Savoirless Review – Quite Literally Narrative Driven

7.0 TOTAL SCORE

Saviorless Review

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Saviorless is a competent, varied and artistically stunning 2D Puzzle platformer that deserves a lot of praise for offering a challenging adventure, and an engrossing setting. It does have some rather underwhelming writing that fails to sell the ambitious story, and there are some minor performance issues, but all in all, I wouldn't be surprised if this one became a bit of a cult classic in years to come!


Score 7
PROS
  • A beautiful 2D art-style that steals the show
  • Competent and varied platforming throughout
  • Multiple Endings
CONS
  • A rather cryptic and underwhelming story
  • Some minor design issues here and there
  • No chapter Selection option

A genre of video game that I feel doesn’t get its flowers enough is the 2D puzzle platformer. Unless you throw an ominous and spooky vibe on top to get people hooked like in games such as Bramble The Mountain King, or Little Nightmares, often people don’t want to know. But there have been so many artistically accomplished and clever 2D Puzzle Platformers that demand acclaim.

Games like Gris, INSIDE, Braid, and many others spring to mind, and there could be a new cult classic about to join the ranks in the form of Saviorless.

A game that takes a quite literal approach to narrative-driven gaming as you play out the story of Antar as they travel to the Smiling Islands, and endure an ever-changing story along the way.

From humble beginnings, this platformer shocked me with just how many layers it had to offer, but is this one a game that goes down as an instant classic, or is it a bit of a flawed gem? Find out in Indie Game Culture’s Saviorless Review, conducted on PS5.

A Dark Descent

Let’s begin with the visuals of Saviorless, which will undoubtedly be the first thing that grabs you when jumping into this game.

This title has a little bit of the Spiritfarers about it, offering a hand-drawn, cel-shaded animation approach that makes this dark fantasy world pop on screen, and while the different stages of the world are distinctly different, this theme of twisted fantasy is maintained throughout, gaining momentum until you are in a dark and decrepit hellscape by the end.

The beginning almost feels like it’s been lifted from one of Spiritfarer’s islands because it’s so bright, easy-going, and mirrors the art-style, but by the end, it feels like something lifted from the darker scenes of something like Full Metal Alchemist, with blood, guts, gore, exploding heads, and horrific abominations aplenty.

The only small criticism I have is that I would have loved to see more animated cutscenes, as the one the game offers about halfway through looked fantastic, but felt a little crowbarred in on its own. But overall, a staggeringly beautiful 2D assortment of levels from this two-person developer team.

A Steady Incline

Moving onto the gameplay, this 2D puzzle platformer leans a lot more into the platforming side of things, offering a few interesting puzzles in the mid-game by using fuses and light beams, but for the most part, progression will be determined through your ability to time your leaps and avoid perilous monsters.

The game is a little bit of a mixed bag in terms of gameplay, but overall, I came away with a positive feeling despite the clear flaws.

Saviorless does a lot of things right, offering limited platforming akin to Limbo in the early-to-mid-game that focuses on cunning and timing to get through obstacles, but as you gain your Savior Powers, the game pivots to a much more fast-paced platforming approach not too unlike dashing around in Hollow Knight. 

When you get into a flow state the game feels very satisfying to get through, and I was even happily willing to suffer through the very limited combat mechanics just to get back to the platforming action. However, the game’s biggest sin is the hard checkpoints the game employs.

In the late game, these aren’t as irritating as you expect these sections to be hard and require mastery to get through. But throughout the entire game, I encountered a number of very ungenerous checkpoints, and checkpoints that would force me to watch cutscenes and dialogue over and over.

Honestly, I thought we all learned not to do this after Kingdom Hearts. Come on, people, skippable cut-scenes are a must-have.

The game also had some issues that demand a bit more polish, like the game sometimes not registering jumps when climbing ropes, and I also encountered a soft-lock during the underwater section.

However, all in all, I have to say that Saviorless tries to offer a little bit of everything for 2D platforming fans, and to its credit, it delivers enough on all fronts to be considered a success.

Play The Hits

I may not like them that much, but I’ve played enough metroidvanias to know what a generic and tired storyline within the genre is, and because of the symbiosis between these games and 2D platformers, the same holds true here.

So, I’m sad to report that Saviorless is a game that simply plays the hits, hiding behind a meta-concept and cryptic storytelling to almost trick you into thinking it’s smarter than it is.

The concept of this story revolves around Antar, the protagonist of ‘The Narrators’ story. However, when the two child narrators deviate from the tried and tested story, they cause a freak chain of events that creates a second protagonist, and you need to take them down.

On paper, not the worst idea, but the delivery is very ham-fisted, as it’s very clear that the developers aren’t strong writers, and perhaps struggled due to not having the written English to bring this ambitious story to life.

So, because of this, the game leans into a lot of visual symbolism and artistic flair that raises more questions than it tends to answer. It’s a little like Blasphemous because of this, in the sense that it’s intentionally dense and obtuse.

But instead of this being as curious and interesting as the religious approach of Blasphemous, Saviorless only serves to alienate the player, so you cling on enough to follow through to the end, and let the gameplay take center stage.

Then the icing on top of the cake is that the game does the Metroidvania ending equivalent of a movie ending with ‘It was all a dream’. As it has, you either collect all the collectibles throughout the game to trigger the good ending or fail to do so and become the big baddie yourself. Gee, how original…

Closest Alternatives

If you like the look of Saviorless, then you might want to take a look at these games, which are relatively similar:

  • Blasphemous 2
  • GRIS
  • INSIDE
  • Spiritfarer
  • Ender Lillies

Pros

  • A beautiful 2D art-style that steals the show
  • Competent and varied platforming throughout
  • Multiple Endings

Cons

  • A rather cryptic and underwhelming story
  • Some minor design issues here and there
  • No chapter Selection option

The Verdict – 7/10

I toyed with the idea of giving this game a lower score based on its shortcomings, but when I weigh everything up, I think Saviorless does enough to be considered a good and successful 2D Puzzle Platformer outing.

While I wasn’t all that invested in the story, mainly due to the quality of the writing, I was enthralled by the setting, the art style, and the platforming that gradually ramped up to a very challenging and satisfying ending.

There were some minor issues that killed the flow every now and again, and the combat leaves a lot to be desired, but all in all, I think Savoirless will have done enough to turn a few heads within the indie community, and as time passes, I think this one may just find itself spoken in the same breath as 2D cult classics like GRIS, but only time will tell.

As always, thanks for reading Indie Game Culture.

Play Log

Callum completed the game in full, taking roughly about 4-hours to do so. He got 4/5 key items needed for the alternate ending, but due to the lack of a chapter selection screen, it’s unlikely that he will go back to clean up the leftover achievements.

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