There are many stories that cover topics such as the strong bond between a parent and a child but to what ends is it fine to pursue it when that bond is broken. Quite a while ago, I played the demo of a sekiro-esque 2D action RPG called No Place for Bravery and I really enjoyed it, so it comes as no surprise that I’d be excited about this release, although the question beckons whether or not it stays true to its promises or whether the game has a few rough edges that require polishing.
Developer: Glitch Factory Publisher: Ysbryd Games Genre: Indie, 2D, Action Adventure, Hack and Slash, RPG Release Date: September 22nd, 2022 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC, Switch Copy was provided by the publisher/PR.
To the ends of the world…
After a friendly hunting competition went wrong due to an otherworldly creature known as a Helwyr kidnapping his daughter Leif, the one mighty member of the Old Order Thorn still struggles to accept that his daughter is gone. It’s been ten years and he now lives a quiet life but the nightmares never go away… and now, he has a new lead and an opportunity to finally find Leif again.
Thus, it’s upon you to embark on your journey to the ends of the world to rescue your daughter… but is it worth it? Throughout the game, after all, Thorn’s seething rage appears to erupt from time to time, leaving a bloodbath in its path. Is this truly the love of a griefing father or is this just violence incarnate?
On Thorn’s journey, Thorn has always got the option to end his quest early on and just give up. Your friends ask you to give up chasing after ghosts and with every step you take, you become uglier, more distant, and more violent. Frankly, this isn’t a place for bravery… This is a place of obsession, of suffering, of sadness. Can you come to terms with your inner demons or do you see your adventure through?
So, as a premise, I found No Place for Bravery to be rather compelling and interesting. The angle of it all not being about Thorn “as a hero” but rather Thorn as a “victim” (at least that’s what I got from it) surprised me and got me more and more invested in the writing… but sadly, the game sort of assumes that just because characters tell you to care about something, that you as the player will also care about it. Characters often talk at each other rather than reacting – and exposition is abundant in the oddest places which sometimes breaks the flow of things.
The lore entries you can find and the story you get from seeing the environments are well done and honestly quite interesting but if you don’t read up on quite a bit of the different entries, some of Thorn’s former companions’ dialogue and some of Thorn’s behaviour may not quite make sense to you which is a bummer.
Perhaps though (and I may be reading too much into this), this could also just further signal the way Thorn experiences the world around him: Driven by his obsession, he doesn’t care if others don’t understand. He doesn’t contextualize things he says or does – all he cares about is bringing his daughter back home.
Thus, Leif as a character and other characters like Thorn’s wife just sort of feel like plot devices to make things happen. You’re worried about Leif, so you go save her. You’re worried about your wife, so you go save her. I found this to be lazy in terms of writing and a bit disappointing as it really isn’t well done compared to what the story has to offer outside of these instances. There’s a bar that was set and these instances of plot device characters just sort of fall below that standard.
Wild Rage versus Nordic Goblins!
On the combat front, I found it easy to see where the game takes inspiration from and how it implements it.
Similar to Sekiro, there is a bar that depletes as you parry attacks or attack enemies. Parrying the incoming barrage of strikes and slashes will deplete it faster, enabling you to deal massive damage to foes and incentivizing you to parry and mix in defence into your attacks instead of relying too much on the small “hop” you have instead of a dodge roll.
That’s sort of where the similarities stop, though. Thorn is a brutish hunk of meat that hits hard but slow and there is impact behind every attack. This… again… puts emphasis on how Thron is blinded by his rage and strikes more like a bear than a swordfighter.
Whereas Sekiro’s enemies are full of feints and distractions as well as maneuvers that require strategy and patience, No Place for Bravery requires you to time your attacks well to parry attacks when the window of opportunity rises but there isn’t much tactics involved past that. Honestly, while the comparison to Sekiro may be unfair, I think that No Place For Bravery would shine even more brightly if combat had more strategy involved.
Yes, sometimes you focus on the caster that casts a shield on the damage dealer instead of the archer that shoots arrows at you from afar… but there isn’t much decision-making past that and when to parry.
What adds to this is that you’ve got an abundance of gold but nothing to spend it on. You can get way too many healing potions if you want to and use those as an easy way of beating fights, turning mass battles into battles of attrition.
You can throw throwing knives at enemies and get other items but the game doesn’t really need you to… at all. Combat is fair and never feels like you’re pitted at overwhelmingly strong enemies. On top of that, you have a hammer and a crossbow that sort of make the game a bit easier as you go on and tie in with the world’s puzzles as well… and there are skills you can unlock with special items but their descriptors are mysterious and hard to understand.
No Place for Bravery has its heart in the right place with a focus on interesting topics and incredibly beautiful pixel art… but I find the combat to get rather stale at certain points and I’d love the game more if there were a few more patches ironing out the small hiccups the game has, the bugs you may encounter and these combat features that feel like they’re nearly there… but not quite there yet.
Good but rough around the edges!
I didn’t finish the game, at the time of writing this, but that’s mostly due to my frustrations with exploration in this game.
I love exploring maps and trying to find more lore or whatever but every time I explored an area, I was punished for it. I got gold that I could spend on nothing at all… and I had to backtrack all the way instead of just teleporting to the literal bonfires from Dark Souls scattered throughout the world. They serve as a checkpoint of sorts but that’s about it, really. You can access skills here, I guess… why can’t we use teleport magic or whatever?
Furthermore, there were a few bugs here and there but I’m sure those will get ironed out. I didn’t encounter anything game-breaking, actually, but I still feel like the game requires a bit of polish to go on.
I found my overall experience with No Place for Bravery to be rather satisfying, though, and I’d recommend it to you if you’re into 2D hack-and-slash games… but with a few caveats (as already mentioned). It’s a gem… but it needs some polishing still.
Last but not least, I truly do appreciate the accessibility settings, though, that allow you to customize the difficulty, add more health and damage reduction to yourself or up/lower your damage output.
It enables more people to enjoy this game’s story or combat. That’s pretty darn cool and if there now was a teleport to bonfire X option, I’d be incredibly happy with this. Thanks!