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No Rest for the Wicked Preview

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  • Enchanting art style
  • Excellent voice acting
  • Satisfying combat
  • Intriguing story


  • Unbalanced mechanics
  • Poor content to price ratio
  • Unoptimized performance

Moon Studios have already brought us two incredible games in the form of Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps, two enchantingly beautiful Metroidvania titles that fast garnered a cult following. Rightly so. The studio’s newest release, No Rest for the Wicked, is different from these titles in that this fantasy adventure arrives in the form of Early Access. And whatever your thoughts and feelings about this marketing method, there’s no doubt that Moon Studios intends to ply their unique talents, dedicate their resources, and listen to player feedback to ensure that No Rest for the Wicked is just as special as the studio’s acclaimed predecessors.

No Rest for the Wicked marks a new direction for Moon. Not only is the studio making a departure from the beloved Ori franchise, but its also changing up genres by moving away from the Metroidvania and into the realm of the full-blooded RPG.

No Rest for the Wicked’s story shows promise right from the start

A fantasy epic, No Rest for the Wicked is set in the year 841, but not necessarily of the world as we know it. There’s magic here, and you play the part of a holy warrior known as a Cerim, one of a race of people who once valiantly fought back against the Pestilence, a kind of plague that infects and corrupts life, making it hostile to everything else. There’s a great deal of mystery about the plague, but we know that it has come and gone before, with the Cerim always appearing with it.

As such, the people of Sacrament, (the main village featured during the first chapter), are thankful yet sceptical of your character. You need to win their trust by doing good deeds, and there’s plenty to do in that process. You’ll find yourself central to the realm’s politics - rubbing shoulders with key political figures such as the governor of Sacrament and some of the king’s envoys. At the same time, you have a chance to win the hearts of the people by completing modest quests for them.

These people of Sacrament are truly unique, afforded their own memorable characteristics. A lot of effort has been put into character design, from the intricacies of their outfits to excellent voice acting. Even the most seemingly insignificant characters are convincingly depicted through dialogue exchanges, whether learning the details of a new quest or just exchanging words on a particular political matter. Characters come alive thanks to the use of subtle facial expressions, charming idiosyncrasies, and attractive outfits.

In its current state, which sees only the first chapter sketched out, Wicked‘s story is somewhat limited. Even so, you get a good sense of its direction. Key characters are introduced early on, some likeable, some detestable, and some almost caricatured as templates for incorruptible heroes, irredeemable baddies, and indomitable rebels. There’s a solid cast to work with here, but we only see their individual nature thinly fleshed out in this first chapter. Currently, there aren’t that many cutscenes, but those that we are treated to are suitably immersive, pulling you into the narrative of the main story. The narrative blend of gritty, tumultuous politics and a fantastical world of untapped magic plays out convincingly, which shows promise for the story’s development.

The distinctive art style allows for emotion to be conveyed in characters’ facial expressions

One of the most notable elements of the Ori titles was their uniquely immersive graphical style, and while the world is generally much darker in No Rest for the Wicked, it’s clear that Moon’s same care and attention to detail is present. There’s excellent use of shadows and lighting throughout, and special effects from weapons or spells only serve to enhance this. Weapons, imbued with flame or plague damage, are subtly reflected in splendid visual effects. You find yourself gravitating toward light sources not just because they’re attractive, but because they serve as a respite from the creeping darkness of the wilderness - though even this has its own eerie charm.

Sacrament truly comes alive with the inclusion of dynamic weather effects. The nature of the environment, at least in the early areas, means that you’ll rarely ever see the land lit by full sun. That makes it all the more glorious when rays of sunshine penetrate through the clouds, highlighting aspects of the world that you might have otherwise overlooked, revealing their rich textures and color. The arrival of rain and thunderstorms brings its own charms, combining realistic sound with striking visual effects. The transition from day to night is another dynamic feature, offering the impression that the night is another realm entirely, one where moonlight and darkness reign.

Unfortunately, (speaking of the weather), it’s not all sunshine and roses. As an early access title, you can expect a fair share of bugs and performance issues to rear their head, and we unfortunately experienced quite a few examples of those ourselves. The most significant performance drops came during transitions to new areas, and occasionally while fighting bosses - making it especially frustrating in those more unforgiving encounters. With that said, Wicked’s overall performance is relatively solid for a game still in development. But clearly, there is still some optimization to be done.

For all of this splendid detail, the core issue with this world is the lack of content. As a showcase for the first chapter of the story, there isn’t much for you to do as someone who needs to prove themselves as the hero that the people hope you are. A handful of quests from the main settlement and a few others further afield is all you’ll have to play with at this stage. At a price tag of $40, one could be forgiven for expecting a little more for your money. The framework of a great adventure is there, but we need much, much more of it in the form of quests and activities.

The narrative blend of gritty, tumultuous politics and a fantastical world of untapped magic plays out convincingly, which shows promise for the story’s development.

The gameplay is the saving grace that comes to Wicked‘s rescue. The relatively short narrative is extended by the challenging gameplay mechanics. As advertised, you can expect something close to a Soulslike experience in combat, with even just one mob capable of keeping you on your toes. You’ll need to learn the attack and timing patterns for each enemy if you want to preserve your health, stamina, and “Focus” consumables. These are the three main attributes that you’ll need to balance while fighting, but there is much more to consider with the various build options.

Players can invest in eight main attributes in the form of Health, Stamina, Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Faith, Focus, and Equip Load - offering the opportunity for a decent number of offensive and defensive combinations. If you want any chance of using heavy armor and larger weapons without being slowed down to the point of obsolescence, you need to invest in your equipment load. On the other hand, if you’d rather just wield the biggest, baddest weapon you can find and rely on your dodge or parrying abilities, you can run around almost naked while investing all your points in either Strength or Dexterity.

A key issue with the combat system at this present time is that it often feels unbalanced, and the camera angles aren’t always forgiving when you’re fighting a tough group of enemies. Bosses are easy enough to keep in your sights, though they suffer from their own animation glitches, which also need fixing.

You can slowly rebuild Sacrament, gaining access to new traders and materials

Alongside combat mechanics, there are a few other interesting gameplay elements, with the crafting and building systems being among the most noteworthy. At present, both of these systems are somewhat reliant on each other since you need to craft appropriate tools to gather materials, which you can then use to rebuild parts of Sacrament. As you continue to enhance the trader shops, you gain access to more materials and better gear, so it’s well worth investing in as soon as possible. Exploring and gathering from trees, ores, and other natural resources in this way feels rewarding, but you’ll have to wait a few hours between each upgrade, so it’ll take some time before your efforts pay off.

In addition to the general rebuilding of Sacrament, you also have the option of purchasing your own home in the settlement. There are a few choices here, but all houses serve the same, rather limited function as places where you can rest and store items. Other than that, it’s a matter of prettifying the home with furniture and decorations, some of which you can craft on your own with the right tools. The most useful function the craft system currently serves is the ability to replenish consumables, but you can make hundreds of those easily enough at any campfire.

(1 of 2) Even minor characters have a lot of interest to offer, with uniformly excellent voice acting

Even minor characters have a lot of interest to offer, with uniformly excellent voice acting (left), Boss fights are well designed and challenging enough to keep things interesting. (right)

There are issues with balance and progression that need addressing. The most significant of these is access to better gear as you level, something which you’ll need if you want to make your life easier when fighting multiple mobs or tough bosses. In the early game, most of the weapons and armor drops that might benefit you are level-gated to a point where you won’t be able to use them. They’re either too high in base level, or they have silly stat requirements that you’ll struggle to reach in a single chapter. The XP required to level up feels reasonably well balanced, but there just isn’t enough content to meet the required levels before the end of early access.

The excessive gear requirements take most of the fun out of loot acquired from exploration, but the problem persists when you fight some of the toughest bosses in the game. These battles feel significant from a narrative and combat mechanic perspective, but the loot you gain for defeating them is underwhelming. You’re more likely to find some of the best drops from random enemies or chests while exploring the wilderness, so despite the sense of accomplishment upon defeating a boss, there’s no suitable reward for your efforts.

The balance and progression issues can be fixed with a few tweaks to gear requirements, and some adjustment to loot reward in relation to the difficulty of a specific encounter. Moon Studios have shown that they’re aware of this and have already begun the process of refining this aspect of the game, so we can expect a steadier experience to come.

(1 of 2) Most lootable items have unrealistic attribute expectations for the first chapter

Most lootable items have unrealistic attribute expectations for the first chapter (left), World design is highly detailed, with enough variety within Sacrament to keep you invested (right)

In general, exploration in No Rest for the Wicked feels rewarding. There’s no shortage of tough enemies around every corner, and even the tiniest crevices can hold secrets in the form of hidden chests, treasure patches, or access to platforming puzzles that lead to new areas. This encourages the player to thoroughly explore every inch of an environment, and those who do will find this to be among the most rewarding aspects of gameplay. Some of the platforming can feel janky at times, but there’s a fine balance between making it challenging and fixings things that feel broken.

The main issue with exploration is arguably perspective. The isometric top-down camera angle doesn’t always feel the most natural when you’re trying to figure out which platforms can be climbed, jumped on, or shimmied across. This sometimes leads to massive miscalculations which results in you falling from a great height, and when you consider that each death causes severe degradation of gear, it quickly becomes tedious as you’re forced to spend scarce resources when repairing it. Skill issue? Perhaps, but a few tweaks would make this more forgiving and less jarring for most players.

Moon Studio has done a good job with updates so far, starting as it means to go on with tweaks to combat mechanics, balancing, progression, and bug fixes. The team appears genuinely interested in player feedback, and that’s one of the best things about early access titles in general; offering developers the opportunity to make a great game with direct feedback from those who are playing it. The current price tag is arguably a little steep considering the current state of development, but if you’re settling in for the long journey you’ll be investing in something that is packed with potential.

[This preview is based on an Early Access release provided by the publisher.]

Final Verdict

No Rest for the Devs

Moon Studios are taking a new approach with No Rest for the Wicked, but players can expect the same enchanting graphics that we saw in the Ori series, with a distinctive visual style that sets it apart as a new venture. The isometric perspective brings its own challenge, but works surprisingly well in most encounters, while weighty combat mechanics offer satisfying battles throughout. There’s a lot of work for the developers to build on something great here, but it oozes potential.









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Scott has been with Gamer Guides since 2018 where he began as a contributor before coming on as an Editor in 2019. Scott brings his knowledge and expertise of the PC platform to Gamer Guides.
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