At first glance, Worldless poses a conundrum. For the most part, the 2D adventure platformer unfolds in a quiet, rolling zen-like sprawl of platforms and ledges, glowing stars, distant moons, and alien plant life. Wandering around at your own pace, there's merit in learning the game's physics by taking your time with every leap and back-and-forth ascent to higher ground. Simply put, merely existing in this space is wonderful.
Then there's Worldless' combat. What starts out as pretty straightforward 1v1 turn-based affairs, quickly evolve into mind-bending rhythm routines that demand lightning-quick wits and even faster reactions. But I'm getting a wee bit ahead of myself. Firstly, what's going on with Worldless' body-less protagonist?
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Worldless, it turns out, is set in a time where the rules of existence, well, don't really exist. From the outset, that's reflected in the entity-of-sorts that you assume control of – a glowing, constellation-like being defined by its glowing head, floating midriff, spherical hands, and pointed feet.
Here's how the game's Steam page contextualizes this: "Worldless is set at a time where the rules of existence remain undefined. Players will explore a shapeless world of two realms, one filled with entities forming their growth and understanding, the other is the place they aspire to. This inevitably thrusts them into a war against polarities in a battle for transcendence."
That battle for transcendence comes into focus when you're challenged to a 1v1 duel early doors. Going toe-to-toe against an entity from the other side – it donning red and black, against your blue and white markings – this showdown is unwinnable, but it does introduce to you the basic workings of Worldless' combat. Different visual cues, for example, warn of different incoming attacks: horizontal flashes mean a physical attack is incoming; vertical flashes mean a magical attack is abound; and if you break an opponent's block capabilities (by filling an absorption meter), then you can deal x200% damage within a small window of opportunity.
The flip side of all of this means that in order to negate each advance, you must hit the correct block button as it compares to each enemy attack. See a vertical flash? Best get your shield raised. Spot a horizontal flash? Best position your shield facing forward. In order to receive the least damage each time, you'll want to time your blocks as each attack lands too. All of which sounds straightforward when written down in turn, but when battles are unfolding at speed against the clock, and new abilities and combination options get thrown into the mix further into the game, things can get pretty hectic pretty quickly.
So defines Worldless' conundrum: on one hand, it's a remarkably chill platformer where peaceful exploration is rewarded; and on the other, it's a high-stakes, small margins combat sim. And yet while seemingly incongruous at face value, it all fits together well. Moreover, a node-based skill tree lets you unlock abilities that'll boost your chances on the battlefield; whereas a familiar slate of Metroidvania-like powers – double jumps, glides, air dashes, and more – help you reach once inaccessible areas over time as you scramble across one beautiful abstract landscape to the next.
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