Ori and the Blind Forest is well known for its tear-jerker of an intro cutscene so for developer Moon Studios, the dark and damp, gore-soaked world of its next game No Rest for the Wicked, seems like a radical change in direction.

But how well has the studio managed the switch from magical Metroidvania to a swords and sorcery Soulsborne-like? Well, I went in blind and you can join me in my journey of discovery as I learn the ropes in the gameplay video below, where I play through the first 90 minutes of the game.

In No Rest for the Wicked, you play as a Cerim, a holy warrior imbued with remarkable powers (that you have to earn back before you can use them it seems) and, after a tragic accident at sea, you wash up on the backwaters of a land called Isola Sacra which is awash with something called ‘the Pestilence’.

No Rest For The Wicked Gameplay Preview – THE FIRST 90 MINUTES!

Visually the locations are stunning, if not a tad too dark at times, and they are viewed from a top-down perspective similar to that of Diablo. You can’t rotate the camera, which at first feels at odds with the incredible amount of exploration the game encourages you to do, but thankfully scenery close to the camera or in front of your Cerim fades away to allow you to easily find your way around.

And it’s such a lush environment to explore too! Like the Souls games, there’s secret shortcuts to unlock which will speed up back tracking, there’s crumbling walls to look behind and thin beams to wobble across and they all lead to something interesting. The opening area of The Shallows where most of my gameplay takes place is technically rather small but, thanks to the labyrinthine level design and the way that Moon Studios have crammed the spaces full of things to see, do and clamber over, it all felt much larger than it actually was.

There were plenty of ladders to climb in The Shallows but I was surprised by how nimble my Cerim was, and how much of the environment they could clamber up without the need of a climbable surface.

Combat-wise, the Soulsborne comparisons are just as heavy and there’s a big emphasis on stamina management, rolling, blocking, parrying and equip loads that will reduce your maneuverability if you put too much heavy armour on. Hell, you can even do cheeky backstabs for maximum damage so it really does feel like a top-down Dark Souls.

One big difference though is the respawn mechanic. Places called Cerim Whispers act as ‘bonfires’ in No Rest for the Wicked but, unlike most Soulsbornes, using these does not cause enemies to respawn. This means you won’t have to worry about redoing tough fights every time you accidentally fall off a wall whilst searching for loot. And I say this from experience…

Close to the end of my play session I also got to try out a boss fight against a giant, multi-legged beast called Warrick the Torn. Allegedly this hideous monstrosity was once a human that has been transformed by the Pestilence so I expect that we’ll be seeing much darker things further into the game.

Despite what I saw in my 90 minute hands-on, this screenshot suggests that No Rest for the Wicked isn’t just manky swamps and dark, rotten castles. Look at those lovely sunflowers!

Although I played the preview build in single player, No Rest for the Wicked also has an online component which allows you to play with up to three friends. That means every quest, boss and square foot of Isola Sacra can be experienced with pals but, according to the website blurb, there seems to be no tethering involved as it states that you can “leave your party and wander off solo”.

I was left itching to play more No Rest for the Wicked after my recording time had finished, and it wasn’t because of Sacra’s mould or the grime either. The Soulsborne influences are strong with this one, but that brings with it compelling level design which makes you feel like you’re on an adventure of discovery. Then of course there’s the adrenaline soaked, hardcore combat which leaves you with a massive rush after you’ve taken down a particularly tough foe.

No Rest for the Wicked is out soon, and if you’re a fan of the Dark Souls games especially, I think this one will be well worth keeping an eye on. Don’t believe me? Watch the video!

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