Nobody Saves the World: review of Drinkbox Studios’ transformative adventure



Here we are grappling with the full version of Nobody Saves the World, in the review of the new title from Drinkbox Studios

After the two excellent Guacamelee, in which it tackled the metroidvania genre with an original flair, the Drinkbox Studios team has decided to launch itself into action RPGs with a top-down view, bringing its typical light-hearted spirit even to this type of game that boasts even fiercer competition: have they succeeded in confirming themselves? We’d say so, based on what emerges from this Nobody Saves the World review.

Already the demo released at The Game Awards 2021, on which we wrote the test last month, we were quite convinced, leaving us after a few hours of play with a great desire to return to this bizarre world distorted and the full version has confirmed the good impressions, thanks to the addition of some gameplay mechanics that emerge only in a more advanced stage of the game in addition to the remarkable breadth of the explorable world.

In an apparent simplification of the standard RPG features, what Drinkbox does particularly well is to offer a constant stimulus to move forward and progress, despite the inherent repetitiveness of the game situations and the same structure of the gameplay.

In fact, the foundation of Nobody Saves the World is something very close to grinding, being the constant progression of the protagonist the central element of the game, yet it is very difficult for it to be tedious, also thanks to its comical and easygoing characterization, making it a parody of the fantasy RPG. Despite the appearance may suggest otherwise, the game is closer to Diablo than to Zelda – to simplify – but still manages to maintain its own specific connotation that makes it always original and enjoyable.

One, No One and One Hundred Thousand

The characters in Nobody Saves the World are heavily caricatured

The story of Nobody Saves the World is not really that complex fantasy plot that you might expect from the genre, but just see a few images or a video clip to understand it: the game Drinkbox is proposed as a true parody of the clichés of the genre, with a protagonist ugly, pale and all naked who wakes up in a mysterious hut, suffering from the inevitable amnesia that makes his identity unknown. He is a nobody, in fact, and as such is also quite incapable at first. However, on him seems to weigh the weight of a great quest to save the world, starting first of all from the discovery of the great magician Nostramagus, the protector of the kingdom that seems to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Nobody seems to have no particular skills, but after finding a magic wand in the first few minutes he discovers his main ability: to be able to transform into a large number of different creatures, assuming characteristics and possibilities of attack, defense and movement, becoming in this way a formidable fighter.

Starting from the insalubrious dungeon where we are thrown a few seconds after our awakening, we must continue our adventure in search of Nostramagus and against the evil that is darkening the kingdom, exploring the large map and taking part in a large number of quests, including dungeons to explore and movements no less dangerous between the various areas in which the territory is divided. The top-down view and some small puzzles related to the elements of the scenario may vaguely resemble the style of Zelda, but Nobody Saves the World is detached for everything else, configuring itself as an action RPG in which the fight has a fundamental role, always taking place against huge waves of enemies and focusing mainly on the growth of statistics and management of these, in a particular system of progression and customization of the protagonist.

Transformations and constant progression

Nobody Saves the World presents truly bizarre situations

The main features of the gameplay are the protagonist’s ability to transform and the constant progression that accompanies every action in the game. The ability to change form determines many styles of combat and also different movement capabilities, constantly changing the gaming experience: the different forms are unlocked through an intricate general skill tree, whose ramifications lead to the various possible mutations, all quite crazy. It starts from the protagonist, basically defenseless (at least at the beginning) and goes to very bizarre forms, reinterpreting some typical RPG classes such as the magician, the warrior, the necromancer and the ranger but adding, between one and the other, even bizarre as the snail, the horse, the bodybuilder, the turtle and the mermaid, just to name a few. Each of these forms has, in turn, a series of progressive levels that lead to unlocking specific abilities, adding special moves and passive powers, but also unique movement possibilities that can open up new paths in exploring the map, applying almost metroidvania-like characteristics to the game.

A doubt that we had raised during the test of the demo was precisely related to the actual weight of the transformations in the possibilities of exploration, but with the full version and the map in its full extent came the positive answer we were looking for: the need to unlock new forms and use them at appropriate times emerges as an integral part of the gameplay to get in some places otherwise inaccessible, as well as solve some small puzzles that require the use of specific capabilities of different creatures.

Nobody Saves the World: a detail of the skill tree referring to the different transformations

These are still rather basic and shallow gameplay elements, but they still work well to vary the action and force some rotation of transformations.

The other structural factor is provided by the constant progression, which serves as the main incentive to advance in the game. Virtually any action can be part of this continuous flow towards the evolution of the character, which is layered on several fronts: we have to deal with the general level growth that concerns Nobody and the increase of the specific levels of each transformation that unlocks more different forms, skills and powers. In addition to quest completion, at any time we can also keep track of other goals to be achieved by simply looking at the HUD or by calling up a handy dedicated menu, to make it clear how this continuous completion of quests and sub-quests is fundamental to the structure of the game. Ultimately, it is this constant grinding the engine behind the gameplay and what drives us to undertake missions around the map: it is easy to realize how the game is a sort of spasmodic race to the growth of the parameters, but everything is so well blended and rhythmic to make this compulsive action really irresistible.

Gameplay and combat system

Nobody Saves the World is a continuous parody of the clichés of fantasy adventures

The mechanism of accumulation is found at different levels in Nobody Saves the World: not only in the constant progression of the protagonist, which translates combat into a continuous race to evolution, but also in large part in the construction of the fights and enemies. Rather than focusing on the ability to dodge and timing, the fights are resolved mainly in the increase of the statistics of the protagonist, who is faced with hordes of enemies progressive and increasingly fierce, but this mainly following an incremental logic. In short, rather than introducing new types of enemies from the increasingly complex patterns, the game tends to put together a higher and higher number, a bit ‘on the style of Diablo, however, does not lack in this case a tactical approach to combat.

In addition to the standard attack, which depends on the chosen creature and its weapon (all absurd, of course), we can count on some secondary abilities, each characterized by specific attack bonuses: in general, there are the classic divisions between melee, ranged, single or area damage and the implementation of additional effects. However, the skill with the controller here leaves room for the ability to build a character capable of dealing with threats of different types, if necessary by frequently changing the shape of the protagonist and modifying active and passive skills.

A part of the Nobody Saves the World map

On this aspect is probably the most interesting mechanism of the gameplay: the enemies have specific weaknesses to exploit or strengths to break, in terms of physical characteristics and reaction to elemental magic, which forces us not to settle on a few forms and attacks but rather range over the entire tree of transformations, switching frequently from one to another in order to exploit the different characteristics. In addition, it also becomes necessary to mix the characteristics of different forms, putting together passive and active abilities belonging to different creatures in order to count on a wider variety of powers.

Game world and dungeon

Nobody Saves the World features some pretty hilarious dialogue

The map is designed in such a way as to offer different environments to explore, each characterized by related scenarios and enemies as well as some dominant movement and interaction mechanics (such as swampy and aquatic regions that require the use of transformations that can swim) but the dungeons are based on a random generation, so there is not to expect, within these, the same study from the point of view of level design. Considering that even the loot is focused exclusively on money and food (to replenish energy), you understand how the exploration of dungeons does not offer exactly a stimulating experience, beyond the usual constant growth of the protagonist and the strange environments in which you can find yourself.

In general, the strongly caricatured graphical style that is characteristic of Drinkbox Studios, even in this case, manages to give a strong identity to Nobody Saves the World, making pleasant even the simple exploration of the map to discover increasingly strange places and crazy characters. You notice a certain recycling of some assets, both within the game itself, where the repetition of the elements is very evident especially in the dungeons, both with the previous titles of the team, with some sound effects that seem taken directly from Guacamelee, which can still be taken as a kind of stylistic feature. From the aesthetic point of view, both on the front of graphics and audio accompaniment, it is still a very pleasant and particular game, characterized by a 2D design rather unique.

Comment

Nobody Saves the World is exactly what you might expect from the Guacamelee team working on an action RPG: an interpretation of a classic genre with a crazy aspect but also with a really well thought out and original structure. The gameplay takes full advantage of the interesting idea of transformations and has the distinction of being a kind of grind fest – set as it is on the accumulation and constant growth of statistics and skills – but built so well as to be always pleasant even in its compulsive mechanisms. The repetitiveness may emerge more clearly in the long run, when – once you have unlocked all the transformations and discovered the areas of the map – you find yourself focusing on cleaning up the dungeons, perhaps the least inspired aspect of the game, but to get there you still have to go through hours of pure fun.

PRO

  • The gameplay is well established, but with original elements
  • An addictive parody of the fantasy action adventure RPG
  • Simple in execution, yet profound in management
  • The challenge may be a bit simplistic
  • Inherently repetitive, especially over the long term
  • Have you noticed any errors?
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