So, I gotta get something off my chest. I love RPGs with a Job System. What’s a Job System? Basically a thing where you can freely change between classes/jobs and customize your character with abilities from the jobs you’ve used, mixing and matching to create awesome new builds. Final Fantasy V and the Bravely Default series are particularly known for this. …And now this unexpected gem from the Guacamelee team can join that list.
GENRE: Shape Shifting Action RPG
ALSO AVAILABLE ON: Xbox Series
I’ll admit I came into this with certain expectations given the developer. I thought ‘oh, this will probably be a cute take on Zelda given the look and who made it.’ I ended up being wrong in the best possible way instead. What we have here is an action RPG that, as I mentioned, scratches a very specific itch for me. Games that use a Job System or similar that’s all about being able to constantly customize your character’s build whenever you want, and not having to stick to one specific setup for your playthrough. And that’s exactly what we get in this game where instead of Jobs, you have transformations, but the idea is very much the same.
You start out the game as…Nobody, much like the title implies. Nobody is an amnesiac who is armed with a pathetic little slap that does pretty much no damage. Thankfully, you are quickly given access to a much more powerful transformation at which your enemies will tremble, which is…A Rat. Yes, a Rat. But said Rat has the ability to poison enemies and fit into small passages, and actually becomes quite the deadly transformation. But how do you become deadly? Quests! Every Form you unlock gets several quests that involve using its abilities (And later, other forms’ abilities) which in turn upgrade that Form and unlock new perks and abilities for it. And as you upgrade your Forms, you’ll unlock MORE forms. It’s a viciously addictive gameplay loop and it’s the core of what makes me love this game so much.
Nobody’s adventure is a simple enough one: A wizard has gone missing that is the only hope of stopping a world ending calamity, and you just happen to be stuck with the means of finding him, because the wizard’s assistant is a jerk and you sure don’t want HIM getting all the credit. Much like Zelda, you have to find several important items that are strewn about various dungeons, but that’s about the only real similarity here besides the topdown view. Nobody Saves the World plays very differently from any typical Zelda game, as it is very much about the combat and transformation system. As I mentioned, you have several Forms at your disposal, starting out with the aforementioned Rat, and then that form branches off into two new forms: the tanky Guard and long range specializing Ranger, who each branch off into their own additional Forms. What makes this so fun is that shortly into the game, you gain the ability to mix and match abilities from forms to customize them. Why just be a Horse, when you can be a Horse that can wield a bow?
Mixing and matching abilities to customize each and every form as its own “build” is the core of Nobody Saves the World, and it’s an absolutely addictive core gameplay loop. Especially since you can’t just waltz into every dungeon you need to conquer: Each dungeon requires a certain number of Stars to open, kinda like Mario 64 except you actually spend these Stars. And how do you earn them? Quests! These can include the quests to upgrade your Forms, as well as beating dungeons and doing side jobs for various factions. So at the end of the day, it’s up to you how you want to progress: Do you focus on upgrading your Forms? Exploring the world’s side dungeons? It’s all up to you.
And the whole mixing and matching thing isn’t just limited to combat, you’ll often come across puzzle like quests that may require a specific build to get through, which just further encourages this game’s incredibly fun system of trying everything out. The combat also heavily encourages this, as your damage is split into four major types: Slashing, Crushing, Light, and Dark. Many enemies later on will have barriers that can only be broken by the matching damage type’s color, and thus you’ll need to have multiple forms on hand to deal with each of these damage types. And then of course there’s the fun of finding devastatingly effective combinations to do more damage to your enemies. The Ranger for example can poison enemies much like the Rat, and the Rat gains the ability to make all poisoned enemies violently explode. So why not add that poison explosion to a Ranger who can safely poison things from a distance? And that’s just one example.
There’s a lot of incentive to explore the world as well. Be it shortcuts between areas, hidden mana upgrades to let you use abilities more often, not to mention all the treasure chests full of shiny coins. Coins are used to buy upgrades that affect all your forms, as well as new Passives you can slot in to further customize them, and tokens to upgrade both active and passive abilities on said forms. So you’ll have plenty of reason to go and check every corner of the map: Be it to find a new dungeon to get Stars from, get some loot, get more mana, find a new quest…And it’s a pretty big, expansive map. Thankfully fast travel points exist across the map to let you quickly get from one spot to another.
I’ll admit I do have some complaints about the game, minor, but present all the same. The first is that while you get a quick wheel for changing your forms, you currently cannot customize it. The game instead fills it with forms you’ve picked from the form menu, replacing whichever one you used the least of your eight in the wheel. This means actually setting your preferred forms on said wheel is difficult and frustrating, something that I don’t really understand. Wheels are made to be customized, especially for something like this! The other complaint is that boss fights that make up the end of dungeons can feel a bit underwhelming. Most bosses tend to be bigger versions of existing enemies, rather than what I would want to see in a game like this: unique, big bad bosses that require using a variety of skills and forms to overcome. It’s one way the game’s simplicity hurts it, but it’s hardly a dealbreaker.
Humor can be a mixed bag, especially if you thought Guacamelee had too many memes. The good news for those who didn’t like the memery though? It’s very, VERY cut down in this by comparison. There’s still a few, but you’re not having them thrown at you every screen like Guacamelee did. Personally, I had a few good chuckles.
Now, some good news for co-op enthusiasts. This game is in fact, co-op! Though online only co-op, no local, which seems odd. The online is welcome, but this really seems like a game that could easily support it on a local level too, so I’m not entirely sure why they did it this way. That said, two friends can be Nobodies together if they so wish, adding more potential fun as you find form combinations that work great in teams.
At the end of the day, even with its flaws, I still strongly recommend this game if you’re anything like me in that I *LOVE* games that are all about build customization being a thing throughout the game. It’s one thing when an RPG has you do a long term build, but it’s another when you’re constantly changing your build: you could be a tanky warrior one dungeon, and a demon summoning Necromancer the next. This game is all about constantly changing up how you play, and that alone keeps the experience fresh and fun as you try to figure out what abilities work best with your newest Forms. Its charming art-style and humorous approach are equally welcome, and help keep it from being just another generic action RPG, because we do have quite a few of those these days.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the game that’s going to be awhile before I can review it: Elden Ring. …What? You’re probably playing it too.