I’ve been following the development of Worldless for over five years at this point in time. Back in 2018, a short clip featuring an abstract-looking swordfighter transforming their sword into a bow mid-combat made its way across my Twitter feed. The animation was smooth, the transition from sword to bow was fluid, and each hit of both the sword and arrows felt weighty and impactful. I was instantly on board with whatever it was I was looking at, and checked out the account responsible for the clip for more info. They hadn’t tweeted very much, but what I found were more beautiful clips of this game, and a tweet urging folks to stay tuned if they wanted to learn more about Worldless. I hit the follow button and waited for more updates.
Over the next few months there were more clips, featuring more game mechanics, interesting enemies, and even more dynamic and flashy combat, but in late 2018, the Twitter account went silent. In 2019 it was confirmed that Worldless was not currently in development, but it was also mentioned that publishers were interested thanks to the positive reception to all of their clips on Twitter. I was dismayed that this game that had hooked me from the very first clip I saw might not become a reality, but appreciated the transparency and was hopeful that publishers would pick it up for development.
The Worldless account was mostly barren, barring the occasional retweet, for nearly two years, but in 2021 they put out a call for an environmental artist and another call for a level designer. Radio silence again until August of 2022, when it was finally confirmed that Worldless was under development and headed for Steam and Xbox in 2023. In the time since there has been a Steam demo, an Xbox demo, and an expansion of available platforms. Now, Wordless is set to release on November 21st on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One, and Steam.
Over five years after I saw that first clip, Wordless is finally in my hands thanks to an early copy from Noname Studios. It looks just as fluid and impactful as it did in 2018, but more importantly, it plays that way too. The exploration of the environment in Worldless is some of the most calming metroidvania adventuring I’ve ever done. The music is serene, the different areas of the world are chock-full of softly glowing abstract shapes, and there aren’t swarms of enemies everywhere you look. Instead, each defined area of the map is home to, at most, one enemy encounter.
The reason for this minimal number of enemies lies in the unique combat system in Worldless. Combining turn-based battles with real-time action, combat plays out like a timed puzzle. On your turn you’ll be using various abilities to break down enemy weaknesses, while during enemy turns you’ll have to rely on pattern recognition to defend yourself from enemy attacks. As you get further into the game, your abilities will grow, but so will the complicated patterns of your enemies’ behavior. With fights getting more and more complicated, it almost began to feel like I was playing a rhythm game, seeking to deftly nail specific inputs at the right time to maximize my damage output within the limited timeframe of my turn, while minimizing the damage I was taking during enemy turns, and it was utterly enthralling. To find myself mastering a complicated combat sequence only to be surprised by a second (or third) phase of the fight sucked me in time and time again, and I had a blast finding and defeating each and every enemy I could find.
The juxtaposition of serene exploration with fast-paced and complex combat is exactly what I came into Worldless wanting after waiting all these years, and I was far from disappointed. Combat isn’t the only thing that gets more complex as the game progresses either, – as the get further into Worldless you’ll undoubtedly come across difficult platforming challenges, and pitting myself against those time after time until I got them just right brought the same rhythmic satisfaction that the higher-level fights did. The level design in Worldless is nothing short of excellent and opens up so naturally as you gain traversal abilities, and I was delighted to find that exploring this expertly crafted world almost always rewarded me with an upgrade. The level of care it took to put something to find in nearly every nook and cranny truly made exploring this gorgeous game feel that much more meaningful.
With a beautiful blend of calm adventuring, difficult platforming, and rhythmic, puzzling combat, Worldless is nothing like any other game I’ve ever played. To have been so interested in this game right from the jump and end up massively rewarded for my patience was incredibly rewarding. At this point I’ve put about 20 hours into Worldless and, other than one pesky multi-phase fight I can’t quite get the hang of (and whatever comes after it), I have done and seen almost everything there is to do and see, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all again.
If you’d like to check out this gorgeous little game from Noname Studios for yourself you can get it right now, as Worldless releases on Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and 5, and PC today, November 21st, 2023.