Worldless is good, like really good, and I enjoyed it quite a lot... until I hit a brick wall
Worldless is a truly interesting 2D metroidvania-ish game set in a visually striking ethereal universe. Traversal and platforming are smooth and satisfying, and the turn-based active combat, something I haven't experienced in a game before, is engaging and extremely challenging.
There's a story told in the game, but honestly, I found it hard to follow. It falls into what I like to call 'artsy fartsy' stories, a trait many great indie games tend to have. Your character is a bodyless creature made up of white dots arranged where the limbs should be, similar to a stick figure without the actual sticks. Speaking of stick figures, as you roam around the gorgeous map, you will encounter actual stick figure creatures, larger than you, who will basically taunt you, making fun of your lack of a body or your inability to find your other polar opposite half. Confusing, right?
Here's what the official synopsis of the game says: 'Worldless is set in a newborn universe based on entities trapped in an eternal conflict by the polarizing nature of their attractions. These interactions can result in an exchange of their polarities, but this process is very unstable, and who knows what new results can come from it...' What does that even mean, you know?
Maybe if I tried to follow the story, it would make sense to me, but frankly, I don't really care. What I care about when I play games like this one is gameplay, and that's really good in Worldless. Platforming feels extremely responsive, and as you unlock more abilities like dashing and running across surfaces, it all feels good.
Later in the game, you will even get more abilities, and platforming becomes even more challenging as you have to quickly switch between dashing, running, and double jumping to access new and secret hidden areas. It gets tough, I'm not going to lie.
But not as tough as the actual combat. I already mentioned that this game features a turn-based active combat system, but what does that even mean? Every encounter is just you against another creature. During your turn, you can hit them with your sword, axe, box, and magic abilities that you unlock as you progress through the game. Then it's the enemy's turn to hurt you, and here's where the active part of this intriguing system comes into play. If you time it right, your character can guard against upcoming physical or magical attacks or even evade most of the upcoming attacks. You can also unlock a parry mechanic where, if you release the guard button at the right moment, you can reflect some damage back to the enemy.
Speaking of damage, another cool thing the combat does is that you can either 'kill' the enemies or hurt them enough for you to absorb them. When you try to absorb them, you have to quickly execute a quick-time event, and boom, you absorb them. This mechanic is really crucial to understand and use since by absorbing them and their cores, you can unlock new abilities and upgrades for your character.
In fact, some of the enemies cannot be killed, only absorbed, as they will unlock the necessary abilities for you to progress through the game. This combat system is very challenging, and this is the brick wall I spoke of at the beginning of this review.
You need to learn what types of attacks to use on an enemy that sets them up for absorbing them, as each and every one of them is unique. At the same time, you need to be careful not to kill them, as then you would have to restart the battle from the beginning. Some of these enemies are hard to absorb, and I am not going to lie; I was struggling with some of them. Then I reached this boss, and for the life of me, I just couldn't absorb him. Not only because his attack patterns are too crazy and too fast for me to react, but the button combinations I needed to press in order to guard against physical or magical attacks are insane. Things like holding RB + Y, then quickly releasing Y at the correct millisecond, to then switch and press the attack button a bunch of times, to then hold RB + X, switch again, and RB + Y once more... I just couldn't do it.
I tried and tried so many times that ultimately I just stopped enjoying the game and, well, quit. What I want to say with all of this is that Worldless is extremely hard, or at least, it is too hard for me. I patiently waited for maybe like a balancing patch for about a month since I got access to the game in October, but nothing came out. If they nerf that boss in particular, I will gladly go back and finish the game since I really enjoyed my time with it up to that moment.
The presentation of Worldless is truly stellar. The score is hauntingly beautiful, and each zone of this massive map sports its own unique look, feel, and theme, which somehow manages to feel connected to the overall vibe of this universe. There's also this cool layer of player interactivity with the environment as flora seems to sprout out of the ground as you walk, the same for lights that flicker and turn on when you are close to them. The animations for your character are so gracefully done, smooth, and kind of mesmerizing to see. Yeah, this game is very pleasing to your eyes and ears.
Worldless is a fantastic game. It's a metroidvania game done right, with a beautiful, unique, and visually pleasing interconnected world to explore. Traversal feels challenging and satisfying, and the turn-based active combat system is easy to get into but quite challenging to master. If you want to actually complete the game, you will have to master it, something that I wasn't able to do. Still, I strongly recommend you give Worldless a go. Thanks for reading!
The game was reviewed on a Series X using a promo code provided by PR. Worldless is out now on PlayStation, Switch, PC and Xbox.