Is it too early to start the Game Of The Year 2022 list? The last week of January seems a bit soon to be bandying such grandiose claims about but occasionally along comes a really early game that’s got that bit of something that makes you go “Aye, it’s really, really good, that is*.”
If you’re one of the few people who stays on the page for more than 25 seconds allow me expand on my grand proclamation that this charming little action RPG is potentially superior to every other title yet to be released this year (I can hear the PLATFORM OF CHOICE crowd warming up their teeth to have a good old gnash at some indie being better than the new MASSIVE TRIPLE A MONSTER RELEASED ON SAID PLATFORM).
Nobody Saves The World doesn’t do anything startlingly new, but everything it does it does incredibly well. It almost constantly releases dopamine into your brain, and in these times of abject misery and despair we could all do with more dopamine.
To begin with I wasn’t sure there was going to be much substance to the game. It has a very simple start with none of the tentpole mechanics set up until about an hour and a half in, but once they get established it really opens up.
At its centre is a mechanic of shifting ‘forms’. You start as the titular Nobody, an amnesiac blank slate who quickly gains the ability to shift into new personas. Each one has unique passive and signature abilities to help you navigate the world and deal with the myriad bad guys that litter the landscape.
One of the first forms you get is the Rat. The Rat not only can fit into small places to find secret areas but its basic attack builds a poison status on whichever enemy you’re chomping on. As you level the Rat up you unlock new abilities of which you can equip up to 4, plus 4 passives (once you reach sufficient level).
The novel part of the form system is that every form you unlock allows each other form to equip it’s passive and secondary abilities. The basic signature move is only usable to the form that starts with but every other subsequent one you unlock on each form can be assigned to the remaining 3 slots on the other forms.
So your Rat form can have it’s poison building chomp basic attack, but can equip Arrow Flurry from the Ranger, the Stomp from the Guard and Water Spray from the Turtle form and you’ve got a very nice and even spread of abilities. Each ability is assigned a damage type from Sharp, Blunt, Dark and Light. Some enemies will have a ‘ward’ of one of these types which you need to break before you can deal them damage, so you can load up one form to have a variety of synergistic builds. You can also switch forms on the fly by holding RB to bring up the radial dial or using the pause menu.
Sometimes it’s essential to have attacks on a form that doesn’t naturally do that type of damage as the XP system doesn’t work on the regular grind of killing enemies and finishing dungeons. The game throws quests at you in abundance, which not only are the main source of XP they’re also give that sweet, sweet dopamine.
There are quests that give you XP towards your overall base stats (which affect your base health, mana, speed etc), and quests which give XP to the form they are assigned to. These start off simple like “Kill x amount of enemies with y ability”, but very soon you get quests where you need to hit x many enemies with a particular ability off of a different form, or simply deal x Blunt damage.
This way of drip feeding you XP means you never level up your forms beyond the point at which they’re overpowered but also makes you vary your play style and not get comfy just using two or three forms. Plus the only way to unlock further forms up the tree is to level the grades of each form up. Some new forms are locked behind 2 or more forms, so if you want them you have to work for them. But the work is pleasurable indeed.
You can grind out the smaller Demi-Dungeons if you wish, for cash and to get those form quests finished, but the story-centric Legendary Dungeons block all your form quests so it’s best to go and get some levels on them before you do. Helpfully each area and dungeon informs you of the level required and any modifications or buffs so there’s no real sense of trial and error.
As such, the game has an interesting way of making you puzzle out the best combination of forms and abilities to negotiate the dungeons and overworld quests. If you can’t see the obvious solution to a quest the chances are you’ll notice that you haven’t unlocked that particular solution yet, so you mentally file that away to do later.
Aesthetically things are suitably vibrant and punchy. To begin with I wasn’t convinced with the art style and it looked a little bit like a flash game (plus the Nobody portrait has a weird shadow on his ear which bothers me more than it should) but it has a wonderfully garish colour pallet and the character designs are nicely oddball and the right side of gruesome. The soundtrack I found a tad repetitive, but it’s definitely catchy and memorable if my humming the overworld theme while cooking tea is anything to go by.
But he gameplay loop is the main star of the game. It’s fun, satisfying, gratifying and pleasurable. If I was going to criticise Nobody Saves The World, the story is a bit forgettable (although there are some wonderful characters) and the co-op function is online only rather than having couch co-op. But there must be a good reason to not put couch co-op in so shut up and enjoy the wonderful game, you miserable buggers.
Nobody Saves The World came out of nowhere and gave me enormous joy, and given my current apathy with story based games that’s really saying something. So yeah, you should give it a go. It’s on Game Pass for PC and XBox and for sale on Steam. So crack on.
*Other colloquialisms with fewer commas are available.