No Place for Bravery is a blood-soaked action RPG with fantastic pixel art, bonfire checkpoints, stamina management, and a story that's full of Big Dad Energy.
- Title: No Place for Bravery
- Release Date: September 22, 2022
- Price: $19.99
- Suggested Audience Age: Rated M for Mature by the ESRB
- Availability: Switch, Steam, GOG
- Recommended for fans of: Connect dots to some similar things, especially be sure to include links to other Geek to Geek Articles
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
I remember seeing No Place for Bravery when I was planning what games to check out at PAX, and deciding to pass on it. Based on a few screenshots, I dismissed it as another game blending Hyper Light Drifter‘s visual style with Soulsborne combat and calling it a day. Then, when I was at PAX, there was a big crowd checking out the game every time I walked by the Ysbryd Games booth. They had a big monitor up showing gameplay footage and I was blown away at how well the super detailed pixel art blended with fast, heavy combat.
I ended up with a chance to spend some time with the game this past week, and I'm so glad that I did. I've worked my way through the equivalent of three dungeons so far, but based on the map I don't think I'm even halfway done. The game looks and feels wonderful, but the most surprising thing has been its story.
Pixels with a Punch
No Place for Bravery looks like a lot of other games out there, but that doesn't mean it doesn't look phenomenal. Hyper Light Drifter, Mana Spark, and even Children of Morta are all in the same sort of visual family as this one, with pixel characters with spindly legs and a ton of detail in the backgrounds. Those backgrounds are one of the places where No Place for Bravery really stands out. Every single place you visit, from a quiet village to a frozen mountain, is densely packed with vivid colors and minute details.
Your character, Thorn, carries his son on his back during the adventure, and both of them manage to feel super expressive despite being made up of the tiniest handful of blocks. The animation both as you move through the world and engage in combat is buttery smooth. Plus, combat comes with lots and lots of blood geysers that paint the landscape like you're playing Splatoon.
One of the fun ways that No Place for Bravery breaks the rules of its pixel art style is that the camera occasionally zooms out to show you an expansive room full of enemies, or zooms in during a cutscene for a dramatic moment. If this game was truly running at the pixel resolution it shows, those movements wouldn't be possible and the game would lose a lot of its charm.
No Place for Bravery is absolutely a combat-focused game. You’ll spend most of the game hacking through enemies and blocking or dodging their attacks while keeping an eye on your stamina meter. Once you’ve battered a for enough they’ll drop to a knee, letting you execute them with a brutal killing blow.
You start the game with a sword and board kit but will unlock other weapons as you play. You can swap between weapons with the press of a button, and each one has unique skills you can unlock. Everything in the action feels weighty and powerful, and the combat is overall extremely satisfying. The upgrade system isn’t, though, since new abilities require both a stack of cash and specific items you find throughout the world. That means you aren’t really customizing your build, you’re just waiting to find the next upgrade item to see what it lets you purchase.
When you die, you transport back to the last bonfire you rested at. You lose some of your cash when you die, and regain your healing items when you rest. It’s a familiar system, but the missing character customization really knocks the Soulsbourne comparisons. Still, it is a pretty tough, pretty brutal action game that fans of that genre will dig.
More Story Thant You'd Expect
If you are already sold on No Place for Bravery, just skip this section and play the game. I won’t spoil much, but I can’t talk about the story without spoiling a bit.
As much as I’ve become a fan of Soulsbourne-inspired games this year, the way they typically deliver stories annoys me. I love the emergent stories that come from going up against a massive boss, but I also like it when I feel emotionally invested in the journey of a character. Most games with bonfires just don’t focus on that sort of plot.
No Place for Bravery kicks off with a ton of blood-soaked action, but it also very quickly gets into the plot. In fact, the tutorial chunk of the game ends with a story beat that actually brought tears to my eye, just like the opening of The Last of Us.
As the game pushes forward, you really get a feel for what sort of man Thorn is. Rather than being a blank slate avatar, he’s a protagonist with goals driven by a complicated backstory. I’ve come across a few places so far where I was able to make story decisions, and it very much felt like I was choosing what I thought Thorn would do, rather than what I thought was the right choice.
I’m not sure how much impact most of the choices I’ve made have had. One decision did lead me to a Farcry-style early end credits, though. That’s always a fun feature.
I’m really enjoying No Place for Bravery. It’s got crunchy combat that really scratches that Soulsbourne itch in the same way that Death’s Door does, and the art style has really grown on me. Mostly, though, I’m fully invested in Thorn’s story and feel driven to see it through.
I do wish that the upgrade system was a little more propulsive, but otherwise, this is an easy recommendation to any fan of top-down action RPGs with ridiculous amounts of bloodshed.