Originally published at: https://xboxera.com/2022/01/18/review-nobody-saves-the-world/
Developer Drinkbox Games branches out from the Metroidvania genre of their Guacamelee series and take on the Action RPG (ARPG) space in Nobody Saves the World. With their trademark humor, colorful art style, and complete lack of loot it is no Diablo clone. Online co-op is present which is perfect as this title is launching into Game Pass for console and PC, but the unique twist here are Forms, over 15 of them in fact. Using the form of a bald white baby man to a vicious rat, zombie, slug, magician, bodybuilder, horse, necromancer, and more you’ll slowly uncover what happened to the great Nostramagus, try to hold back the Calamity, and prove that even a Nobody can become a hero.
Nobody Knows Where Nostramagus Is!
The game begins with you awakening in a shed. You’re a small, nude baby-looking, eyeless man. This is your base form, and your mighty attack is one of the most pitiful slaps the world has ever seen. You quickly meet “Randy the Rad”, a complete loser that nobody likes. While attempting to make Randy a coffee you find a magic wand, not just any wand though, this one gives you the power to transform into over 15 different forms (well not at first). You find out that Nostramagus, the most powerful wizard in the world, has gone missing and over 20 or so hours you’ll traverse through an impressively large and diverse map to find out where he’s gone.
A few things are clear though, this land is full of ridiculous characters, beautiful sites, and a creeping crawling fungus known as The Calamity that is looking to consume any and everything to satiate its insatiable hunger. There is no voice acting outside of a few grunts and laughs during the games numerous but often hilarious cutscenes. The writing is similar to the studio’s previous work, and I absolutely loved it. Few creatures in this world are serious, nearly every type of fantastical creature you could imagine seems to be a part of this medieval stylized modern world.
I was surprised that the game was under 1GB in size, worried what it might mean for how diverse the world and art would be. Thankfully that wasn’t an issue here as there are a ton of different biomes, unique characters, and fantastic animation work throughout. This is very much a grindy ARPG and having the looks and sounds of things change as you go through it is always needed for me. Every classic biome you can think of is here, from deserts to jungles and lush forests full of impassable water (to most forms anyway). No game of this type can be its best without responsive controls and some sort of hook to the inventory system though.!(upload://jks7Ogvm3Sm2q1UuEneEWscjg1r.png)
Nobody Needs No Loot!?!
This is one of the few ARPG’s I can remember, maybe the only one in the modern era, that has no loot system. At least not in the classic sense, as you do have skills both active and passive that eventually, you can swap between your various forms. There are no armor or weapon slots though, everything is tied to this skill system, and it works beautifully. It feels quite simple at first, but after a few hours, you’ll have 10 or so forms that you unlock through a basic experience system. The only way to gain experience in the game is through a similarly basic quest system that is tied to each form along with story beats, certain dungeons, and a lot more. Your basic attack works as a mana generator on the A button, while all three of the other face buttons will be mana users.
Every form starts as an F grade and slowly works its way through D, C, B, A, and S. There is a linear progression path for unlocking new forms with a clearly defined grade needed for each connected one to unlock it. Each form has a unique passive and 4 unique active abilities. You also have an overall level that gives you additional passive slots, up to 4 in the end. Between these 8 total abilities, you can change 6 of them. Forms will always have their base unique mana generating attack and 1st passive. You can change the other 3 skills for each one and this is where the game went from fun to fantastic for me.
I put over 2000 hours into Diablo 3 between PC and Console, and I love this type of simple complexity. That game mixed ability choices and a never-ending loot grind, and Nobody Saves the World has found its own spin on things to give you diversity in how you play in a brilliant and far less time-consuming way. Attacks can deal 4 different types of base attack damage, these are Physical, Blade, Light Magic, and Dark Magic. By having monsters be warded until you hit them with a matching type the game forces you into making choices on how you build your character.
A dungeon may have multiple wards requiring you to have Blade and Light Magic damage which means you’ll want to use a Form that has one of those as its baseline attack so that you can then use your mana using abilities to break the other ward. There is a constant, though rarely needed on the fly, changing of Forms that keep the game always feeling fresh though you can stick with your favorites for a majority of the content without feeling like you are forced to change if you do not want to.!(upload://fxVKtO14dp8fTaB51VvWgMNnNOP.png)
Nobody Has Better Music and Style
Branching out for the Mexican Lucha Libre roots of Guacamelee the soundtrack here is quite different, and utterly fantastic. I would find myself keeping my headset on and listening to the overworld music while working on various projects through my days since getting the game. Like the rest of the game, it varies things up nicely, with each biome and dungeon having appropriate music for its themes. There is a surprising amount of technology in this medieval’ish world, and the synth tunes are a perfect fit.
Graphically as stated previously things are absolutely beautiful. I love the goofy art style, and the lighting adds tons of character and depth to every scene. I’m so used to games that look this good being far bigger of a download, and the sub-one gigabyte size is normally reserved for retro-style pixel art titles. Not here though, things are crisp, clean, and high resolution. Performance was perfect on my Series X and load times were 1 or 2 seconds at most. Online co-op is here, and it’s handled well. The pause menu is used a lot in this game, and you’ll want to play with someone you like and trust because both players have full control over it at all times. All progress is fully shared, as well as money earned (and spent). So play with someone you trust to not drive you mad and you will have an incredible time.
The way builds and resistances work lends itself to trying out new builds, and by having two to play with at a time things can get really crazy. A lot of the forms have skills that synergize, and my mind was full of excitement as I figured out the best way to combat each scenario. Death was frequent for me, but the lack of load times paired with fairly short dungeons meant the experimentation was exhilarating rather than frustrating.!(upload://mGeMCsNmJnhkAQeH4DV7lrM3f5R.png)
Saves are handled at Save Stones but there is a bevy of shortcuts to unlock including teleportation runes which litter the map and are available in each dungeon. Once you’ve reached the end boss you can gain access to a rune right outside his room, affording you a quick trip right back to him if you die. Be careful though to finish up any business you have in a dungeon before leaving, as they will reset to allow you to quickly run them again to complete quests if you leave after killing the final boss and looting their chest. Those chests only contain three things, food to heal, money to buy skills and stat upgrades, and skill points.
The vendor, who will follow you through your journey by parking himself outside every major dungeon, sells a progressively larger number of passive skills, stat upgrades, skill points, wizard stars, and repeatable quests for exp. Those repeatable quests are for every basic function in the game such as “kill 100 monsters” or “loot 5000 gold” and are a great way to reward you for simply playing. The wizard stars are a currency you spend to unlock certain story-related doors and dungeons.
I did not have a single bug while playing the game, which is an extremely rare thing nowadays. Accessibility wise things are light options-wise. You can change the sound volume, the game volume, and turn off controller vibration. Sadly, that’s it, though it is a small team, so I understand.!(upload://4p9MbW4cTZtIOFT898NavKH6akR.png)
I have loved Drinkbox’s previous titles, and I had high hopes for this one. Seeing it release day one on Game Pass gave me the hope that Xbox had seen something special. After the first hour, I knew they must have as this game is tremendous. Using a mix of great art, excellent music, and a complex but easy-to-understand gameplay loop it hooked its fangs into me immediately. The titular star of this game may be a Nobody but after this release, Drinkbox Studios are certainly not.