No Place for Bravery tells the troubled tale of Thorn, a retired warrior plagued by his past, still quietly thirsting for the adrenalin rush of battle. His daughter, Leaf, was abducted by a warlock and after time spent searching, he and his wife, Rosa, gave up… Until he runs into the Warlock by chance, rekindling his fires once more.
The story in No Place for Bravery is absolutely the game’s strongest part. It gets very gritty and keeps you guessing all the way to the end, with odd twists and turns, fake endings and lots of blood spilled. I guess the whole purpose of it all is “was all that violence really worth it?” Well, that’s for you, the player, to decide.
And it sounds odd to say, but violence really is the focus of No Place for Bravery. As a top-down action RPG, combat is a given, but what really fits into the theme of the game is the ability to execute your foes. After dealing a final blow, the enemy will drop to their knees and a button prompt will appear for you to execute them. This can also happen as part of a combo, where a correctly timed button press will see the camera zoom in, and Thorn pull off an execution with flair.
It’s the enemy on their knees part which gets me. At first, I kinda thought nothing of it, but later in the game, I started to think “do I need to execute them so brutally?” They just kind of sit there, pantting, waiting for the inevitable. You almost get the sense that Thorn was loving it, which is incredible, considering the difficulty video games often have in trying to convey emotion, let alone doing so with pixel art.
Combat is fairly straightforward. You have your basic attacks, a shield block and a dodge, though this latter one is fairly ineffective for letting you evade incoming damage. Where many games will give you I-frames of invulnerability when timed right, or have a decent distance of travel so you can avoid a swing all together, Thorn’s dodge has neither of these things. He doesn’t dodge far enough and always ends up with a smack.
Maybe that’s missing the point – he’s Thorn, he wouldn’t want to dodge, he would just want to charge in and hack till everything is dead. Yet, from a gameplay perspective in a top-down action RPG, it just felt off. There are parries to balance this shortcoming, but every enemy has blockable attacks, so the roll would work really well here.
You also find other weapons throughout and all of them have upgrade skills to be acquired, found around the various areas via books and pinpointed on maps so you can’t miss them. For the most part, they just add extra moves which can be performed and some have passive abilities. One however speaks of an invulnerable dodge without ever explaining how to use it or if it just becomes part of the kit. My dodge didn’t change, so I was left in the dark.
The general feel of combat flows nicely, despite these few niggles. Boss fights are particularly engaging, providing some tough encounters which will have you scratching your head.
The pixel art overall is very nice. Though I’m not the biggest fan of that style, I can appreciate the work that’s gone into making this game very pretty, reminiscent of games some of the older generations I grew up on. It’s accompanied by a decent soundtrack as well, keeping the story going with some intense moments.
One thing I found interesting about the story was the fact that a few dialogue choices actually led to the end of game credits, with a minor ending showing how Thorn ends up. On my first playthrough, I managed to luck out with my path to the true ending, aside from one choice, which ended the game prematurely. I thought this an odd place to finish, so I reloaded my save, picked the other option and found my game to last another hour or so.
Afterward, I restarted the entire thing just to see if there were any more alternate endings and I was right. It seems there’s quite a lot to discover. Then again, despite the game coming in at around five hours – which is very short for an RPG – I felt little incentive to do another run.
An interesting thing to note is that the story of No Place for Bravery is based around the developers own experiences, trying to send a “strong message on the role of parental figures and the consequences of their choices in a troubled world.” By the game’s end, I definitely got the point.
Reaching there with the review build was also riddled with some game breaking issues, especially surrounding the jump move. One section completely broke for me and I was unable to leap across a platform to continue, meaning I had to restart my entire run – this was an issue that regularly occurred, though could often be brute forced to carry on. Thankfully the launch day patch notes state that this has been improved alongside a bunch of other pre-release issues.