So many games put the player in the shoes of a prophesied savior of the world that players come to expect it; but what if you were a complete nobody? Drinkbox’s Nobody Saves the World sets the stage to answer that very question. Playing heavily with the concept of a traditional dungeon crawler, Nobody Saves the World twists this beloved genre, and does so with obvious nods to The Legend of Zelda.
Nobody Saves the World is a fast-paced, strategic top-down adventure game from the minds of Guacamelee! and Severed. In many ways, this acts as a hybrid between the two and fits perfectly in the catalog of indie games made by the Toronto studio. Any player familiar with Drinkbox’s aptitude for developing games with a clear vision and dedication to tone and difficulty will feel right at home.
Having played the game for over 25 hours, I can confidently say that Nobody Saves the World is the studio’s most ambitious title. Bar none, the game has a scope unlike any we’ve seen from the team thus far.
A calamitous state of affairs
Nobody Saves the World opens up with you, a nobody. You take on the role of a pale androgynous humanoid lacking any identifiable personality or definition. Waking up with amnesia, you take your first steps into the overworld which has been plagued by an evil force known as Calamity.
It isn’t long after that you come across a would-be wizard, Randy, searching for his missing master. During your encounter, you come across a magic wand that imbues you with the power to transform into various Forms. This is the crux of Nobody Saves the World and the catalyst which sets you on your journey. In an effort to regain your memories, you set out to rid the world of Calamity, find Randy’s mentor, and yes, save the world.
Drinkbox took noticeable cues from The Legend of Zelda, including the playable character who has amnesia fighting to save a land stuck by Calamity. It’s become an overused meme to compare a game to Breath of the Wild, so I should say that in no way does Nobody Saves the World play like Breath of the Wild or share its open world design, but there is a connective tissue between the two nonetheless.
Although there are many noticeable homages to the dungeon crawler genre, Nobody Saves the World maintains Drinkbox’s unique visuals and humor. This title is bright and flashy, with a color pallette that stands out. There’s a certain macabre feeling throughout, but it is offset by quirky humor and a story that never takes itself too seriously.
A Form for every occasion
With a wand in hand, Nobody begins to travel across the open overworld, completing quests and exploring procedurally generated dungeons. In order to survive, players must level up and unlock the full suite of 15 Forms available in the game. Each one features its own unique powers and abilities. Forms range from things like Robot and Bodybuilder to Egg and Ghost. It’s an eclectic set of Forms that all feel different in their own way.
To start out, you’ll have access to one new form, the Rat. This Form possesses poison abilities: one of the many status effects that can be used against enemies. Each Form has its own rank and can be leveled up by completing specific tasks. These tasks are typically completed by performing a certain moveset a number of times or doling out enough damage. Completing quests will raise the rank of each Form and this in turn will unlock additional Forms.
That’s most of the loop of Nobody Saves the World. The more Forms you have access to, the more toys you have in your playbox to use while tackling the more difficult dungeons. In many dungeons, enemies will have Wards that only certain attacks can break. For instance, certain enemies will only be susceptible to Light attacks, and using the Magician Form typically makes short work of those enemies.
Over time, you’ll unlock the ability to mix and match the moves of other forms. This means you can take the Robot’s rocket hurling attack and add it to the Ranger, who already possesses a number of ranged arrow attacks. This complex multi-level combat system slowly grows over time and it becomes imperative to master in order to complete the game, yet the challenge to master it and use it to its fullest can feel overwhelming at times.
White knuckled challenges
Like other Drinkbox games, Nobody Saves the World doesn’t shy away from its difficult moments and spares no opportunity to challenge the player. When you see a recommended level for a dungeon or area, it’s not to be taken lightly. Even if I was a single level below the recommendation, I felt myself fighting a futile uphill battle. Returning with a level over the recommendation was a relative breeze. While the game never gets as difficult as the Inferno Challenges in Guacamelee!, it does come fairly close many times.
If you ever do find the game challenging, Nobody Saves the World offers a two-player online co-op mode. It eases off some of the difficulty, but more importantly it is a legitimate blast to play with friends. It opens up a new avenue to attack combinations. With cooldowns on many attacks, both players can bounce off each other and splash the screen with attacks; it’s the best kind of chaos.
Beyond combat, for me the most difficult aspect of Nobody Saves the World was feeling like I was keeping up. Between individual abilities and new Forms, I struggled with making meaningful progress and reaching S Rank with each Form. As a completionist, it was a challenge to wrap my head around progressing through the game organically and not feeling like I needed to grind levels.
One more go around the world
It took longer than I wished for it to click and discover that the game isn’t designed to be a grindy endeavor where every Form is completed in a single run. Rather than fixating on a completionist journey, Nobody Saves the World is best played as a two-part adventure. The way my experience unfolded is that Nobody Saves the World tees itself up to be played again in New Game+ if you’re hungry to fully complete the game. Of course, this is entirely optional.
I’ve begun the process of taking my progress over for another world-saving adventure through the game’s many dungeons. I used it as an excuse to replay the game and listen to the masterful soundtrack created by composer Jim Guthrie. Seriously, you want to talk about earworms? Try not humming along with the game as you play.
Nobody Saves the World is an ambitious and challenging take on the dungeon crawler. Incorporating a breadth of new ideas and systems, Drinkbox Studios returns with a game that irrefutably sticks to its guns from the second it begins to the moment credits roll. Despite some moments of frustration with difficulty spikes, I never wanted to put my controller down.
Nobody Saves the World is available today on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. It is also available on PC and Xbox Game Pass.
*A Nobody Saves the World copy was provided by the publisher for review purposes*