Nobody Saves the World Review
Nobody Saves the World was a bit of a disappointment for me. Coming from the Canadian developer Drinkbox Studios, I was excited for this title after playing their fantastic Guacamelee series. As they do with each of their projects, Nobody Saves the World is a new genre for the studio, a dungeon-crawler RPG. At a glance, the game is fantastic, possessing the developer’s fantastic art style and fun attitude. It even comes with some interesting original ideas.
So what’s the problem? Nothing major really. But if there aren’t great lows, there aren’t great highs either, just kind of a resounding meh. Personally, I think I know why this game was so boring for me: they made an awful dungeon crawler.
You are Nobody, get it?
The game revolves around Nobody. That’s right, that’s the name of the protagonist. I think that’s a pretty good introduction to the game’s sense of humour. There are plenty of puns, references, and silly characters.
In fact, there is not a single character that takes themselves or the world seriously. Which is fine, not all games need to be serious, but I always found that to be a poor excuse for bad storytelling. A story that doesn’t take itself seriously could mean that the story is shallow and not really worth talking about.
Don’t take it the wrong way, humorous games can have really good stories. See Undertale for example. The secret is always in how the game treats its own story and setting. Games like Undertale manage to pick a few important moments to deliver meaning with just flashes of seriousness to give the entire piece some weight without losing its humorous spirit.
Is the humour good, at least? Not for me. This is another problem with a story that’s pretending like it’s going to have an allergic reaction if it gets within ten feet of any other approach than humour. It gets super predictable, and humour is often at its best when it’s unexpected. I’m not going to laugh when I run into the fortieth character with a silly facial expression who makes a video game reference or says something random. At best, my reaction was, “Ha, I got that joke. Good one.”
I thought, maybe kids would like it. And sure, they probably would appreciate it more than a semi-jaded game reviewer, but again, I think “made for kids” is another poor excuse. Plenty of humorous children’s stories have lots of thoughtfulness to them, so much so that re-experiencing them as adults can add new meaning. Not so much with Nobody Saves the World.
Where’s the Loot? Where’s the RPG?
There is no interesting loot in this dungeon-crawling RPG. You can probably tell from my tone that for me, this is a complete turn-off. I mean, maybe I wouldn’t have a problem with it if the game had interesting dungeons, but oh boy, it’s the good old procedurally-generated slog. And you know what that means: they want you to grind. As we all know, procedural-generation is supposed to “increase replayability”. Which should be fine, because I enjoy grinding in dungeon-crawlers. That’s the point, right? Yeah, but not when all I’m grinding for is gold and levels. No matter what dungeon you do, all you get is the same stuff, the numbers just increase. Okay okay, but maybe there is something interesting to spend money on? Nope, unless you find doing 5% more physical damage or taking 5% less physical damage interesting.
How about the progression? Unfortunately, it’s kind of rubbish as well. Yes, the game has this interesting system of unlocking new forms. They all have unique abilities and attributes for you to switch into on the fly. The problem is that it’s boring again.
The process of unlocking them is such a hassle because when you first get a new form, they are given to you with no other skills unlocked. You have just your single, one button basic attack to grind with until you’ve completed more quests as that form. When you eventually level up and unlock a new form, rather than being excited, you hate it because you’ve finally unlocked abilities for your current form, but rather than playing with it, it’s time to go back to playing something with a single button again. This game just wants you to grind.
The grand cherry on top is that, since there are no interesting upgrades and no items at all, there aren’t any cool combinations or builds you can make. There are some synergies here and there, but nothing really to reward clever players, nothing to break the game. And yes, I thoroughly believe breaking the game is one of the greatest joys of dungeon crawlers and, to a lesser extent, RPGs as a whole. At the very least, RPGs should offer creativity and expression, which this game lacks.
It may sound harsh, but Nobody Saves the World really threw all my pet peeves into a barrel and gave it a nice coat of paint. To give this game some props though, the co-op is fun for a little while and the game plays well. The coat of paint is, without a lie, a really nice art style. It’s just that the grind really sucks and it makes you grind from THE INTRO DUNGEON. Oh right, I was supposed to be talking about the positives. Probably the best thing about this game is that it has a very long potential gameplay time, and if you have a kid or a casual friend you want to relax and punch some monsters with, Nobody Saves the World might be a really good game.
***PC review code provided by the publisher***
- Cartoonish art style works well
- Smooth gameplay
- Boring dungeons
- Shallow RPG
- Grind, grind, grind, grind, grind, gri…
- Humour like beating a dead horse
- A story that doesn’t care about itself