No Place for Bravery Review: Sekiro-inspired action RPG with unfair combat

Red is the color associated with the most intense emotions: passion, violence, pain. It also happens to be the hue There is no place for courage he often invokes in his most bloody and crucial scenes. Thorn, his gruff hero, often bathes in pools of blood and disembodied corpses, his blade smeared with the entrails of his enemies. But those vignettes are interspersed with panoramas of the game’s exquisite pixel art environments, its overgrown emerald forests and crumbling rust-colored ruins teeming with vibrant detail and immaculate textures. Once in a few scenes you will even come across some truly impressive places, such as that of the dry bone carcass of a colossal dragon, the remains of which tower over the tiny figure of Thorn.

That said, even the breathtaking beauty cannot detract from the boredom of There is no place for couragean action RPG that clogs its miserable story of revenge and redemption with long periods of relentless and laborious fighting.

Like a battle-hardened former soldier and father named Thorn, a quiet and idyllic time with your daughter, hunting in the woods together, was interrupted when a sorcerer snatched her away with a snap of her fingers. Ten years later, you stumbled upon a trace of the same sorcerer, and thus began your tenacious search for his kidnapper.

Image: Glitch Factory / Ysbryd Games

There is a thread of sincerity inside There is no place for courage which, at times, vacillates as far as the bowels are concerned; I can’t imagine how easy it is to move forward when it comes to the loss of your child. But just as he tries to be taken seriously in his reflections on fatherhood, There is no place for courage he also enjoys the violence and harshness of his battles. For most of your time here, you will attack and cut through waves of demons and men, reducing them to meaty sacks of flesh in the midst of slaughter. You will spend hours marinating in the thoughtful routine of killing, dodging, guarding, parrying and executing. Coins can then be extracted from their bodies, which can then be used to purchase potions and small weapons. You can also exchange these coins for skill points to unlock more skills, with which to better pulverize the wretched inhabitants of this world.

However, most fights are nail-biting, even bordering on injustice. A stab from There is no place for courageGoblin-like demons, for example, may seem superficial, but these devils usually come in droves and are typically accompanied by a band of crossbow-wielding creatures who shoot arrows at you, even from beyond the confines of your screen. It seems developer Glitch Factory has drawn the wrong lessons from the work of Dark Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki, an entire genre of games that thrive on challenging combat but still remain technically correct. (There is no place for courageThe Steam page claims to have “brutal 2D Sekiro-style combat.”)

Enemy bullets also sometimes appear to pass through walls, which makes avoiding them a considerable challenge. The gaps between moving platforms can be difficult to traverse, as the game requires precision in how you navigate these environments; an imprecise move will make you fall into the depths below. Additionally, save points are rare and scattered across the map, with your efforts canceled out if he succumbs to death before reaching the next one. They bring back an old school die that is more frustrating than it is inspired.

The protagonist Thorn beheads a blood corpse in No Place for Bravery

Image: Glitch Factory / Ysbryd Games

Finally, there’s the game’s picky aiming system, which often blocks an opponent off-screen while you try to hit him with an arbalest. The camera swings between Thorn and her target for a few precious seconds, as if she isn’t sure which focus she should return to. This is a recipe for disaster when there are hordes of monsters approaching you, bows and squat swords in hand, and you can’t even see yourself on the screen.

The most curious thing about the game, however, is its compulsion for grisly executions. Thorn can perform an elaborate decapitation of his enemies when they are incapacitated, but if your bloodlust is still not sated, the game sometimes gives you a few seconds – a short window of opportunity – to tear apart their corpses with the your sword, all as the camera looks uncomfortably close to their pixelated viscera. As far as I know, this move does not grant you additional resources; it is simply a test of nervous reflexes, as well as a demonstration of Thorn’s appetite for brutality.

This is not to say that I cannot see the meaning of all this violence. There is certainly a statement, incorporated somewhere in these relentless, blood-soaked battles, about the stark contrast between Thorn’s instinct as a tough father figure and the feeling that he actually derives a twisted pleasure from slaughtering his enemies in a pulpy mush. The inner tug-of-war he experiences between wanting to save his son, but also a great deal of schadenfreude from the death of the enemies he slaughters, is palpable.

But that statement becomes hollow the longer the game drags on, given how sad, frustrating, and protracted these fights are. Concluding a series of challenging skirmishes brings only hollow relief, rather than a sense of hard-earned achievement. Characters are barely fleshed out, with villagers and soldiers alike reworking a recycled checklist of dialogue when you converse with them. And when you finally meet the sorcerer, they are somewhat ambiguously but enormously distressed, only muttering variations of “No, it’s too soon!” after casually materializing right in front of you. Such moments (and there are more than a couple of them) have very little narrative sense.

The protagonist Thorn observes a silo-like structure in the landscape of No Place for Bravery

Image: Glitch Factory / Ysbryd Games

Perhaps the most obviously confusing choice is the frequent suggestion to withdraw from your own insane murders. At many of the game’s climatic tipping points, There is no place for courage It also gives you the option, multiple times, to simply abandon your quest for revenge and return to a monotonous life as a tavern owner, which will end the game abruptly. It takes up to half There is no place for courage for the tale to take a more interesting turn, weaving a much-needed change of pace into its scenes by suggesting that Thorn isn’t all he seems – that is, if you’ve gotten this far in the first place.

What surprised me the most There is no place for courage it is his desire to rise above his gross displays of ferocity, despite his fixation on his own violence. Glitch Factory seems to want to achieve something higher than violence for the sake of violence, creating a game that is more than just smashing skulls with a giant hammer or stepping on a downed enemy while puking out his lungs. This is evident from the expanses of sepia-toned monologues and the long conversations Thorn has about his decision to embark on this expedition. But in the end, all there is to remember There is no place for courage it’s the red of all his murderous encounters: the bloodshed Thorn committed by brutalizing his enemies, the insurmountable pain of his cheap and repetitive deaths, and the immense frustration of never seeing the game reach its maximum potential.

There is no place for courage will be released on September 22 on Windows PC and Nintendo Switch. The game was reviewed on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Ysbryd Games. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find Learn more about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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