Nobody Saves the World review

By Luke Albigés,
I'm sure you'll all agree that the modern gaming landscape is sorely lacking in opportunities to play as an egg. Guacamelee! developer Drinkbox is clearly on the same page, and Nobody Saves the World rights that wrong, with the unassuming ovoid form being just one of many personas our eyeless hero can assume in order to take the fight to the forces of evil that now sweep this colourful land. And thus the age-old question is answered — Guacamelee!'s playable chicken clearly predates Nobody Saves the World's playable egg, so there can be no arguments over which came first in Drinkbox canon. Is the egg good, you ask? In terms of moment-to-moment gameplay, no, not really, but as you'll see across this game, the team manages to make sure every single element has at least some degree of value to it, no matter how oblique or indirect it may initially appear. So in that regard, and for multiple reasons — some of which I'll explain shortly, and others I'll leave for you to discover for yourselves — yes, this playable egg, like Nobody Saves the World itself, is kinda brilliant.

At its core, Nobody Saves the World is a fairly straightforward action-RPG, with one particularly novel hook that is set up right at the beginning of the game. Our hero — a creepy amnesiac albino baby thing who wakes up in a random shed (we've all been there) — obtains a powerful magic wand in the game's opening few minutes that confers the ability to shapeshift into multiple forms. Transformation options are initially extremely limited and their abilities kept simple, but it isn't long before you're hot-swapping between guises on the fly, and even mixing and matching abilities between them to create potent combos that just keep getting wilder and wilder as the adventure goes on. As you'd expect from the team behind Guacamelee!, the action is fast-paced, slick, and manages to do a lot with a little — each persona only has up to four active abilities assigned to the face buttons to worry about when it all kicks off, although the character progression groundwork you put in between encounters does do a lot of heavy lifting here.

Levelling up in Nobody Saves the World is ingenious and original. There's no traditional experience system as such, with each form you unlock instead being assigned a series of challenges to complete in order to rank up that one particular character type. Each rank unlocks new abilities and bonus stats purely for that specific form, as well as opening up new paths on the form tree when certain thresholds are passed so you can expand your arsenal with new guises and abilities. Both these tailored tasks and the general quests also contribute to an overall player level that gives minor base stat boosts as it rises, and the two types of missions can also reward Stars — a special currency used to gain entrance to key story dungeons. This makes progression surprisingly open-ended, meaning some may choose to stack up on Stars by completing side missions and optional dungeons, while others who focus more on the form tree will find they usually have enough Stars to get by, even without getting into too much of the other stuff. You'll absolutely want to be doing the latter anyway, as some of the top-tier forms can get downright ridiculous (more on that in a moment), but having that freedom just lets you approach the game however you like and always feel like you're making progress.

nobody saves the world xbox

The real genius of the forms mechanic comes not in what they offer individually — although they do each offer their own play style and role out of the box — but in the boundless potential that opens up once you're able to start swapping abilities between them. Only the default active ability of each form, mapped to the A button, is locked to them, so by levelling up both forms and main character, you're soon able to piece together some amazing builds. Likely the first example you'll encounter of the synergy possible with this system is equipping the Ranger's passive ability (which adds Poison build-up to all attacks) on the Rat, whose basic gnaw attack hits extremely fast and also adds Poison damage of its own. With the two combined, it's possible to apply the damage-over-time Poison effect way faster, leading to more of a hit-and-run play style that favours the nimble rodent's frail form and lets you deftly kite poisoned foes as they bleed out rather than risk having to stay in combat with them. There's also the fact that borrowing unlocked active abilities from other forms lets you wield more damage types at once, reducing the need to swap forms as often as you otherwise might. Direct damage here comes in four flavours — Sharp and Blunt on the physical side, and Light and Dark for magical — and since a lot of forms tend to specialise in one or maybe two elements, there's even more potential here once your form tree starts to fill up.

Why is this important? Well, in dungeons, you'll encounter warded enemies of certain types, protected by impenetrable barriers until they are hit with damage of that specific element to break the shield. You're warned before entering a dungeon which types you will encounter so can prepare accordingly, and since it's just a single hit that is needed, there's not too much harm in, say, slapping a magical attack of a required element on a melee-oriented character just to pop shields before going back to their usual damage-dealing methods. A handful of later forms are actually able to cover all four bases at once, although that perfect coverage is often something of a trap — it's more effective to have the needed elements balanced with defensive and mobility tools across several forms instead of trying to create a Swiss Army knife that can cover everything on its own, and aside from a few dungeons that lock your loadout, you can always dip into the menus as and when to safely swap between abilities as needed. Dungeons also come with curated modifiers, which is another place where custom ability setups really come into their own. Seeing a 'no MP cost' mod is an opportunity to go nuts with one of the summoner archetype forms to have infinite familiars do your bidding, for instance, while that initially daunting 'all damage x9,999' one is an open invite to equip the egg's passive (which caps incoming damage at a certain percentage of your HP) to avoid getting one-shotted yourself as you safely nuke everything the dungeon throws at you. See? The egg is good. Not as good as the Ghost, though, but then nothing is.

nobody saves the world xbox

Once upgraded a little and kitted out with the right perks, our spooky friend is hands-down the best form in the game. What it might lack in damage output compared to some other forms, it more than makes up with survivability and utility. The Ghost is unique in that it has no direct attacks, and only gets two active abilities of its own — a damage-dealing aura and an incorporeal state that prevents all incoming damage — as well as a passive that applies the Fear effect to make enemies flee when the status reaches full build-up. On paper, the Ghost is sort of awful, but it's testament to how robust the character customisation is here that this thing can get so absurdly powerful. Through creative ability interplay, my endgame setup for Ghost offers almost 100% uptime for both aura (which applies both Fear and Poison, as well as siphoning health and mana from damaged enemies) and invulnerability, while still having two active slots available to cover enemy wards as needed. New Game+ warned of more difficult combinations of dungeon modifiers, and while a few did force me to lab some new builds, most were honestly just a case of 'which elements does Ghost need to beat this one?' The final unlockable form, which I won't spoil (and which also requires investment in the egg, for what it's worth), proves almost as sustainable, with an emphasis on critical hits offering a perfect opportunity to boost crit rate and damage then heal every time you land a crit, although that only needs a few rolls to go against you in a harder dungeon and things can get dicey... I think I'd rather just be literally untouchable as the ghosty lad, thanks.

Achievements, then... truth be told, it's not a difficult list. The core ability interchanging system makes this more a power fantasy game than a truly challenging one, or at least one where creativity is rewarded to effectively trivialise dungeons that have seemingly impossible sets of mods with just a few smart choices. Nothing here is missable, collectables appear on the map once you get close to them (one is a bit of a jerk, mind), and everything bar the NG+ achievement can be earned in your first playthrough. That'd be a bit of a waste, though. The only thing that doesn't carry over to NG+ is side mission progress, although NG+ does shift to global enemy level scaling, so you're probably better off using optional missions for a level boost on your first run instead of saving them for the second playthrough where those extra levels are practically meaningless. The second run is interesting in that you keep all unlocked forms and progress, so are only gated by story restrictions, although only optional dungeons offer Stars in NG+ (you'll already have done most of the side and form quests by that point, after all). I don't think too many people will struggle with this completion — I'd put it at around the 25-30-hour mark — but if you do, there's always the option to call for backup via the online co-op feature.

nobody saves the world xbox


Nobody Saves the World is a bold change of direction for the team best known for the Guacamelee! games, and the gamble pays off. It's a creative ARPG that rewards experimentation brilliantly, and even without memeing as hard as its lucha-masked stablemates (does anything?), it manages to entertain all the same with its own blend of tight combat, hugely customisable classes, daft humour, and a well-told narrative. Yes, some character builds can feel massively overpowered (that's kinda the point), and curated dungeon modifiers across the two main playthroughs do give Nobody Saves the World a somewhat finite shelf life, which an option for random mods might perhaps counteract. But judged purely on the basis of what is there rather than what is not, it's a fantastic experience and proof that there's more to this talented indie team than just wrestling-themed Metroidvania games and memes. Also, I'm rather proud that in the face of so many golden opportunities to make an egg joke, my resolve didn't crack.

8 / 10
* Luke spent 30 hours revelling in the chaos of Nobody Saves the World, unlocking all 33 achievements over the course of two playthroughs. A review copy was provided by the publisher, and played on Xbox Series X.
Luke Albigés
Written by Luke Albigés
Luke runs the TA news team, contributing where he can primarily with reviews and other long-form features — crafts he has honed across two decades of print and online gaming media experience, having worked with the likes of gamesTM, Eurogamer, Play, Retro Gamer, Edge, and many more. He loves all things Monster Hunter, enjoys a good D&D session, and has played way too much Destiny.
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