There’s an old adage in video games; simple to play, difficult to master. Nobody Saves the World is a bit of a deviation from that because while it is simple play, it’s not difficult to master. That’s not to say that it’s just a very simple game and nothing more because the systems at work can be quite complex but it’s never difficult to master those systems. Even the complexity in Nobody Saves the World is relatively simple to understand and get the hang of and that’s good because that relative simplicity makes everything work in such harmony to create an extremely satisfying experience.
Nobody Saves the World starts off with you, a little white meat puppet, in a small cabin with no memory of who you are. This quickly leads you to discover that the mighty wizard of the town who could help with your amnesia has gone missing and it’s here you acquire a wand that lets you change forms. That form changing is the real meat of the gameplay. Each form you change into has different stats and abilities. There are forms as straightforward as a sword wielding Knight or a Ranger with a bow and arrow to more out there forms like a Zombie or a Snail. You can change into any form you’ve unlocked at anytime you want which allows you to adjust to combat situations accordingly. Combat itself is simple. The game plays like Diablo, you have four attacks as well as a passive ability and you just press the button that corresponds to the attack you want to use. That’s how it plays from the very beginning of the game to the very end. Where the depth and complexity comes from is the combat encounters themselves and the ways in which the game allows you to approach combat.
As you level up each form, you unlock more abilities. Passives as well as attacks. The kicker is that the game eventually gives you the ability to mix and match any form’s abilities to any other form. So if you want the Knight to have the Rat’s ability to consume enemies to recover health that you can do that. If you want the Snail to have the Horse’s gallop the you can do that. This opens up the combat to experimentation for you to tailor forms to not only how you want to play but also to the best ways to get through a combat encounter. There’s a wide variety of enemies and a solid mix of enemy combinations you’ll go up against so experimenting with different forms and abilities to help figure out the best way for you to defeat the enemies is satisfying despite the simplicity of the button mashing combat. Some enemies also must be dealt with by using certain attack types like poison and that means you’ll need to make sure you’re mixing up your forms and abilities instead of relying on a single one for the majority of the game and it getting stale.
There’s a roguelite element as well as all the dungeons in the game are randomized. There are no checkpoints in these sections until right before the boss so if you die, you get sent to the beginning and will be faced with a new layout. It’s here that you’re current form setups will be put to the test because if you aren’t using the right mixture of abilities, you’ll undoubtably be killed and faced with a new dungeon. It’s gives real stakes to failure but also is incredibly satisfying once you get through it because you did it with your custom tailored form setups.
Every system in the game is designed with player satisfaction in mind, right down to how you grind your level. Nobody Saves the World doesn’t give you experience points for killing enemies, only for completing quests and challenges. Quests are exactly what they sound like. The main quests lead you through the story and there are side quests as well. Challenges are how you level up your forms. Each form has it’s own set of challenges like killing a certain amount of enemies with a specific ability or status affect on. When you complete these challenges you get XP for both your overall level which affects your base stats but you also get XP towards your form. When you earn enough, you level up that form and unlock new abilities for it and you unlock new forms as well. Think of it like a battle pass but not predatory or based on FOMO. While you’re doing your quests, you’ll also be doing these challenges, many of which you will complete without thinking about so your always progressing and you’re always satisfied. Since each form has it’s own challenges, if you find yourself bored of grinding one form, you can switch to another one. The grind is never repetitive and you’re always being rewarded for something that you’re doing.
The mechanics of the game work in tandem beautifully to create a deceptively simple Rube Goldberg machine of satisfaction. It isn’t apparent at the start but as soon as you start unlocking more forms and more abilities, everything starts to click. The progression systems bleeds into the forms which bleeds into the combat. It’s a cycle of satisfaction. You complete a quest or challenge which levels up your forms which gives you new abilities which gives you more flexibility in combat. There’s always some form of serotonin being pumped through you. Everything is designed to be fun first and in that goal, Nobody Saves the World succeeds magnificently.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful presentation of the game. The art style is a reminiscent of an Adult Swim cartoon. Some of it can be very cute and some of it can be quite dark and twisted but all of it is charming. That style fits the world and the witty writing perfectly. The game lets you know what kind of tone it will have right from the beginning, when the very first NPC you talk to questions why you aren’t wearing pants. This is a world filled with characters as quirky as their design and some of the dialogue and characterizations got genuine chuckles out of me. There’s a grand adventure here but the game never takes itself too seriously. The writing is as cheeky as you would want a game that lets you hack & slash as a snail. The soundtrack as well is excellent. While there is a little too much track repetition, the tracks themselves are certified toe tappers. It’s a shame there isn’t more unique tracks but the ones that are there are good enough that you won’t be annoyed by hearing them a lot.
As satisfying as the loop in Nobody Saves the World is, I did have a couple of squabbles with it. The game features an online co-op where you can play with one friend and while that mode works well and it’s very fun to play this very fun game with a friend, the second player is relegated to a clone of the host player. This means that player two is unable to make any progress at all. They don’t level up separately, they don’t have their own challenges, they are simply there to help. It’s disappointing because it means the second player is essentially a second fiddle and should they want to progress on their own, they need to play through twice so keep that in mind if you are going to play in co-op. The game also takes a bit to really show you the strength of it’s systems. It introduces you to them within the first 10 minutes but until you start unlocking more forms and abilities, and especially until the game begins to let you mix and match abilities, it’s not readily apparent how the game takes that simple combat and turns it into an endlessly satisfying combat loop. Until that point, it might seem like the game is just a simple button mashing hack & slash game and it’s a shame because I suspect a lot of players might drop the game before it really opens up.
Once Nobody Saves the World opens up, it becomes one of the most routinely satisfying games you’ll play. After the slow start, and you discover the real systems at play, you’ll find a game that is designed with fun at the forefront and is packed with satisfying engagement in every morsel of playtime. It makes me think back to Deathloop, which was a game I didn’t enjoy because that game doesn’t open up as you play, it actually closes. While they are completely different types of game, from a pure design perspective they are polar opposites. Where Deathloop started strong and made itself appear like it was fairly open ended with player choice, it slowly revealed itself to be extremely closed off and linear, forcing you to do what it wanted. Nobody Saves the World starts off and might appear to be a very simple game with little room for satisfactory player engagement, it soon reveals itself to be a game all about satisfying you with combat that while simple, is complex in how it allows you to tailor it how you want. The more you play it, the more you’ll love it. Everything in Nobody Saves the World is a perfect cycle of fun.
Nobody Saves the World is currently available on Xbox, PC and GamePass
Rating: Briefly Transformed into Paddington but had to Swap Forms
This review used our old rating system, The Paddington Scale. To learn more please read this post