Worldless (Nintendo Switch) Review

In the beginning, there was light. . .

Somewhere, out there, in the great darkness, a new universe is born. New stars spring into existence in this pristine space… But it’s not empty, and, new as it is, not without conflict. There is a battle raging out here, between creatures of alternating natures. Light versus dark, good versus evil, matter versus anti-matter? No matter, as one of these beings, you’re thrust newly-born into a conflict without rhyme or reason, knowing only that you have to vanquish the enemy and adapt to survive. Developer NoName Studio’s Worldless is an action platformer that features some Metroidvania elements. It’s also a game that’s taking quite a gamble on its turn-based combat system because it’s this combat system that will either make or break the game for you.

Worldless Screenshot

Most of Worldless’ gameplay, visuals and audio is incredibly serene. The platforming, in conjunction with the music is a pure delight. While there isn’t anything you haven’t seen before in the gaming world, such as air dashes, the way in which the areas have been laid out is fantastic. Worldless presents some absorbing and calming platforming that has just enough challenge to keep you engaged but not enough to frustrate.

Traversing Worldless’ wonderfully stylised environments, from floating rocks to activated platforms, from air-dashing across gaps and timing jumps from platforms that propel you into the air, is an absolute joy. Heightened by the fantastic soundtrack that highlights the calmness of the environments and, occasionally, the moroseness of the cosmic conflict playing out around you.

As you move across the world, your avatar’s head blinking to activate platforms or collect upgrades, beautiful flora sprouts from the ground beneath you, while in the background, you can see others of your kind engaged in combat with their opposites. While the visuals are gorgeous, they’re quite stripped back from what we usually find in this genre.

Worldless Screenshot

So too is the games map and skill tree. Opting as well for a no frills stylisation, the game presents its map as a bunch of lines with intersecting points while the upgrade tree works along the same design aesthetic. Blue or bluish-white and orange represent this dual natured universe and the upgrades come in orange or blue skill points to unlock your next set of skills. The skill tree is also simple and stripped back by comparison with everything designed specifically for the combat system.

The story as well is told, or hinted at through symbolism and obscurity with a skeleton like being occasionally tossing out cryptic dialogue your way. Once this would have been a courageous way to tell your story but, thankfully, the rise of Soul-likes have made us used to this level of cryptic narration and interpretive narrative.

It is Worldless’ combat though which may either lift up the game for you or cause it to sink. Instead of traditional hack/slash action combat, Worldless uses a real-time turn-based system. Both you and the enemy get to take turns at attacking and defending, the length of each turn determined by a swiftly decreasing bar beneath your character. During your phase you can use combo melee attacks, magic and ranged attacks. You can also swap from one attack to the next in a flow, such as knocking an enemy up into the air and following up with energy arrows.

Worldless Screenshot

During the enemy’s turn it’s your job to defend against its attacks. Death, for you at any rate, isn’t an option. Each attack causes guard damage, reducing your shield until your hit, which takes away a chunk of the energy bar beneath you. Once that bar breaks you simply get knocked out of combat to dust yourself off and try again.

Worldless, however, ups the difficulty by providing you with different buttons to block different attack types, so you have to be fast to catch melee or magic headed your way. More so, blocking isn’t nearly enough to get you through the tougher encounters as the game really favours perfect blocks for you to defeat your opponent. Simpler enemies can be done away with easily in the beginning using only a standard block and attacks. As you progress further, the enemies become real skill and progression blockers. And if you don’t upgrade your skills or get good at perfect guards, you’re not going to go far at all.

Enemies don’t roam the world but are, instead, posted at specific checkpoints along your route, which results in them being game walls if you can’t defeat them. Early on that means turning around to do more exploration and skill upgrading until you’re ready to defeat them, but it quickly becomes a case of not been able to progress at all until you defeat a specific enemy.

Worldless Screenshot

Defeating the enemy isn’t enough though. You need to learn how to absorb them as well because they’ll become skill points if you do. Damage is mitigated into two types: absorbing damage to fill up the absorption bar, and base damage to simply defeat them. Fill up the bar enough and complete a mini-game of button presses and you have a new skill point.

However, filling up that bar isn’t easy because while Worldless’ tutorial gives you the basics, it doesn’t explain enough for you know what certain icons in combat mean, leaving you to experiment until you get it right. And this, along with the progression factor, can make Worldless frustrating.

Worldless’ other big flaw is that map itself. While you can see the direction you need to go in and where you are at the moment, it doesn’t map out the surroundings at all in any kind of detail, making it difficult to keep track of where you have and haven’t been.

Final Verdict

As much as I can applaud NoName Studios attempting to try something new in the genre, Worldless’ combat simply didn’t gel with me. Instead, it became a chore that I had to deal with to get to the game’s good parts. And those parts are incredibly good. Make no mistake, Worldless is gorgeous, interesting and features some truly sublime platforming and music which made undertaking the chore of combat worth the effort. Give this game a try but do keep in mind that the combat might not to be your liking.

Worldless was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PC, Xbox One/Series S|X, and PS4/5.

Worldless (Nintendo Switch) Review

Worldless (Nintendo Switch) Review
7 10 0 1
7/10
Total Score

The Good

  • Interpretive narrative
  • Excellent platforming
  • Beautiful, stylised visuals
  • Wonderful music

The Bad

  • Combat isn’t much fun
  • The map isn’t really helpful
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