Back in 2011, Housemarque developed a game called Outland. In that game, your character alternated between two colours which determined the environments you could stand on, the enemies you were strongest against and other gameplay elements. It’s not an original idea but when done right, it can be an engaging and challenging mechanic. Worldless, uses a similar gameplay hook but also incorporates other elements of 2D platformers that fit in the Metroidvania genre. Unfortunately, the combat is ultra-specific and ultimately determines who will enjoy the game.
No true narrative but tons to explore
There isn’t much of a story here in Worldless outside of the fact that you’re in a mysterious world that sees two “factions” fight against each other. One group is blue while the other is orange. You start the game as a blue character who sets off on an adventure of sorts learning about the world we’re in.
Besides a few flashing markers on the map, you aren’t given any clear-cut objectives. For the most part, you’re open to where you’d like to go. The only thing preventing you from going to certain spots is your inability to do so.
Early on, the blue character can’t touch water, so that prevents you from accessing sections where you must go over water. You can’t reach high spots, so you can’t reach higher ground until you’ve earned your warp ability. That ability allows you to move a bit further in all directions. As abilities are found, that opens up more sections to explore and progress the story.
When one becomes two
If you notice any of the trailer content around Worldless, the dual protagonist plot reveal isn’t a surprise. This happens at about the halfway point of the story. The two characters, one blue and the other orange merge into one. This then opens up even more areas to explore and a new set of locations to reach.
Both characters have their strengths and weaknesses. You can instantly swap between the two as you trek through every area and even in combat. In combat, your attacks differ enough that depending on the foe you encounter, one is more effective than the other. But, in some instances, mixing between the two will be imperative if you hope to win and progress further.
As I mentioned earlier, the blue character can’t handle water, but the orange character can. The orange character also can double-jump. When you combine blue’s warp with orange’s double-jump, then you’re able to get to more locations. There are plenty of locations where it’s imperative to use both abilities. It does take a bit of time to get the timing right, but for those who are good with those types of mechanics, you’ll feel right at home.
So much of this game relies on timing. Not only do you need to hit certain objects and perform movements at precise moments, but the game’s combat is entirely timing-based. This. is where I feel most people will either love or hate the game.
Combat scenarios are important for multiple reasons. You have to fight to progress the story. You also have to fight to earn and improve your character’s abilities. It’s not just winning the fight, it’s about absorbing the enemy to earn the necessary orb they reward you with.
There are two aspects to every fight. The first is that combat is turn-based. You start with a set length of time to dish out as many attacks as you can. Combat is a mix of close and long-range hits with either a weapon or a magic ability. Once you’ve completed your turn, it’s the enemy’s opportunity to strike you. All enemies highlight what they’ll attack you with, either a physical attack or a magic one.
The key for you on defense is to block those attacks. Failing to do so not only takes a significant portion of your health, but it also makes it harder for you to absorb them. At the same time though, you can’t just hold the correct block button. Doing so will only cause your block to break. If you manage to time it precisely as the attack strikes, you save your shield and can hold off additional attacks.
Very picky with a lot of trial and error
The most important aspect of the combat is that to advance the story and defeat most foes, you need to “absorb” them. As I mentioned above, absorbing unlocks new abilities and allows you to upgrade your characters, but this method of doing it is very cumbersome. In most cases, you’ll probably have to replay some battles or be prepared to retry combat scenarios until you get it right.
As combat is turn-based, during your time on the attack, you are actively trying to hit your foe as much as possible to fill up a meter that allows you to attempt an absorption. For some foes, you only have to fill it up halfway before you can trigger this action. But in most boss battles, you’ll need to fill it up completely. When you reach that “sweet spot”, you trigger a minigame.
The minigame itself isn’t too hard but it’s mostly guesswork. When triggered, you must hit the different action buttons. You might be able to see which button you need to press for the first or second one, but the rest are guesses until you get it right. You only have a few seconds here, so if you mess it up, you go back to fighting and must refill the bar to trigger it again.
This wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t take forever to fill up the bar. Each foe is weak to certain attacks, but in every fight, it takes multiple rounds of fighting to fill this bar. If you don’t properly block an attack, then the bar drops, which forces you to go another few rounds to fill it back up again.
Value for some, but not for everyone
There are points in Worldless where I was entrenched in its environment. The platforming and puzzle-solving aspects kept me moving. But when I got to the combat sections, I dreaded them. The constant trial-and-error which ultimately led to some unnecessarily long battles would give me pause, deciding my time was better suited to play something else. Again, some people will adore the combat but I just wasn’t one of them. If the game focused more on the puzzles and platforming, then I could easily recommend it.
A code for this game was given to me in order to write this content.