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Nobody Saves the World review: I need a hero

Drinkbox Studios delivers an instant classic Action RPG with Nobody Saves the World.

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The RPG is arguably one of the more tired genres in gaming. It can be difficult for a developer to find an approach that doesn’t feel like something we’ve seen before. With Nobody Saves the World, developer Drinkbox Studios set out to create an Action RPG that separates itself from the usual offerings. Nobody Saves the World is a brilliantly designed RPG that marries classic tropes with fresh ideas.

Somebody has to do it

In Nobody Saves the World, players take on the role of Nobody, an incredibly average person in a world that’s everything but. A dangerous Calamity has risen after lying dormant for many years, threatening to destroy the world and everyone in it. Nobody must rise to the occasion and put this evil to bed once and for all.

The unexpected hero is a classic RPG trope that Drinkbox Studios puts its own unique spin on. Though Nobody isn’t gifted or powerful, they gain the ability to shapeshift into different creatures, each with their own individual abilities. These “Forms,” as the game refers to them, includes a Slug, Knight, Horse, and Dragon, just to name a handful.

I loved how the different Forms had their own utility outside of battle as well as during combat. Speedy characters like the Horse or the Rogue were great for covering large distances on foot, while the Mermaid and Ghost were able to travel across bodies of water. Some areas and interactions were only accessible using specific Forms. For example, I found several chests hidden behind a wall that only the Rat could crawl through.

Nobody Saves the World is also hilariously funny, which is about what you would expect from the team behind the Guacamelee! series. Characters like Randy the Rad and Octavia are fun parodies of the typical characters that you’d meet in an RPG. The same can be said for most NPCs in the game. Nobody Saves the World maintains a sense of impending doom, counterbalancing it with silly characters and sharp commentary on the RPG genre.

An excellent Form factor

Where Nobody Saves the World shines its absolute brightest is in its combat design. Each Form has its own unique active and passive abilities, such as Ranger’s Arrow Flurry or Magician’s Hat Trick. As players continue to unlock new Forms, they’ll have access to new abilities as well. These abilities can then be assigned to different forms, essentially allowing the player to customize their own build for every Form.

As an action game, Nobody Saves the World’s combat consists of a lot of button-mashing. However, there’s still quite the strategy involved when taking on any given threat. Enemies have their own traits and weaknesses, with some even having Wards that prevent them from taking damage until they’re hit with a specific move type. In the more intense moments, I found myself frantically swapping between Forms, using their abilities in tandem to quickly dispose of enemies.

The best thing about Nobody Saves the World’s combat layout is that it doesn’t punish you for playing the way you want to. If you love playing as the Rat, which is the first Form unlocked, you can upgrade your Rat to be the most dangerous creature in all the land. Even the Forms that didn't exactly fit my playstyle served a purpose, as I could still hand-pick the abilities I did like and assign them to my primary Forms. There’s a satisfying eureka moment when you discover perfect combinations of passive and active abilities for your different characters.

Although there are plenty of enemies to fight in the overworld, Dungeons are a major component in Nobody Saves the World. Each with its own unique visual and combat theme, Dungeons are the game’s bread and butter, providing a substantial challenge that always yields a worthwhile reward.

Once players enter a dungeon, they’ll have to clear it without dying, as getting killed will kick them back to the entrance. Every time you enter a dungeon, it’s a bit different from the last time. The layout will change, but the overall presentation and design philosophy remains the same.

I was surprised by how Drinkbox managed to make so many of the Dungeons feel distinct from the others. Dungeon-crawling can quickly become a monotonous task in an RPG, but that’s never the case with Nobody Saves the World. This is thanks to the different conditions each Dungeon has, which influences the gameplay. There are Dungeons where Wards regenerate, some that lock you into one form, and even a Dungeon that multiplies all damage by x9999. There’s a built-in learning curve to just about every Dungeon in the game that keeps players on their toes.

Becoming a somebody

Another facet of the RPG that Drinkbox Studios nails is player progression. Nobody has a set of base stats (Speed, Attack, Defense, Etc.), and each Form has its own stats on top of that. As players level up, those stats will increase. Experience is gained by completing Quests, which tasks players with aiding NPCs, killing enemies, and clearing Dungeons.

There are also Form Quests, which are specific to the different characters that Nobody can transform into. Completing these will provide experience and increase your Form Level, unlocking more abilities to be used in combat. As players progress through the Form tree, they’ll need to hit certain levels before they can unlock additional Forms.

Quests are another classic RPG component that Drinkbox manages to make feel new again thanks to the way it directly weaves it into gameplay and character progression. Quests never felt like the to-do list that it becomes in a lot of other games, mainly because I was always motivated to unlock new abilities and Forms.

As players make their way around the world, they’ll come across many purple save stones, which automatically save your game when you approach them. This might be the only aspect of Nobody Saves the World that I would change if I could. Whenever I was ready to stop playing, it was sometimes a bit annoying having to seek out and run up to an autosave stone. It would’ve been neat to have manual save/load as an added option.

Wonderfully terrifying

Nobody Saves the World is bursting with style at every turn. The game’s 2D art style is gorgeous, with colors popping out and inviting the player to inspect every inch of the world. The map is rather large, and the different biomes and environments are each given their own distinct visual identity. For example, the decaying, colorless surrounding areas of The Witch Queen Catacombs is a stark contrast from the dense jungle surrounding Stonefish Village or the desert-like Mutown.

There’s also some excellent craftsmanship in the design of the characters and Dungeons. Nobody visually stands out because of their huge, empty eyes. All of the Forms share this visual trait, easily separating them from the array of characters and enemies encountered throughout the journey.

Dungeons may be similar in concept, but just about no two Dungeons are alike. From a crashed alien ship to a sleeping dragon and the mouth of a massive whale, each Dungeon feels like a naturally occurring part of the world, rather than a series of generic castles or caves.

The game’s music is a breath of fresh air, with a soundtrack and score that doesn’t feel like something you’d typically hear in an RPG set in a fantasy world. There’s poppy upbeat tunes, but it still knows when to get serious. Sequences like boss fights multiply the intensity with appropriate music cues and song choices.

The sounds of Nobody Saves the World also contributes to the overall sense of immersion and the clear attention to detail on the part of the developers. Not only does every Form (and their respective abilities) have a unique set of sounds, so do the enemies. After a while, I could tell exactly what kind of enemy was targeting me and what ability they were using just by the sound effects.

Just a Nobody

Nobody Saves the World cleverly plays on RPG tropes, poking fun while injecting them with new life thanks to interesting mechanics that keep gameplay fresh. The story expertly balances humor and seriousness, and the world is gorgeous enough that you always feel encouraged to keep exploring. Drinkbox Studios delivers its best work yet and one of the early hits of 2022 with Nobody Saves the World.


This review is based on a digital Steam code provided by the publisher. Nobody Saves the World is available now for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

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Pros
  • Excellent combat design
  • Customizable builds
  • Gorgeously distinct art style
  • Challenging Dungeons
  • Hilarious characters
  • Clever commentary on the RPG genre
Cons
  • Autosave system feels annoying sometimes
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