Need to know
What is it? A tongue-in-cheek dungeon crawler with a shapeshifting hero.
Expect to pay $24.99/£19.99
Release date Out now
Developer DrinkBox Studios
Publisher DrinkBox Studios
Reviewed on RTX 2070, i7-10750H, 16GB RAM
Multiplayer? 2-player online co-op
Link Official site (opens in new tab)
Nobody Saves the World puts the grin in grind. DrinkBox’s RPG isn’t ashamed of its XP farming demands, and won’t let you quickly mainline its story without them. But neither is it harshly traditional, withholding tasty challenges until you’ve eaten your greens, with only the occasional stat boosts to demonstrate the nutritional benefits. Rather, it asks: what if the grind wasn’t a means to an end or an imposition, but satisfyingly playful in itself? Then shows exactly how.
Indeed, despite the game’s title, saving the world feels like a distant secondary objective to simply enjoying the process. Yes, there’s a story, as protagonist Nobody sets out to gather five crystal fragments that will stop a cataclysmic spread of malignant fungus. But as with DrinkBox’s previous work, Guacamelee, it comes with an ironic nod to genre cliches, and nobody but Nobody is expected to take it seriously. It acknowledges countless RPGs, from the monster culls of Diablo to the gated maps of 2D Legends of Zelda, with cheesy jokes and a vibrant cartoon style full of chaotic edges and bug-eyed characters, like Stardew Valley via Spongebob, that make it clear you’re in the land of the silly.
(Image credit: DrinkBox)
Despite all this variety, however, I do think Nobody Saves the World is spread a little thin over its 20-hour run-time, and that’s mainly down to the dungeons. While their themes and décor are certainly imaginative, from the horse mines, littered with horseshoes and giant carrots, to an alien spaceship and the inside of a dead dragon, in practice they’re quite similar—a series of procedurally generated monster mazes, with the occasional trap to dodge, lasting a steady 15-20 minutes. I would have been happy with fewer of them if each had more distinctive diversions and offered more contrast to the pace of outdoor exploration. At the very least it would have been good if there were some strategic boss encounters to top them off, rather than enlarged versions of regular enemies surrounded by minions.
The enclosed conditions within dungeons also tend make the generally slick and consistent combat feel more haphazard. It comfortably manages to accommodate dozens of monsters and familiars smashing into each other at once, but there’s no real sense of impact between the paper cut-out characters, and hits don’t visibly register other than the little numbers that pop up, so when it turns into something of a mosh pit, it’s difficult to gauge who’s winning. Death can be alarmingly sudden when you’re surrounded by mobs protected by wards you can’t instantly shatter, or if you simply lose yourself amid the chaos.
If it’s a bit flabby and messy, though, Nobody Saves the World is far more often a delight. Guacamelee was a showcase for ingenious level design, but here DrinkBox demonstrates a different knack for layering up complex systems, which combine and play off each other in deviously logical ways. Under the brash exterior lies a wonderfully technical game that offers the freedom to let you discover the quality of its craft in your own time. Grinding through quests is a genuine pleasure and, well, who doesn’t want to be a horse with the powers of a slug?
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