No Place For Bravery Review
No Place for Bravery is the latest in a long line of indie soulslikes to grace Nintendo’s hybrid console. With the genre being as overcrowded as it is, developers really need to go the extra mile these days to try and make their games stand out above the masses. Thankfully, No Place for Bravery developers, Glitch Factory, have managed to do just that, through its striking art style, deep lore, and gameplay that takes more queues from Sekiro than it does Dark Souls.
A Father’s Love
At its core, No Place for Bravery is a story about a father’s love for his child and the lengths a man is willing to go to for his family. Players lace up the boots of Thorn, a battle-worn warrior who has laid down his sword in favor of a peaceful life managing a tavern. Some time ago, Thorn’s daughter Leaf went missing during a hunt, whisked away by a mysterious evil presence, never to be seen again. Until that is, new evidence presents itself suggesting that Leaf is still alive, and Thorn once again picks up his blade on a quest to reunite with his loved one.
If that overview sounds very high-level, that’s intentional. Whilst the motivation for Thorn’s quest is initially straightforward, this is a world of incredible depth and history and best experienced by going in blind. Plagued by civil war and unrest, with a violent history that saw people’s lives destroyed by huge giants, whose corpses now litter the landscape as intimidating reminders of the horrors that once were, it’s incredible how fleshed out the setting of No Place for Bravery is. Notes scatter the land, revealing the troubled history Thorn, and his people have been through, and various subplots are woven together with a surprising level of intricacy.
Most importantly of all, Thorn and many of the characters he meets on his journey all feel like real, well-realized people who have experienced tragedy or troubled upbringings. A press release we received in the run-up to launch revealed that many of the narrative beats and characters were inspired by real-life experiences with “toxic relationships and absent parents”, and this really shows. It’s a move that has truly paid off and makes No Place for Bravery a truly relatable experience, despite its high-fantasy setting.
Sekiro Infused Isometric Action
No Place for Bravery is probably something I would recommend playing solely for its story and world-building alone, even if the gameplay wasn’t anything to write home about. However, that isn’t the case at all, and for the most part, the demanding, difficult gameplay challenge presented by No Place for Bravery can stand on its own.
Being a soulslike, you probably know the score already. Challenging fights, crushing boss battles, memorizing attack patterns, enemies that respawn on death or upon resting at bonfire-like structures, and, of course, losing vital currency upon death, are all par for the course here.
There are a few key differences, though, that help differentiate No Place for Bravery, and those mostly stem from this actually being much more similar to an isometric take on the Sekiro formula than Dark Souls. For instance, it doesn’t rely on a traditional leveling system, instead opting for enemies that drop currency that can then be used to purchase specific skills and moves for your weapons. To be honest, I actually rather like this take on progression as I don’t feel as locked into a specific playstyle as I do in most soulslikes that require you to put points into specific stats. Here you’re free to purchase skills that look fun, and if they don’t float your boat, it’s never too much trouble to grind out the currency to purchase the next thing that piques your interest.
The core combat itself also focuses more on parrying and movement, again, much like Sekiro. Sure, you can just whale on enemies and slowly chip away at their health bars, but, it’s far less efficient than getting the parry timing down so you can whittle away an enemies posture bar, before leaving them open for a brutal assault and finishing move which makes them drop more resources.
In fact, I would say that getting parrying down is almost mandatory for rolling credits in No Place for Bravery. This is a rough game in terms of difficulty, it doesn’t shy away from absolutely filling the screen with all manner of ranged and melee enemies. If you want to stand any chance at all, quickly rendering them immobile through breaking posture is integral to crowd control, so this is something to bear in mind if you rather the more methodical sword and board approach that I typically default to in a more traditional soulslike.
Battles follow an incredibly satisfying rhythm once you get the timing down, with Thorn’s weighty and impactful execution animations always being a treat to savor once you have landed that killing blow on an enemy following a deadly dance of death. Nowhere are these animations more visceral than against the bosses, and it never stopped being immensely satisfying watching Thorn, having conquered a hugely tough boss encounter, dismembering his vanquished foe into multiple grotesque pieces.
An Arrow To The Knee
Combat isn’t perfect, however. As I mentioned, No Place for Bravery isn’t shy about flooding the screen with enemies, to the extent that certain sections feel unbalanced, especially early on when you have a more limited arsenal of skills and moves. It can be very frustrating at times, and it’s only made worse by the ranged enemies who can hit you from a mile away, even when off screen due to the isometric camera angle.
Nowhere are the ranged enemies more infuriating than in the somewhat unnecessary platform sections. Quite often, Thorn hits a part of the world that requires him to navigate a series of platforms, with these already being quite unwieldy due to the absence of a dedicated jump button and instead relying on Thorn’s dash ability. Frequently these sections will also be dotted with archers raining down arrows, some of whom you cannot see, so naturally, you cannot base the timing of your jumps around. Thankfully these sections are few enough in number that they never threaten to derail the entire experience, but they are frustrating nonetheless and, in my view, present a fundamental flaw in the level design.
Easy On The Eyes
As you’ve probably seen from the screenshots, No Place for Bravery is a bit of a looker, with the art style and isometric camera evoking memories of Hyper Light Drifter. Enemies and the character design are top-notch, with the world providing vistas and sights that are simply jaw-dropping at times.
Performance is also solid, for the most part. There are instances where it can seem like there are issues with frame pacing, or at least something going on under the hood that is giving the same effect, which can be jarring in combat, where timing and precision are key. It isn’t a constant issue, though, and certainly doesn’t impact to the point where it took away from my enjoyment of the combat, but it is something I’d hope to see patched out post-release.
No Place for Bravery is another stellar soulslike for genre fans to add to their library on the Switch. By taking the best elements from Sekiro and translating those into a fast-paced, isometric ARPG with deep world-building and compelling narrative hooks, No Place for Bravery does more than enough to provide a title that stands out amidst a sea of samey competition.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC; Publisher: Ybsryd Games; Developer: Glitch Factory; Released: 22 September, 2022; Players: 1; MSRP: $19.99;
Full Disclosure: A review code was provided to Hey Poor Player.