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Nobody Saves the World is constantly entertaining

Nobody Saves the World puts the grin in grind. DrinkBox's RPG isn't ashamed of its XP farming demands, and won't let you quickly mainline its story without them. But neither is it harshly traditional, withholding tasty challenges until you've eaten your greens, with only the occasional stat boosts to demonstrate the nutritional benefits. Rather, it asks: what if the grind wasn't a means to an end or an imposition, but satisfyingly playful in itself?

You begin your adventure as a nobody. A white, eyeless, forgetful soul barely capable of anything. You have no memories, skills, or even any pants! It’s all laughably odd. You mistakenly find a magic wand, end up channelled into a quest to save the world, and acquire an amazing ability to change into a vast array of weird creatures. What a day!

But the most delightful surprise that this mirthful, meaty RPG delivers is its concise, coherent, steady dopamine drip of a gameplay loop. Nobody Saves the World gets grind right. Its pivotal stages are gated by completing a repeating series of granular objectives, and those dungeons are staffed by enemies of increasing strengths. But never did I find myself in the resentful position of grinding out a level increase so I could overwhelm the opposition with a mere attribute score. The stuff I was working up to, and for, was interesting, and I went into the next dungeons as much to see it in action as to defeat whatever sub-boss was in there.

Unlocking new forms (18 in total) and toying with their individual quirks sits at the heart of Nobody Saves the World. There's something wonderfully absurd, for example, about assuming the persona of a cabaret magician in a fantasy world where wizards and magic palpably exist, yanking aggressive bunnies from a top hat. I also enjoy running around backwards as a horse (you can hold down a button to fix the direction you're facing), because its main attack is a two-hooved boot from the rear. And I never thought I'd say this, but I'm a big fan of the slug, backpedalling from enemies to draw them into its slimy trail, slowing them down to be picked off with watery projectiles.

You will need to use this system too because not too far into the game you start to meet enemies with shields on them which correspond to different attack types from your various forms. Being able to add different types of attacks to other forms helps massively. Still, the whole system makes it impossible to rely on your favourites, especially early on. Nobody Saves The World encourages trial, error and experimentation and I like that. The whole game can be played co-op too, which is a big plus and does help with the combat sometimes.

The enclosed conditions within dungeons also tend make the generally slick and consistent combat feel more haphazard. It comfortably manages to accommodate dozens of monsters and familiars smashing into each other at once, but there's no real sense of impact between the paper cut-out characters, and hits don't visibly register other than the little numbers that pop up, so when it turns into something of a mosh pit, it's difficult to gauge who's winning. Death can be alarmingly sudden when you're surrounded by mobs protected by wards you can't instantly shatter, or if you simply lose yourself amid the chaos.

Where Nobody Saves the World finds its sweet spot is when a dungeon rolls up a stout but understandable challenge, requiring a couple minutes of considerate loadout tinkering and then enough fast-twitch gamepad skills to make every shot and strike count. The white-knuckle finishes to these boss fights aren’t a sign your idea barely worked; they’re proof that great video game design, in the hands of an interested and entertained player, can take a happy menagerie of rejects and salvaged parts and make them work together brilliantly.

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