No Place for Bravery GDC Demo Impression

No Place for Bravery is a very brutal game, both in atmosphere and how it punishes players for letting their guard down.

No Place for Bravery is also no place for the faint of heart.  It’s a difficult game that takes time to master, but is so meticulous every new step taken feels like a victory.  In their latest demo publisher Ysbryd Games and developer Glitch Factory showcased a late-game dungeon called the Dwarven Base.  In the demo, a lot of abilities were scaled back leaving him with only his sword to start, but it indicates that the game is progressing nicely, offering some very fluid gameplay while introducing a few new characters and enemy types still showcasing just how punishing the game can get.

No Place for Bravery follows the story of Thorn, who is enjoying spending some time with his daughter Leaf when a mysterious warlock appears and takes her away.  After being unable to find a trace of what happened to Leaf, Thorn begins to despair, but after a few years threads of hope appear again and Thorn picks up his sword begin the search anew.  The demo joins Thorn in the Dwarven Base, carrying his foster son Phid in a backpack he keeps on him at all times.  Other characters appearing in the demo are the sale-obsessed shopkeeper Mehdahmah and the jaded mercenary skill teacher Mazzaro.

Just a death trap room with the mage gleefully stunning Thorn with their ability.

Thorn is a strong individual able to keep up with enemies, but this is a harsh world and players will find themselves losing frequently if they plan to bull rush enemies.  This is a game with precise controls that requires players utilise each ability at hand, whether sword, shield or hammer to a high level or else have their health quickly depleted.  A dashing sword strike is one of the abilities that Thorn can learn, which doubles as an ability to dodge forward and can throw enemies off making it easier to get a few additional strikes in.

The Dwarven Base is a grand trap-filled complex where Thorn has to carefully make his way through each room to find the next key to getting further in the dungeon. In addition to fetching keys to unlock doors, the demo has players defeat room bosses for materials to improve or learn new abilities from Mazzaro, while defeating enemies result in additional gold to buy potions from Mehdahmah.  Enemies respawn when travelling between different areas in the dungeon but they will stay defeated within the same area, unless Thorn dies.  Player deaths result in instant health potions to reset to four, while other collectibles such as throwable knives, arrows, stamina potions, and essences that heal over time will remain.  Since Thorn reappears at the most recent campfire waypoint after dying this mechanic serves as an easy way to gather supplies from enemies.

Those pesky ninjas hit Thorn again with their attacks.

While the new demo and previously-shown footage feature a lot of re-used enemy assets, combined with the new locations and traps they still feel imposing.  The new enemies that debuted in the demo sure are frustrating, however.  The first is a mage that will stun Thorn if he gets too close to him and creates shields for nearby enemies.  This necessitates having to rush back and forth to attack while avoiding the stun, all while dodging gleefully-lobbed ranged attacks.  The other new enemy largely resembles a ninja, teleporting around platforms, hiding in smoke bombs, throwing shuriken can obscure the screen slightly, and tossing mini explosives.  These ninjas are a handful, but very rewarding to take out.  Both these enemies just show how punishing each encounter can be until the timing is down; from attacks to dodges and blocks, everything has a rhythm to it that takes time to perfect.  In between these new enemies are rooms dotted with pitfall traps that have to be dashed across, and statues that shoot arrows or fire that players have to wait to successfully cross.  It isn’t a simple matter of waiting for the right time, as enemies further in will be attacking Thorn from a distance.

Some of No Place for Bravery‘s Welsh influences are apparent with naming conventions such as Meddygaeth (medicine) and Gymysmedd (concoctions).  The soundtrack features a mixture of folk music and chanting that sets the mood well, while beautiful pixel visuals with fluid animation and detailed backgrounds are great to behold.  Enemy designs do repeat, but the danger from even the weakest enemy means the player’s guard should never waver and each is distinct enough to gauge how to approach each room.

No Place for Bravery is a very brutal game, both in atmosphere and how it punishes players for letting their guard down.  This is a game for players that thrive on difficulty and are rewarded with a story that will either be one of grand heartbreak or redemption.  Fights and puzzles are well thought out and are accomplishments when completed with minimal damage taken.  All this combines into a detailed and carefully created world that is worth diving into, and with the release date set for Q3 2022 players will be able to guide Thorn through his journey on PC and Nintendo Switch soon enough.

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