Nobody Saves the World comes to us from Drinkbox Studios, makers of the amazing Guacamelee games as well as the oft overlooked PS Vita game, Severed. If your expectation is that there will be some off the wall and weird stuff thrown at you, then your expectations would be met and then some. Giving us one of their zaniest games yet, Nobody Saves the World is Drinxbox’s latest and most ambitious game to date and if it is any indicator to how 2022 will be in gaming, we’re in for some definite treats this year.
It goes without saying I had an absolute blast playing this game. From its novel premise to its tongue in cheek references and jokes, Nobody Saves the World delighted me in my entire 15+ hour playthrough. Dungeon crawlers are a genre often associated with loads of grinding, but Nobody does it better with keyed in specific trait based leveling that works in the player’s benefit. I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me explain just what Nobody is first before we get into how the game streamlines its play to make the standard dungeon crawler RPG grind seem less grindy.
In Nobody Saves the World, you’re a literal nobody. You’re essentially some strange empty-eyed homunculus type creature who falls butt backwards into a hero job when the kingdom’s main superhero wizard goes missing. You have shape-shifting powers granted to you by a magical wand and while the villagers argue who is in charge now, you set off on your quest to find the village hero and…save the world, naturally. Where the game goes off into the deep end of the humor is in the forms you get to unlock as you play. Your first form is a nod and twist to the typical dungeon crawler trope of an adventurer starting their quest. Instead of you fighting an army of rats, your first firm IS the rat and your only attack a simple rat bite. The more you bite enemies, the more skills you get to unlock as your rat form. The more you use the new skills (and you will because they are almost all useful) the more powerful your form becomes. Eventually you’ll get to be a horse, a mermaid, a dragon and my personal favorite, the bodybuilder complete with gigantic pectoral muscles and a speedo thong to emphasize my glorious glutes. Not keen on stopping there, Drinkbox ups the ante even further when you get to mix and match skills across the different forms. Want to combine the rat’s poison bite with the Ranger’s arrows? Want to be a Ranger but have the strength-based skills of the body builder? The choices are yours to experiment with and try out. Some stuff works well, and some stuff doesn’t work at all. That’s the beauty of the system for me though. Being able to try anything and any combination I could think of and see what works and doesn’t was immensely satisfying for me as a gamer. I mostly stuck to the base rat’s abilities and merged them with different things as I saw fit, but I’m pretty sure there is a definitive, “metagame,” of powerful combinations to breeze through the game’s many dungeons.
The dungeons found within the game are all procedurally generated down to the enemies. Some enemies will even have specific vulnerabilities and immunities to attacks, so you’ll be on your toes mixing and matching forms or damage outputs depending on what you encounter in the dungeon. If you fail a dungeon, or even leave and re-enter one, these parameters change each time which keeps the combat fresh and unique. This does sometimes lead to difficulty spikes, as a few times some dungeons would load with a mob of enemies ready to skewer, maim and roast you and the whole mob of enemies each have different weaknesses now which require you to be incredibly fast on the switch weapon wheel and sometimes led to some cheap deaths. I only encountered this about three or four times in my total playthrough, so I don’t think it’s worth losing points over but it is definitely worth pointing out.
I believe the most satisfying thing that comes out of this game is the gameplay loop itself. The side tasks given for each form may seem mundane on paper but traversing a dungeon as a horse and attempting to beat it using only kicks leads to unlocking newer skills in that tree. That I can then I can mix that skill with another forms skill scratches an itch I didn’t know I had and it leads to so many satisfying combinations and even hilarious ones if they don’t work right. Other RPGs tend to leave skill trees with so many superficial additional powers you will probably never utilize, but in Nobody the game wisely asks you to be as creative as possible. Most of the upgrades can be earned in a single dungeon run so it doesn’t feel like the game is disrespecting my time on the grind, and that rewarding gameplay puts this game way over a lot of other dungeon crawler RPGs o the same ilk.
If there is any spot that I wished was done better, it would probably be the story itself. While the game utilizes a ton of pop culture references to drive the humor home, the overall quest and its climax is over so quickly that I almost walked away with a sense of, “That’s it?” Up until the climax the story feels like your typical slow burn RPG storyline. Then almost as if the game wants to shoehorn you towards the credits, plot revelations are dished at you so quickly and the inevitable doom and gloom plot closes in like Lightning McQueen on the last lap of a race that it hits you in a weird blur. The last dungeon is over insanely quickly as well when compared to the other dungeons in the game which I found super sudden and a bit jarring. Thankfully, there is a New Game + mode for challenge seekers, and fully completing every skill in the game does take some time. I think this was done for the inevitable speed runs of the game that will no doubt be online at some point. Regardless, I had a blast playing the campaign and am currently enjoying my NG+ run.
That Drinbox Studios can take these systems and gameplay and manage to mesh them so well together to create such a unique package is a testament to the studios ingenuity and creativity. Nobody Saves The World is a game that just ends up feeling compellingly fresh and new despite it being a dungeon crawler. Couple a satisfying gameplay loop with tongue in cheek pop culture references (the in-game One Punch Monk gag comes to mind immediately) alongside a hilarious and witty story and you have a clear recipe for success. I highly recommend this game, so don’t be a nobody…. unless its to save the world.