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  • Writer's pictureBarely Magic Mike

Worldless Review - A Unique Metroidvania Hybrid Game!

Worldless review by BarelyMagicMike (Steam/PC, XBOX, PS, Switch)

Released 11/21/23

Noname Studios, Coatsink/Thunderful

Worldless makes a great first impression – a vibrantly colorful explosion occurs on a cosmic scale, from which emerges seemingly infinite blue and orange celestial bodies that bump up against each other in constant conflict.  It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on, and I’m not sure it’s comprehensible enough to summarize in the form of any straightforward narrative.  But it’s flashy and intriguing, working as a compelling intro before settling onto one blue orb in particular – the main character of Worldless, who moves seamlessly despite being made up of floating, disconnected limbs, like a sci-fi Rayman but, well, a bit more violent.

The vague story at play is pretty sparse and hardly a central driving force of the game, but works well enough as an excuse to place us in a mysterious, gorgeous world and have us hop between a variety of dimensions to hunt down our orange orb counterpart.

Naturally, none of this tells you anything about what kind of game Worldless is, and that was hard for me to pin down at first.  But ultimately, Worldless is about half of a platforming metroidvania and half of a parry-focused action soulslike-ish-thing that also happens to be… turn-based?  I know, I know.  Hear me out.

A screenshot from Worldless
Worldless is a platformer meets metroidvania meets action souls-like

Anyway, actually playing Worldless goes a little like this – you’ll enter a new area to explore, and you’ll have a variety of moves you can use to get around, from objects in the environment to grapple or slingshot yourself from, to a variety of abilities you find throughout the game like a dash, double jump and plenty of others I don’t intend to ruin.

As you traverse through each area you’ll unlock shortcuts, collect orbs that unlock new moves on the skill tree, and fight a wide variety of enemies.  Each of these fights tends to play out differently depending on the enemy’s move set, weaknesses and different phases, but the basic gist is this – when it’s your turn, a timer will appear under you indicating how long you have to wail on your enemy with physical slashes, your bow and arrow and a variety of magical abilities before your time is up. 

Mixing up moves works greatly to your benefit and does the most damage, but even more important is using moves that target your enemies’ weaknesses.  Breaking their guard will allow you to do double damage for a limited time, and get you closer to the point where you can either defeat them by depleting their health bar, or absorb them via a decent-in-concept-but-somewhat-poorly-thought-out minigame.  Essentially, the mini game usually requires you to hit a random 4-button combo using the A B X Y buttons to absorb your enemy, but if you’ve only done the minimum damage necessary to trigger the minigame, the last two inputs will be hidden and you’ll be required to guess in a very short amount of time.  Mashing all the buttons doesn’t seem to work as there’s clearly some sort of rhythm to it, but overall this minigame is pretty sloppy and not fun, distilling successful absorption of your enemy down to random chance unless you do as much damage as feasibly possible first.  

Questionable minigames aside, when your attack timer runs out, it’s the enemy’s turn.  They’ll also attack you with a variety of physical and magic attacks, and only by holding the correct guard button or pressing it in time with the attack for a perfect guard can you hope to avoid damage.  These attack and defend stages are the crux of Worldless’ turn-based approach to combat, and overall it’s one that works pretty well, avoiding the over-complexity that would result from mashing the two phases together.

A screenshot from Worldless
Beautiful animations feature stark contrast of vibrant colors and dark silhouettes

It's really flashy and fun to watch too – Worldless has beautiful animations to go with its gorgeous world, and each battle looks visceral as hell while you feel the weight of each strike in the offensive stage and heaps of anxiety when it’s time to defend.  It can be damn hard though, with the bosses especially echoing the early boss encounters of any soulslike, though certainly less tedious since you can jump back into any battle the second you lose – I suppose I can be thankful for small miracles.

The pieces are here – a beautiful world to explore, tight platforming, interesting combat and an original overall design that borrows ideas from other genres to ultimately forge its own path.  And yet – despite plenty of bright moments, some design choices that I’ll call personally unpalatable rather than objectively bad prevented me from consistently enjoying it.

Let’s start with the map.  I want to say outright that I think Worldless’ map is atrocious.  Those who know me know my biggest pet peeve in games is when they are designed in a way that makes you get lost and be frequently unsure what to do to progress, and Worldless ticks those boxes with confidence and pride.  The map, shown here, is a series of simple, interconnected lines that vaguely show how each area is structured and connected, with nowhere near enough detail to make it clear if I was going the right way or if I even had the abilities I needed to progress in a certain biome.

There were so many times where I was playing Worldless and got hopelessly stuck on a boss or a platforming area, and truly had no idea if that was the direction I was meant to be going or if I needed some upgrade or skill that I didn’t have yet.  In some cases I had to find a different way to progress, wandering aimlessly through biomes I’ve already been through due to my character’s relatively slow running speed (at least until one upgrade you get later on) and complete lack of fast travel ability, and other times the way forward was just obtuse enough that a bit of trial and error finally got me through it.  

Worldless game screenshot
Worldless is a game that leans heavily on the obtuse side

But despite a small handful of combat tutorials and some vague quest markers pointing you kind of in the direction you need to go, Worldless seems to love being obtuse and difficult to understand.  Hell, even the map itself, simple and near-useless as it is, took me time to figure out its basic structure and how its various areas are connected.  I truly spent almost as much time confused in Worldless as I did having fun.

And you know what?  I know for a fact that some people – especially soulslike fans who hate handholding and love to figure out games for themselves, are going to absolutely love this.  They will gobble it up, explore every little thing and end the game begging for more, finding most of my critiques to be completely unapplicable to them.  And I get it – some people love to charge through a game with as little guidance as possible.  I am not one of them.  I like my hand held.  It feels nice.

This puts me in a tricky place with Worldless.  As I’ve already said a couple of times, the game, despite its mostly minimalistic character models and texture work, has a gorgeous aesthetic that was easy to get lost in, with sound and music that were easily up to par to immerse me in its lovely but tumultuous world.  It also runs near-flawlessly on Steam Deck, mostly holding 60 fps at default settings despite a few frame drops here or there.  I really enjoyed how cerebral the combat is while also requiring quick reflexes to parry correctly, even though some of the battles were frustrating enough to echo memories of Sekiro, a game which I stopped 2/3rds of the way through for how thrilling but completely exhausting I found it.  And though I’m not the biggest fan of metroidvanias, I appreciated that exploration netted me some pretty cool upgrades, and incredible new moves that totally changed the way I moved through the game.

A screenshot from the game Worldless
Worldless is a game that won't be for everyone

But frankly, I cannot personally recommend Worldless without a set of caveats to ward people like myself away from it.  Its ethereal beauty, visceral combat and fun platforming are heavily offset by regular navigational confusion, some extremely difficult encounters and the constant sense that I wasn’t really playing the game correctly because so many little nuances go completely unexplained.  If you love games that throw you into the deep end and get a sense of satisfaction from figuring them out, I think you’ll find a lot to love here and may find Worldless to be an immensely original hidden gem.  But if something like that doesn’t appeal to you, you may be as frustrated as I was when the game doesn’t respect your time and requires too much aimless wandering or directional guesswork to confidently make progress.  It’s a shining example of why we don’t give numerical review scores – not every game is for everybody and that doesn’t make it bad – but if you ultimately ask me if Worldless is a good or bad game, all I can really say is that it was interesting, and for at least a decent chunk of its runtime I was glad I got the chance to experience it.


+ Beautiful art direction

+ Great sound design

+ Interesting and original combat

+ Upgrades and abilities feel impactful


- Relentlessly obtuse navigation

- Early game areas need fast travel

- Some mechanics poorly explained

- Difficulty can be brutal at times

- Absorption minigame is lame

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