Reviewed On: PS5
Also Available On: Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series, Xbox One, PS4, and PC
Price: $19.99 USD
Developer: Noname Studios
Release Date: November 21, 2023
Please Note: A review code was provided by Coatsink but does not influence the opinions in this review.
Simplicity is sometimes a great thing when it comes to video games, but it has to be done correctly in order to make it work. I think that there is a good amount of content that is available in the game, but you have to be the one who wants to do it. Noname Studios has created Worldless, a game that is an okay 2D adventure platformer with publishing coming from Coatsink. I absolutely love playing indie games since they are the backbones of creativity in the day and age of gaming. A lot of big AAA companies are either crafting multiplayer games, live service titles, or sequel games that just use an already existing IP instead of trying something new. Is Worldless a good game that has substance or is it more about the visuals and lacking in terms of gameplay for me?
The story of the game was one that is more about interpretation if you didn’t see any kind of info before jumping into it. It’s not super explanative besides the fact that there are two groups of individuals that are polar opposites of one another. Based on the press release, below is what the team states is the case for the concept. However, they also want to leave the game’s plot open to interpretation. From my perspective, without this context, I would consider the two sides to be light and dark.
Worldless is set in a world where polar opposite realities are aligned with a common spark. Players will venture into an abstract setting full of entities with opposing goals. One half is fixated on the virtue of their nature, the other is seeking to exchange it for their demise. Polarities attract, resulting in never ending conflict, and the result is the traumatic process of Absorption which sees their very natures exchange.Worldless ‘Polar Opposites’ trailer – Gematsu
Constantly fighting for control while always ending in either stalemates or a specific winner until they eventually reach a happy medium where they can coexist without fighting. I think the plot lines in the game are mostly a “show not tell” situation, which works okay here. Sometimes the other characters that are around in the world would give messages, but mostly it is indeed left up to interpretation. The story, the more I look back on it, was just okay while I was playing the game, but when really sitting down to review it; the wheels started spinning to figure out the deeper messages lurking away in the story.
The gameplay of Worldless is a bit of a mixed bag in my opinion. At the beginning of the game, it is somewhat like a slow burn if I am being honest. In the beginning, you only have a couple of moves to use including a basic jump, and a momentum ability to dash vertically or horizontally. Since the gameplay is that of a 2D action adventure with Metroidvania elements in it, you get new abilities later on that enable you to explore other sections of the game. There are collectibles that are not tracked on the maps that will increase your health, and that is something that you might need for later battles.
Some sections are not explorable until you progress in the main story, so following the marker that indicates where to go is helpful. Sadly, this marker is pretty tiny and not very clear most of the time. It took me a solid five minutes to understand the map since some of the areas are only accessible by first unlocking said area’s portal. You do this by exploring other areas that are already open, to find a path to another area. Eventually, around the halfway mark, you join with your other side which causes both the exploration and the combat to pick up in many different ways.
Now, in terms of combat and skill tree setup, it definitely left me wanting more overall. Most of the spots on the map have an enemy that is either that of a light or dark creature; unless it is one of the few green spots which are big bosses that you need to beat in order to complete the main story path. You can defeat the enemies and move on to the next spot, but the skill tree will be abandoned and that is not a good thing! In order to get “skill points” and orbs to get new and better abilities, you need to use the power of absorption on the enemies. Below are the light side skill trees that will give you needed abilities like bow and arrow moves, lightning, ice, swords, and more. The dark side skill tree also has things like fire, wind, claws, and more as well.
In order to absorb them and gain one corresponding point, you need to break their guard and get their meter to a point where you can enter a four-button combo. To break their guard, you have to match weaknesses of physical or magical powers or use powerful abilities that will make the meter full. The higher the meter is, the less guesswork for the button combo you have to do. It is a risk-reward system; however, if you take damage then the meter starts to go down. Meanwhile, you also have to take into account that each enemy has a health bar that you can’t let deplete all the way or you would have to fight them again.
Also, you can’t die in the game or get a game-over message, you just get booted out of the fight. The Combat is a mix of action and turn-based battle styles where you have to time defense actions correctly to block moves or reduce damage. Combining combos and moves with both light and dark (when obtained) is slick and smooth if you do it correctly. Seeing it in action is probably better than talking about it, so here is a video showcasing the battle style with a simple battle, along with the process of absorption as well in the second video. Please note, this battle is underwater so I am only allowed to use this one form to battle with; it makes sense why, but it is another annoyance once you have both sides unlocked that you are still restricted in certain locations like this.
The art within the game is probably my biggest highlight in the adventure. The different areas that Noname Studios has crafted are ultimately stunning. Saying that though, most of them are fairly small and you don’t need to stick around them for too long if you’re just trying to complete the main path of the game. The sound design is also good for animations from fighting situations, using momentum abilities, and playing the game as a whole. The music in the game gives off the simplistic vibes that are present throughout the game, except for the battles that you take part in. During the battles, the music kicks up to a bit more of an action tempo but none of the battle music is actually memorable in all honestly.
Thankfully, I had no massive bugs, glitches, or crashes during my six-hour playthrough. There were a few moments where inputs sometimes didn’t register or they didn’t register correctly. For instance, I would try and attack an enemy using the ranged weapon and instead, it initiated the special move with the sword. It wasn’t common, but it happened a couple of times close to the end of my experience. I wouldn’t necessarily classify this as a bug, but it did frustrate me a bit in terms of losing some battles I knew I could have won if the input registered correctly.
Another personal gripe to me, albeit this is smaller in comparison, is there was no platinum trophy for the game on PlayStation. I got the gold trophy for getting to the end of the main path, and since I didn’t love the adventure, I didn’t end up going back to do the true ending; the assumption is based on another gold trophy that was on the list. Would I have been more inclined to continue playing? Probably not, but it might be a detriment to some who are trophy hunters.
Unfortunately, I was expecting a lot more out of this indie for some reason. This was definitely not my favorite game from the year, but it is also not my least favorite game from the year. However, with how combat is only structured to one battle per map spot and no random encounters in other parts, the combat occurs less than what I would have hoped for. Combos are great in the battles, but at the beginning of it, I actually didn’t even want to keep playing since combat was simply a slog to get through.
Once you unlock your other half, both exploration and combat feel so much better overall and it becomes much more fun to play; but getting to that point is just simply not that fun. The developer made the art and scenery beautiful in the whole world. The audio was nicely crafted and the music was okay as a whole, even if it was mostly not super memorable for a soundtrack score. Overall, this might not be one of my favorite adventures for 2D games available; however, it is in no way the worst one I have ever played.
Review Score: 7/10