path of Exile, Grim Dawn, or Wolcen are entertaining in their own right, they often feel like they’re just tweaking established ARPG mechanics and presentation. Well, Canadian developers DrinkBox Studios (previously of Guacamelee! fame) are here to knock the genre out of its well-worn rut with their own colorful, quirky Diablo-like, Nobody Saves the World.
Nobody Saves the World moves beyond the usual warriors and sorcerers, allowing you to play as a Robot, Bodybuilder, or Rat (just to name a few), but does the game truly establish its own identity? Does Nobody Save the World save us from the prospect of another samey Diablo clone, or is it all an empty façade? Let’s crack this dungeon crawler open.
Nobody Saves the World casts the player as a literal Nobody — a faceless (and pantsless) being who awakens in a nondescript shed with no memory of their past. You soon find the world is under threat from an equally-mysterious threat, simply known as the Calamity, and discover a magic wand that allows you to morph a variety of unique forms. As often happens in stories like this, you’re promptly sent on a mission to retrieve the pieces of a valuable crystal and enlist a powerful wizard named Nostramagus who might be able to help. The world of NStW is chock full of charming characters that poke fun at various action-adventure and RPG tropes, but the actual plot is largely your standard Zelda-esque yarn. Granted, there are a few twists related to the real identity of the game’s main character and how they ended up as a hollow husk, but don’t expect anything too mind-blowing.
The real core of Nobody Saves the World is its unusual array of classes, which you can switch between instantly without any penalty. While some of the classics like the Guard/Warrior, Ranger, and Rogue are represented, you can also take on the form of a (rather frightening) Mermaid, Zombie, Turtle, and more. Each form plays completely differently from the others, featuring unique movement, attacks, and abilities. Transform into the Magician who fights with playing cards and the bunnies and white tigers he summons out of his hat, a Slug that traps baddies with slime then attacks them with its tears or one of a dozen-plus others. It’s up to you.
Undoubtedly, DrinkBox has come up with some creative concepts, but Nobody Saves the World isn’t just a Diablo clone with a few kooky classes. The game would be a somewhat shallow experience if that’s all there was to it, but thankfully, there’s another level. After a certain point, NStW allows you to freely mix and match all the forms’ abilities to your heart’s content. Create a Monk that surfs around on trails of Snail slime or a Ghost Horse that can turn invisible and float past enemies before kicking them in the face.
As creative as you’re allowed to get, you’ll still develop your favorites as some forms are just more fun to play than others. Personally, I was most into the Guard, Horse, and Monk, and frankly, I don’t see many people main-ing the Slug. That said, it’s clear you’re not really supposed to main any one form, as the game tries pretty hard to force you out of your comfort zone. In order to access Nobody Saves the World’s main dungeons, you need to collect a certain number of stars. While some of these can be earned by beating secondary dungeons and sidequests, the main way to get them is to complete various form-specific challenges. Early on, these challenges are fairly straightforward (kills a certain number of enemies with X attack, etc.), but you’ll be required to combine forms and abilities in interesting ways later on.
Nobody Saves the World’s progression system achieves the goal of making players try all of the game’s classes, but it sometimes feels a little heavy-handed. I perhaps would have preferred a system that allowed me a bit more freedom to focus on my favorite forms and combinations. As is, you’ll need to unlock all the game’s forms and level them up as much as possible to maximize your stars and complete some dungeons that feel designed around specific classes and abilities. At times, I felt like I was backed into gaming the system, as I didn’t really want to complete entire dungeons with not-so-favorite forms like the Turtle or Slug, so I just resorted to grinding mobs of respawning enemies. Other times, I found myself in an unsatisfying place where I was out of challenges for my favorite forms, which made using them feel like somewhat of a waste of time. Don’t get me wrong, the issues I just mentioned aren’t a huge deal. NStW mostly does a fair job of getting you to play the way it wants you to; there are just a few kinks to be ironed out (perhaps via patches).
Looking beyond the game’s classes and progression, Nobody Saves the World is a good, fundamentally-sound ARPG. The game’s Zelda-esque overworld and dungeons are brought to life with beautiful, vivid visuals, the soundtrack by Canadian indie rock star Jim Guthrie is a banger, the basic action is responsive and satisfying, and enemies and bosses are well-designed. The game also includes two-player online co-op, which can’t help but make a game like this more fun. Unfortunately, unlike past DrinkBox games, couch co-op is not supported.
Nobody Saves the World is a meaty adventure overall, featuring a solid 20-hour main quest (add another dozen to that to clean up all the side quests and secrets) and a New Game+ mode for those looking for a greater challenge. This is a Nobody you’ll want to hang out with for a while.
This review was based on a PC copy of Nobody Saves the World provided by publisher DrinkBox Studios.
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