REVIEW: Nobody Saves the World is Absolutely Magical
A game so good, it's worth ending the world over.
How much time must you spend on something before you know it’s special? Whether it pertains to love, books, or even video games, this is a question that nearly everyone under the sun has tried to answer at one point or another. Some say not to judge a book by its cover, believing that you have to give anything a fair chance before you can determine whether it’s the right fit for you. Others hold tightly to their belief in love at first sight, postulating that if something is truly special, you’ll know it right away. Unfortunately, I don’t know if there’s a universally correct answer to this question. What I do know is that from my first moments spent playing Nobody Saves the World, I could tell that the game was going to be something magnificent, and that feeling only became more and more validated as I continued playing.
Drinkbox Studios’ latest outing is a top-down action RPG, with the standout feature being the ability to swap between fifteen different forms. Every form starts with a few basic abilities, but can add many more through leveling up, giving plenty of incentive to swap around. While the forms and their individual progression have the spotlight, there are tons of other tasks to be completed. These range from dungeon clearing, guild quests, fairy finding, and more. There’s so much to do in Nobody Saves the World without even taking the main story into account and it’s all fun. This makes the game as a whole an absolute blast.
Nobody Saves the World stars a pale, sickly, pitiful fellow (the titular Nobody) who wakes up in a dingy shack with no memory of how he got there. Upon stepping outside, he discovers that the world he inhabits appears to be on the brink of collapse. Mold and fungi have coated the land, ferocious monsters roam, and the greatest wizard around, Nostramagus, has disappeared when he was needed the most. The mighty sorcerer left a wand for his obnoxiously arrogant ward, Randy the Rad, to use during such an emergency. He’s a total jerk, though, so Nobody doesn’t see any problem with swiping the wand and setting out to save the world, or at least, make some sense of it.
The pasty and pitiful Nobody isn’t much fun to play as. His movement speed is slow, and his only attack is a cowardly shove, which is hilariously weak and has a decently long charge time before it can be used again. Luckily, this doesn’t matter much, as the aforementioned wand gives you the ability to transform into a variety of far superior beings.
These forms are all over the place, and the sheer variety is both funny and keeps things from getting stale. Early on, you start with a few safer options, like a royal guard who excels at defense and close quarters combat, and a ranger whose arrows allow her to dominate opponents from a distance. The further in you go, however, the wilder the transformations become. You’ve got a magician with bunny and tiger summons, a bodybuilder with perpetually-popping pecs, a turtle who trudges over the land but zooms across the water, and a slug who weaponizes its own rapid-fire tears in very relatable fashion.
Each of these forms start off with one attack and one passive ability. They can gain access to more attacks and enhance the existing ones by leveling up, which is done through completing character quests. These start off simple with things like hitting enemies with a specific attack a certain number of times, but as you level up your forms, the tasks become more intricate. For example, the magician goes from having to hit a certain number of enemies with his randomized card trick attack to having to hit that same number specifically with the ace card.
In addition to giving the base forms new abilities, unlocked moves give you more tools to work through a very cool feature: you can swap out character’s attacks and passive abilities with those of another character. This gives you more to do, as some character quests will require you to equip forms with skills taken from another. The attack swap mechanic is incredibly fun and really takes the form-change concept to another level. Each form, for the most part, already has a fleshed out and enjoyable moveset once leveled up, but this mechanic allows players to craft the perfect character for their particular playstyle. The potential for customization is insane once you get far enough in.
These forms are definitely the biggest highlight here, and that’s in a game with a great many things I would consider highlights. Without even taking attack swaps into account, each form feels perfectly balanced. Their base movesets have a high learning curve for how to best balance all of their synergistic traits, but they are simple enough that you can swap between them quickly without much difficulty. Swapping forms is key, both for picking the right form for the challenge at hand and for completing your character quests. You have two options to swap forms; a page on the menu or a wheel summoned with the L trigger, and both have their pros and cons. The wheel is much faster, but the menu pauses the game, which prevents you from taking damage while changing characters.
There’s admittedly a lot to keep track of here. Combat itself gets a bit tricky due to attack types and wards. Every attack in the game, both from your characters and enemies, has a type. Wards are shields possessed by certain enemies which can only be broken by using an attack of the corresponding type. Until the ward is broken, the enemy cannot be damaged.
On top of this, there’s a huge batch of quests to keep track of. There are the standard character quests, but then there are the character quests which use swapped attacks or passive abilities. These not only need to be completed, which can be difficult in its own right, but require the correct character build as well. In addition to all of that, there are a ton of quests to complete that have nothing to do with your forms. Guild quests have you meet knights at various points around the map and engage in whatever adventures they have in store for you. Dungeon quests are finished by clearing out the various facilities around the map, ranging from typical castles to the corpse of a fallen dragon. There are random quests you’ll come across, and these truly burst with personality. Some of my favorites were about reuniting a group of aliens inexplicably present on the planet, and another involves forming a lifelong romantic connection with a golden stallion while in your horse form (yes, really).
This sounds like a lot, and in some ways, it is. That said, Nobody Saves the World gives you all of the tools you need to get through your journey at your own pace. Pausing the game gives you a risk-free way to check your move types, swap characters, and look through all of your quests. You can sort quests by category, so if looking at the whole batch is overwhelming, it’s easy to filter out some of the noise. There’s nothing stopping you from tackling character quests one at a time. There’s ultimately a ton of content in Nobody Saves the World, and given the ways the game helps you manage all of your tasks, I think that’s nothing but a good thing.
Something I really appreciate is how Nobody Saves the World really respects the player’s time. There isn’t a lot of fluff, and the pacing is solid. A common issue with games of this type is that they take a long time to get going, but this isn’t the case with Nobody Saves the World. The game has an introduction and a brief tutorial section where you only have access to the rat form. As soon as this is finished, you are given access to multiple new forms at once and can immediately start making real progress.
Towards the end of the game, the frequency with which new ideas are introduced definitely drops, and I could understand someone feeling that things slow down at this point. The game gets significantly more difficult at this stage, though, so for me it felt less like the game was stagnating and more that I had learned all there was to know. Now, all that was left was to put these varied skills to the test. The final stage of this game gives you the chance to finalize all of your forms and upgrades and utilize them as best you can in the fight to save the world.
There are several quality of life touches that add together and make the game very pleasant to play moment to moment. The map is covered with several fast travel pads; not so many that it makes traveling feel pointless, but enough to keep you from slogging back and forth over really long stretches of wilderness. Pausing brings you to more detailed menus detailing your quests, but you can quickly view your current quests with the left shoulder buttons. In a touch that I really appreciated, health items and money never disappear off the floor, which I think is absolutely lovely. It allows you to (sort of) store health for later on in big fights, prevents you from having to rush constantly, and ensures that the slower forms aren’t at an inherent disadvantage. Essentially, the game seems to be facilitating the player to handle the challenge, not providing the challenge through frustration.
It certainly helps that the presentation of Nobody Saves the World is immaculate. The world has an unmistakably grim, grubby feel to it, but the cartoony art style keeps the tone relatively silly. In all aspects, the visuals strike a unique balance. The land you roam feels untamed, with pockets of civilization popping out of vast swaths of wilderness. That said, you never feel too far away from finding a safe place to rest. Most of the characters you’ll see or play as are quite ugly, but in a way where they almost cycle back to being cute. All of the grime and darkness is so nicely styled, with incredibly clean sprite work and dynamic lighting, that you’ll see a strange beauty in the apocalypse.
To be blunt, Nobody Saves the World is an incredible game. It looks wonderful, is filled with genuinely funny characters and dialogue, and is an absolute blast to play. Everything comes together to form an experience that on almost every level is nothing but enjoyable. I would honestly consider this game a newfound favorite of mine. I haven’t seen a lot of people talking about Nobody Saves the World, which blows my mind a bit given how great I think it is. Now that you’ve heard of it, I heavily recommend you give the game a chance. I feel confident you’ll have a magical time with it.
Brendan Trump is a features writer and game reviewer for GoNintendo. His opinions about everything are entirely correct.