Nobody Saves The World really hit its stride the first time my character, currently a birthday magician, unleashed a swarm of cute white bunnies to ravage his enemies.
Not long into my 30-minute hands-on demo for Drinkbox Studios' new game, I had already used a magic wand imbued with shape-shifting power to transform from a blank, dumpy, plain white cartoon character into a somewhat dodgy magician better suited to entertaining children than crawling dungeons. Chief among the magician's abilities is summoning rabbits--you know, like out of a hat--to fight on my behalf. But since my magician abilities were somewhat untrustworthy, occasionally the rabbit I pulled out of the hat would be something else, like a giant, much more intimidating white tiger.
The short look at Nobody Saves The World took me through two of its procedurally generated dungeons, trying out three of the "forms," or classes, you can unlock as you play. Like Drinkbox's Guacamelee! games before it, Nobody Saves The World is a goofy, humorous take on an assortment of inspirations. This time, Drinkbox turns its sights on the action-RPG genre with a top-down dungeon crawler that feels like it takes pages from games like The Legend of Zelda and Diablo. Your job is mostly to fight your way through dungeons, collecting magic crystals, as you fight a gross gooey infection called the Calamity that grips your world, filling it with monsters.
You play Nobody, a blank and boring character. You wake up with no idea who you are, with only the suggestion that you're supposed to seek out a powerful wizard called Nostra Magus, who's set to apprentice you. When you arrive, though, you find Nostar Magus is missing and wind up snagging a magic wand from him that allows you to transform Nobody into a number of different kinds of characters with more interesting traits.
Figuring out how best to use the magician was just a part of the demo. I also played as the fast-moving rat, which left its enemies poisoned and then, with an ability I earned a bit later, could cause those poisoned enemies to explode and take out their friends. And I tried out the ranger, which could fire arrows that penetrate through multiple enemies with sniper-like precision or unload a hoard of projectiles as if firing a machine gun. Each form has its own unique uses, and you play each one a little differently based on its abilities and their cooldown timers.
All the forms have a health and a mana bar, and certain abilities require mana to use. Your fastest base attack will restore mana, while generally, your second mana-using attack will restore health, requiring you to balance the two in order to keep yourself alive. The poison bomb attack mentioned above was a third attack unlocked by leveling up the rat form.
Each form has its own various attack abilities, as well as passive perks that you earn as you level up your character. The thing is, those abilities and perks can be mixed and matched between different forms as you unlock them, allowing you to customize each form to suit your situation or create unique synergies.
For instance, perks from the necromancer form that increase the health of summoned creatures can be placed on the magician to boost his rabbits. You could also borrow a "sacrifice" ability from the necromancer, allowing you to kill off one of your rabbits to gain a damage boost for yourself. Exploring the opportunities to make new builds and synergies is core to Nobody Saves The World--in areas like dungeons, the game is less about rapidly changing forms on the fly, which can leave you vulnerable to attack, and more about tweaking your build to maximize your effectiveness.
Which forms and abilities you bring into dungeons is going to be important, though, Drinkbox co-founder Graham Smith told GameSpot during the preview session. That's because the tougher ones you need to clear to progress the story, called legendary dungeons, will include enemies with "wards." These are shields that are weak to specific types of attacks, requiring you to make sure you're using the correct type of damage, like Sharp, Blunt, Dark, and so on, to destroy them.
There's one more reason you'll want to constantly tune your build and pay attention to which forms you're using: quests. Unlike in other RPGs, you don't gain experience points for your forms as you kill enemies. Rather, forms are constantly taking on quests, which are side objectives you need to complete that level you up. In the story, some quests are required to advance--some quests reward you with stars, and the doors to tougher dungeons require a certain number of stars to open them, like you might see in a Mario game. The quests specific to each form, though, act both to strengthen that form and to teach you more about it and how you can alter and empower it.
"The initial quest for a form and the ones you were doing are pretty simple," Smith said. "They're just kind of training you how to use the base form, which is important because you need to learn how to use the base form before you start experimenting with them. But then the second half of each form's quests are all about customizing. So, for example, some forms don't have any ranged abilities, like the guard. It has a sword attack, so you might get a quest that's like, kill enemies with ranged abilities. So we start to encourage customization through the quests."
There are currently around 18 forms in Nobody Saves The World. They include some traditional Dungeons & Dragons-like classes, such as the ranger, as well as more out-there ideas--you can also play as a zombie, an egg, a horse, a mermaid, a robot, a bodybuilder, a turtle, a ghost, and a slug, to name a few. The team has a "wishlist" for more they might add as well, Smith said.
All those weird and goofy classes fit with the overall comedy aesthetic of Nobody Saves The World, which is similar to what's found in the Guacamelee! games. The first dungeon we ventured through in the demo, for instance, was a giant rotting pumpkin; the other option was a crashed UFO.
"Those are the weird things that we're trying to do," Smith explained. "We're trying to break the mold a little bit--one of the dungeons is the interior of a dead dragon, and another one's a gingerbread house. And so we're trying to keep things fresh and trying to avoid the typical fantasy tropes as much as we can in a lot of these dungeons."
More than anything, the demo we played of Nobody Saves The World suggests a lot more beneath the game's surface. From its weird genre-bending locations to its highly customizable gameplay and its funny, strange story, it looks like Drinkbox has succeeded in unifying a variety of different ideas for its take on the action-RPG genre. Look for Nobody Saves The World later this year on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
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