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No Rest for the Wicked is a cruel and beautiful action game

A beautiful vista in No Rest for the Wicked.
Private Division

No Rest for the Wicked has a lot going for it. The upcoming action game already has me charmed me with its distinct sense of style. There’s just one thing that’s yet to win me over, and that’s its sometimes cruel gameplay.

First teased by publisher Private Division at The Game Awards 2023, No Rest for the Wicked is wildly different from what the studio has made before. (The game spent six years in development at Ori and the Blind Forest developer Moon Studios, which has faced reports of misconduct.) This isometric action game influenced by The Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls sports a painterly art style that doesn’t look like any other game I’ve played before, and this small taste of its fantasy world offered up lore that was intriguing, but not overwhelming.

Although No Rest for the Wicked didn’t entirely win me over on the gameplay front during the 90-minute early game slice I played ahead of today’s Wicked Inside show, it’s certainly a title for fans of intense action games to watch for this year.

Practice your parries

I only got a small taste of No Rest for the Wicked’s narrative via the demo’s opening and ending cutscenes, but they did get me hooked. It’s a fantasy game set in a world where a new king has ascended to the throne as the world is ravaged by a plague called the Great Pestilence. Players are a holy warrior called a Cerim sent to the continent of Sacra to defeat the plague as part of a colonialist inquisition.

It’s a captivating premise that doesn’t feel too bogged down in confusing lore and is propped up by No Rest for the Wicked’s gorgeous art style. Character proportions are unrealistic, but allow for bolder designs and effective framing in narrative-focused moments. The cutscenes’ vibrant color choices and cinematography are top-notch, matching the beauty of the Ori games. That unique look carries over into gameplay, which plays out from an isometric perspective where the world has a slightly curved shape.

At the very least, I’ll want to watch No Rest for the Wicked’s cutscenes when the game drops. On the gameplay front, though, I’m still finding my footing. It began with my Cerim washing onshore on a gloomy beach, which I find to be a somewhat cliché action game opening. I was then tasked with making my way to the town of Sacrament. From there, I slowly found armor and weapons and faced off against some corrupted threats, ultimately finding my groove with single weapons rather than dual-wielded blades. There are a ton of RPG stats to improve upon each level up too, so fans of that kind of grind will have a lot to sink their teeth into.

Early game combat in No Rest for the Wicked.
Private Division

Combat in No Rest for the Wicked isn’t as flashy or fast-paced as that of Diablo or Path of Exile; instead, FromSoftware’s influence is felt. This isn’t a full-on Soulslike as players don’t drop resources when they die and enemies don’t respawn after players heal at a certain point. Still, the interconnected world and methodical nature of combat do call back to that genre. Parrying is key to doing well in No Rest for the Wicked, which took me several fights to understand.

Blocking isn’t nearly as effective, and Warrick the Torn, the huge boss that capped off this demo, was weak to parry attacks. It doesn’t feel as good as it does in games like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice or Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown due to the isometric perspective, but it’s still just as critical to the core combat experience as it is in those games. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enjoyable whenever I messed those parries up. Armor and weapons slowly degrade after every death, eventually breaking if you die enough. Health-restoring items must be crafted and don’t replenish upon death, and No Rest for the Wicked can’t be fully paused due to its online elements.

While I eventually found a blacksmith who could restore these with resources, I’m not a fan of games that punish players for failing rather than giving them the tools and motivation to learn and get better through gameplay systems. From that perspective, No Rest for the Wicked feels cruel so far. While that may line up with aspects of its narrative themes, it limited my enjoyment of the demo.

Combat in No Rest for the Wicked.
Private Division

In fairness, this was an early game slice of No Rest for the Wicked, and that’s often one of the most annoying parts of challenging games because players haven’t mastered the intricacies of combat, nor do they have the plentiful resources to make death sting less. I also did not have a chance to try out multiplayer, which Moon Studios and Private Division are touting as a headlining feature and could have given me more assistance in these early-game fights.

I’m still not sure that No Rest for the Wicked is a game for me, but I can certainly see that there’s a crowd it’ll appeal to. Its intriguing lore and distinct art style will likely have to do the heavy lifting for me to finally see the light during this adventure, though.

No Rest for the Wicked is in development for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S.

Editors' Recommendations

Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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