Friday, 20 May 2022

Nobody Saves The World – Dungeon-Crawling Magic

When you think of a gaming hero, what comes to mind? The strapping Knight that barely fits into their armour and has a sword the size of a tree trunk? A hooded Ranger that fires arrows like rain from a storm? A birthday party magician that is aided by pure luck and the power of tigers? Or even a simple egg that can roll around to deal minor damage and, uh, well that’s about it? How about a Nobody whose strongest power is a meagre “slappy pooh”?

In Nobody Saves The World, you’re all of these at once, and more. After “discovering” the wizard Nostramagus’ wand in a cabinet drawer, Nobody sets off on a quest to stop The Calamity by finding gem shards spread across countless dungeons, all the while helping random civilians by reversing a fish curse, falling in love with a horse, and stealing from a vendor simply by making great use of a discount on knives.

Drinkbox is well known for its humour, and it’s very present in Nobody Saves The World. Although character dialogue is pretty minimal, all of it is charming and witty, with Randy the Rad particularly stealing the show in every scene that he’s in. The plot isn’t really a massive focus, but there are enough twists and character moments to keep you invested, all of it constantly supported by the weird world and dungeons you find yourself in.

Another striking thing about Nobody Saves The World is its visual style, which is basically Newgrounds meets The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. Its warped art is a far cry from Guacamelee, but is expressive and bright in its own way. Prepare to hear this a lot, but the dungeons and forms are the real highlight here and have you exploring the insides of dragons as a goofy little turtle alongside myriad other scenarios that are a constant source of delight.

Nobody Saves The World’s big hook is its form changing system. Nobody has more than 15 different forms to change into, and each one has a distinct playstyle with different attacks, perks, and moves. Rather than having typical choices like wizards and warriors, you’ve got choices like a mermaid, a robot, a rat, and a bodybuilder. True heroes. Where’s the gamer form?

Beyond these forms just being wacky, they’re also unique from one another thanks to their own in-depth abilities. Although the first few hours paint these forms as simply having different mechanics, as you progress you’ll see that they each have their own passive abilities such as turning damage into mana, and specific types of damage like dark or light. Eventually, Nobody gives you the key to its beautiful Porsche and lets you change the passive and special abilities of every character.

This is where Nobody really gets good. The forms are all fun in their own way, but when you get the Necromancer’s passive ability to heal helpers through attacking and give it to the Zombie, who can bite enemies and turn them into zombies himself, it’s like magic. Each form's special move is like a part of a jigsaw puzzle, and it's up to you to figure out which piece fits where for the maximum effect. When you do combat becomes an act of walking into a room, flexing, and watching every enemy die – literally, in the case of the Bodybuilder form. I didn’t try out the co-op mode, but I’m certain it’s a ton of fun thanks to how the forms bounce off of one another.

Every time I played Nobody, I came away with a new favourite character. At first I thought the Ranger couldn’t be beat, but then I unlocked the Magician and ran around smacking enemies with randomised cards. After that, the Rogue became my best friend as I chucked knives everywhere, before finally settling on the Bodybuilder and his tiny bum as the game’s best character. With so many options, it’s a real feat that there are no weak links at all. Well, besides the Egg.

These forms work so well because of Nobody Saves The World’s progression systems. Rather than levelling up these forms through frequent use, you’ll unlock specific challenges like using a certain attack to kill enough enemies. Once you’ve done that and levelled up a little bit, you’ll have to do more in-depth tasks like inflicting a specific type of damage enough times with another form’s move equipped.

This means that you’re constantly swapping out moves and forms to progress, and you’re constantly seeing challenges fill up and reward you with upgrades and XP. It’s satisfying and only held back by the lack of a customisable quick select. While a game that has you constantly swapping between your favourite forms doesn’t let you mess with your quick-select wheel or have multiple pages is beyond me, but it’s annoying to see some characters removed if you don’t use them enough.

Beyond the deep form-changing system and charming world, Nobody Saves The World follows the rest of the dungeon-crawling book pretty closely for its 20-hour campaign. Thankfully, combat is punchy and the ward system that makes you inflict specific damage to break an enemy’s shield keeps things from getting stale. The only flaw is that bosses can end up being a complete cakewalk, with no strategy to defeating them besides wailing on them, which can be a bit anticlimactic.

Admittedly, I had a hard time putting Nobody Saves The World down to write up this review, and that speaks to how satisfying its rewarding challenge-based progression and surprisingly deep form-changing gameplay are. Prepare to see Nobody Saves The World in the dungeon-crawling hall of fame.

Nobody Saves The World is available on Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC. We tested the Xbox Series X version for this review. Review code was provided by the publisher.

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