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No Rest For The Wicked Might Be The Very First “DiabloSouls” Game

Until we close our eyes for good.

Plenty of video games have benefited from releasing into early access in recent times. It provides an ideal direct, and in my opinion healthy, feedback channel between developer and audience that means each patch and fix can be delivered with breakneck efficiency. The audiences who helped shape both Hades and Baldur’s Gate III were all beneficiaries of this model, and it’s clear from its first week that Moon Studios’ No Rest for the Wicked should unearth a similar vein of crude oil. 

As someone who finds both of the Ori games to be enormously charming and challenging, I was excited for Moon to attack the action roleplaying game space, and attack it they have. It’s far from perfect at this point in time, however it’s extremely malleable and Moon is a team with one ear pressed firmly to the ground. What excites me most is the idea of going on this journey with a new community while getting to, in a small way, shape what Wicked, as it’s shorthanded to by the team, ultimately becomes. Before us now is just one act of what could eventually be a fantasy epic of Tolkienian proportion. 

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What needs to be established right away is that Wicked isn’t an ARPG in a Diablo sense, and I think those hoping for something that can be played as casually as that game allows are going to be crestfallen to discover that Wicked borrows more from the Soulsborne model than expected. The combat, which is the centrepiece of the entire experience, is tough, tactile, and it does demand excellence from the player. Fortunately, despite most tough fights being a white knuckle struggle for someone like me who never got into Soulslikes, Wicked isn’t exactly punishing. Pretty much all of the toughest slogs so far have been near to a whisper, the game’s checkpoint equivalent, and there’s no real consequence for death save for your gear’s dwindling durability, which is bound to whittle down with each failure. 

Experimenting with different weapons and enchantments doesn’t quite offer the limitless freedom you’d hope for yet, and I haven’t even bothered to replicate the meta builds seen online due to the loot pools and drops being rather stingy for me. The inability to respec isn’t going to be favourable for anyone who perhaps poured points into the wrong attributes, especially with how Wicked gates your ability to equip gear through both level and seemingly random stat prerequisites. I do expect Moon to incorporate respec and vastly expand the enchantments pool, which is a basic suite at present, which would remedy the kind of stifling grind of the moment having perhaps made the wrong choices and left myself underpowered for the bosses. 

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And on levelling, it’s an area that feels somewhat underwhelming right now. For a game that’s shaping up to tell a great tale of fantasy, full of characters to actually give a shit about, there’s no skill tree that services your hero’s character. Unlike other games where buffing your intelligence leads to clever dialogue options, feeding into the roleplaying daydream, stats in Wicked play only into weapon handling which is sort of disappointing as I’d love to be able to build out a personality for my hero. Perhaps it’s just not that sort of roleplaying experience. Even turning plague ichor in to The Watcher, an weary old timer accompanied by a man with candles glued to his hat, doesn’t yield exciting reward. Instead of unlocking once dormant supernatural abilities, each ichor lets you expand your inventory capacity.  

There are also several quality of life things that I’m sure Moon will iron out and, in due course, render these complaints moot. Things like improved inventory management, more readability in both menus and heads-up display, and the ability to rebind keys are undoubtedly coming and will make the experience so much better immediately. As stated earlier, the team are doing a mountain of work addressing everything however a game like this will be a marathon, not a sprint. 

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I must say I love how Moon has presented us with this living world to uncover and explore. Even after combing through once or twice, I’m constantly finding new nooks and shortcut paths through to adjoining zones. It’s a big sprawling, seamless map that takes you from your shipwreck in The Shallows all the way through to the Nameless Pass, and beyond. Gradually the map opens through story beats, however even after you’re given free rein to roam you’ll need to be mindful of a zone’s threat level. I didn’t get the sense that this scaled with my character’s level, as the Nameless Pass itself reduced to a moderate threat after first presenting as dangerous. Unless you’ve got a supreme handle on combat, don’t do what I did and beat your head against the wall in a dangerous area. Death will greet you plenty and you’ll get nowhere fast.

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The beautiful thing about Wicked’s world is that it is all on a refresh timer, meaning slain enemies and opened chests will repopulate, allowing you to return, grind for experience and loot to better prepare for trouble ahead. At the centre of these winding paths is Sacrament, a bustling township that serves as the central hub for Wicked. It’s full of all of the vendors, bounties, and narrative jumping off points you’d expect from the world’s meeting point. 

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As addictive as it can be, I do expect this core loop and the gameplay to evolve quite a bit. I do think with those few quality of life issues addressed, and with a more generous ability to shape a hero’s build, Wicked could, by mixing together some of their features, nail down a rather unique appeal to fans of both Diablo and Souls games. While I expect the nuts and bolts of the game to shift constantly, where the game has won me over already is in its story, atmosphere, and characters. 

There’s plenty of mysticism around the player-character as a Cerim, a holy warrior who assumes the stranger in a strange land role to help rid the world of a returning pestilence. Despite this, the game’s first act doesn’t do a heap to paint the hero as anything other than an avatar. It’s all of the others on the periphery of this story that are making the journey one of grandeur. The land’s King Harol has perished, which has created a power vacuum that Madrigal Seline is looking to fill, using her army’s aid against the plagued as a front for her annexation of land. Then there’s Odessa, a pirate revolutionary who you nearly clash blades with in the game’s prologue before the ship runs aground. She’s the rebellious, punk daughter of Sanctuary’s meekish governor who spends the whole act in captivity.

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Even considering the people manning the streets of Sacrament, all of the game’s performances are tremendous so far. Odessa’s brattish, frustrated turn is kind of the tinder box that sets in motion a large part of the game’s story, while everybody else’s stately performances feel in keeping with a fantasy setting. Moments of nuance are captured and showcased beautifully through the game’s stunning cut scenes which really place the visuals front and centre. 

The Ori games have such a distinctive, rich and colourful oil-painted aesthetic that I think No Rest for the Wicked recaptures with a more attentive, grounded approach. A lot of it comes down to the game’s lighting which never fails to give just a lick of bloom to an often dark setting. With a dynamic day and night cycle, you’d regularly see the moonlight reflecting off the canopies in the glade, and then the sunlight creating a sheen atop the babbling brook that divides Sacrament’s districts. It really is a beautiful game that looks great in stills, but even better again in motion thanks to slick animation and movement, which is hardly a surprise from the team behind Ori, where movement through the world was everything. 

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While excusing its current warts and issues, I’ve spent over twenty hours with No Rest for the Wicked, and I’m completely drunk on its amazingly fertile fantasy beginnings. The promise these stories and characters show is so exciting to me. It’s clear the team’s focus for now is refining the gameplay experience, and rightly so, there is some work to do there, but I fully expect Wicked to bully any of its contemporaries in whichever year this game achieves 1.0 and once its full suite of features, multiplayer included, are released. 

If it took the ideas of Metroid and Castlevania colliding decades ago to create the genre known as Metroidvania, well perhaps there’s an argument to be made that No Rest for the Wicked is the first “Diablosouls” game—and there’s something badass about that.

No Rest for the Wicked is out now on Steam via Early Access. Find it here.