Drinkbox Studios latest title is as enjoyable as it is bizarre.
If there is one thing that Drinkbox Studios, the creators of Guacamelee, excels at, it's creating completely bizarre and strange, yet marvellous video games. To this day, Guacamelee remains one of my favourite platformers, with its signature daft narrative and entertaining combat being highlights. So, when I heard that the team behind that gem was working on an action RPG, my interest was piqued to say the least. Jump to the present and that very game, Nobody Saves the World, has been released, and I've spent the past weekend completely wrapped up in its antics and immersed in its unusual world.
Similar to Guacamelee, Nobody Saves the World asks you to well... save the world. Except this time the main character is literally Nobody, a bland, husk of a creature that seems insignificant and worthless, at least until it gets its hands on a magic wand that allows it to change into a variety of forms to battle with the vile and dangerous monsters that dot the land. With this concept in mind, the premise of this game is to level up by completing a variety of form-specific challenges to acquire stars, which will allow you to open increasingly more difficult dungeons to be able to rebuild the Arcane Gem necessary to be able to face the Calamity, which has the intention of destroying the world and is the main antagonist.
The game plays from a top down perspective and takes place in a fairly seamless world, which you can explore pretty freely, assuming you have the right form to be able to reach new places. The goal is to wander around the world, completing procedurally-generated dungeons scattered around the map, and bashing out quests (from NPCs and for your forms to level them up and earn new abilities) to earn stars, all to get a shot at the Calamity. While the narrative and plot can be summed up by this concept, you still get the hilarious and weird Drinkbox flair to add to the experience and to give it plenty of character, so expect an adventure that is as strange as it is funny.
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As for the actual gameplay, this is an action-RPG with hack 'n' slashy mechanics. You will be expected to use your forms and their respective abilities to chew through hordes of varying enemy types. But, Nobody Saves the World is so much more than this, as it also offers a far freer experience, as you can mix and match the various moves of the forms to create unique character builds that suit the scenario. Why would you need to do this, you ask? The enemies of this game often come with wards protecting them from damage, and to break them and make that enemy vulnerable to hits, you will have to use the same damage type as the respective ward, whether that be Sharp, Dark, Blunt, or Light.
For example, you could enter a dungeon filled with enemies with Dark, Light, and Sharp wards. To handle that, you can frequently switch forms to target each status, i.e. Rat for Dark, Magician for Light, and Ranger for Sharp. Alternatively, you can choose a character and outfit them with abilities and passives that suit the foes you face. This could mean you take the Bodybuilder (who excels in Blunt damage), and give him the option to use the Slug's Blob Lob for the Light wards, the Necromancer's Summon Demon for Dark wards, and the Rogue's Caltrops for Sharp damage. With there being 15 forms to flick between, each bringing its own set of abilities and passives to use elsewhere, you can see just how broad the customisation can get within this otherwise quite straightforward title.
The world itself is also filled with plenty of secrets and goodies to search for. There are chests that span the land and are crammed with gems and other valuable items (also found as drops on defeated enemies) that pass for currency, which can be spent at the wandering vendor to grab some new passive abilities and to purchase repeatable quests, great for racking up XP. On top of this, you'll want to check every nook and cranny to find all of the Mana Fairies to expand your total mana so you can cast more abilities in a row. There are even giant nests to discover, which are vital for unlocking one of the most lethal forms in the game - the dragon.
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I will say that while the progression is largely handled well, and gives the player a real sense of accomplishment when bashing out the many quests tied to the forms, there are occasions where the grindy nature can shine through. Having to play a form in a specific way to complete a challenge can be quite exhausting at times, especially when the quest is either asking you to do a very particular thing or use a form you don't get on with (I struggle to find value in the Turtle in any way). But, this is quite an infrequent thing, as most forms are pretty fun or incredibly powerful in their own way.
While there's plenty to do in Nobody Saves the World, be it progressing forms, completing dungeons, or exploring - there's even a New Game+ mode available so you can run it back once you reach the end the first time - the core gameplay and the world that Drinkbox has created is so diverse and engaging that you won't want to stop. This is one of those titles that is thoroughly fun at pretty much every turn. The humour, and the creative and weird characters, animations and visuals are brilliant, and on top of that, the mechanics have plenty of depth yet are also super easy to grasp. Whether you're a fan of Drinkbox's previous works, or quite unaware of the developer's titles, I'd recommend giving Nobody Saves the World a go, as this one is definitely one of January 2022's top titles.
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8 / 10
World is weird and wonderful. Combat is super fun. Exploration is engaging.