They say there’s no stronger bond than that between parent and child. So when that bond is severed, how far would you go to restore it? No Place for Bravery from Glitch Factory and Ysbyrd Games weaves the tale of a wisened old warrior named Thorn as he looks within to find his answer.
Let’s get this out of the way first: the Switch build of No Place for Bravery I received for review is broken. After losing two save files to softlocks I gave up on trying to complete the game. In both instances, my character became trapped in an endless blank expanse after a crash, able to move around but with nothing to interact with and no way to leave. And this is far from the only bug I encountered. Enemies sometimes spawned outside the play area or failed to spawn at all. One enemy type that lobbed acid vials was pointless even when it did spawn, as standing in the pools of acid did no damage. Several skills displayed as available before I had unlocked them, which was both confusing and made it impossible to see the unlock requirements. More minor technical issues included duplicate sprites during cutscenes, animations playing incorrectly, long load times, and stuttering.
I wouldn’t recommend the version No Place for Bravery I played on account of its technical state alone. It’s unpolished and buggy to the point where even if you want to finish the game you might not be able to. However, Glitch Factory can and likely will fix most of these problems. If and when they do, will No Place for Bravery be worthwhile? Possibly. I’ll share my impressions from what I was able to play.
To the Ends of the Earth
How far will you go? How much will you sacrifice? This is what No Place for Bravery asks as you guide Thorn, an old warrior with his best days behind him, on a journey across the desolate land of Dewr to find his missing daughter Leaf. It’s easy to imagine a devoted father whose love drives him to the ends of the earth to reunite his family. It’s not so clear that’s Thorn’s story though. Thorn is not a kind man. He turns his back on those in need and has no qualms about dealing death and destruction to anyone in his way. More than anything, Thorn seems to harbor a seething rage, ever on the precipice of erupting with brutal consequences.
Almost everyone Thorn meets tells him it’s time to put down his sword and stop chasing ghosts. That he should take his chance to cherish what he has and build something new. You can actually choose early endings at several points that see Thorn give up his quest, retiring to a quiet life or finding a new purpose. Or Thorn can press on, driven by the smoldering embers of his obsession. The further you go, the worse things get, for Thorn and everyone around him. And perhaps not in the way you might expect. With every step Thorn takes, he becomes uglier, his friends more unreachable, and the world more hopeless. No Place for Bravery made me wonder with every choice if all of this was worth it. Is Thorn really a suffering father making noble sacrifices driven by parental love? Or is he a prisoner of a doomed obsession lashing out at the world in self-righteous rage?
No Place for Bravery has a compelling concept, and although I was unable to see the final conclusion, the story thus far was impressively committed. Sadly it’s let down by the moment-to-moment storytelling. Exposition mainly takes the form of wooden dialogue, the kind where characters talk at rather than react to each other. The script often assumes that because characters tell you they care about something that so too will you as the reader. It’s difficult to convey the weight and stakes No Place for Bravery aspires to with sparing dialogue. But that is the task the game set itself to, and unfortunately, No Place for Bravery isn’t up to it. I found it hard to get invested when so many of the characters were flat and lifeless.
Besides the dialogue, you can find lore entries scattered throughout the world. The lore is extensive, and if you don’t read a good chunk of it, some of the machinations of Thorn’s companions and antagonists will seem inscrutable. Though perhaps that’s true to how Thorn, blinded by his obsession, experiences the world. Lore is well and good, but it should be supplementary. It doesn’t always feel that way in No Place for Bravery. Things can also get a bit grimdark at times. Even if Dewr is a desolate place, for Thorn’s journey to resonate it needs more than nihilistic violence and despicable men. It’s a balancing act that No Place for Bravery mostly pulls off.
Gird Up Your Loins
No Place for Bravery promises “Sekiro-esque” combat, and like Sekiro, features a stamina bar that, when depleted, stuns enemies and renders them vulnerable to massive damage for a short time. You can go on the offensive with your sword, but the quickest way to drain a foe’s stamina is with a few well-timed shield parries. This encourages you to mix in offense and defense and discourages overreliance on dodging, as Thorn has only a short dash that takes half a beat to wind up. It’s quite satisfying to be able to stand your ground with skillful use of Thorn’s shield, and even when the odds seem long, combat is always manageable with good timing and tactics.
Despite the mechanical similarities, I wouldn’t say the combat feels much like that of Sekiro. Whereas Sekiro is nimble and strikes swiftly, Thorn is a hulking specimen whose actions have a heft to them. Every blow connects with a sickening crunch. It fits him though–steadfast and stubborn, bold and brutish. Nor do foes in No Place for Bravery have the dizzying array of feints, hesitations, and changeups that make duels in Sekiro so cinematic. Enemies have only a few attack patterns that are easy to time. The challenge is that Thorn often faces an onslaught of attacks, whether from overwhelming numbers or ferocious bosses with superior offense and agility. You’ll have to choose your openings carefully.
While Thorn’s main gear is sword and board, you’ll also find a hammer and a crossbow that have their uses. The hammer doubles down on the plodding nature of Thorn’s moveset. It can break through shields and does massive damage, but every swing is a haymaker that leaves you open. The crossbow is useful for dealing with ranged enemies, especially since No Place for Bravery follows in Sekiro’s (and the Souls games’) footsteps by placing said enemies in hard-to-reach spots so they can potshot you while their melee brethren pin you down.
Rounding out Thorn’s kit are skills and consumables. The former fill the usual niches like dash attack and whirlwind, while the latter include single-use attacks such as exploding flasks and throwing knives as well as buff and healing items. Another difference between No Place for Bravery and its inspirations is that healing is not scarce. It’s easy to stack tons of regeneration consumables, which makes taking damage less meaningful. This is especially noticeable in boss fights. While it’s certainly possible to die, combat simply doesn’t have the thrilling tension that comes with knowing every mistake costs you another chunk of your very limited resources. Still, I’d say that overall the combat in No Place for Bravery has solid mechanics and was enjoyable throughout.
Unfortunately the rest of No Place for Bravery’s mechanics aren’t up to the standard of the combat. While nothing is awful, across the board there’s a lack of attention to the player experience. No Place for Bravery has no problem making you backtrack or wander aimlessly. You might find a chest full of coins while stumbling about, but you won’t need the money because there’s nothing to spend it on. Unless you aim to kill every enemy with throwing knives, you’ll be able to buy far more consumables than you’ll ever need. There’s an execution mechanic where some enemies won’t fall until you deal them a special finishing blow by holding A. However, they’ll sit defeated on their knees forever, so there’s no need to weave the executions into combat. I would wait until the end of combat and then go around finishing everyone off to get their drops, which seemed to have no point other than to waste my time.
The UI and options could be better too. Many of the skill descriptions are vague, both about how to use the skill and what it does. The B button can be used to navigate backward in menus, but not to close the menus, which I found mildly annoying. I also would have appreciated more customization options. In particular, I wished I could have disabled the controller rumble. Rumble fires whenever you hit an enemy or they hit you (even if blocked), which is all the time in No Place for Bravery. Maybe this could work with haptic feedback, but I did not enjoy having my controller go full rumble every other second.
Dust to Dust
The pixel art was what initially drew me to No Place for Bravery. It looks like a less psychedelic version of Hyper Light Drifter, which I mean as a compliment. The landscapes are as desolate as they are beautiful, dotted with forgotten monuments and monstrous remains that portray a world in the throes of its death rattle. The character models are fine, but don’t inspire the same sense of awe. Bosses lack visual flare, important NPCs look too similar to generic foes, and Thorn apparently spent the last ten years skipping leg day. He has the torso of a bodybuilder and literal stick figure legs.
No Place for Bravery makes sure to show you the gruesome results of Thorn’s choices with vivid animations. Executions are gory, and Thorn will paint the landscape and himself with blood as he dices and dismembers his way through hordes of foes. A couple of the ways Thorn finished off bosses were so brutal they’d be hard to stomach if they weren’t in pixel art. Even when defeated by less extreme means like arrows, foes are liable to explode in a shower of blood and limbs. The gore fits the themes of the game, but there’s a line between brutality and self-parody, and No Place for Bravery sometimes toes it.
Like the art, the music makes an immediate impression. No Place for Bravery opens with an earthshaking dirge. Solemn chanting over thrumming percussion conjures the lamentations of a doomed man, unwavering even as he knows his fate. The main theme is the standout, but other tracks provide a fitting accompaniment to Thorn’s journey and the Celtic-influenced world of Dewr. To an extent everything is a dirge, but a dirge for a dirge of a man in a dirge of a world, never yielding, always onward.
The current Switch build of No Place for Bravery is so buried under technical problems that you should stay far away. But if and when the problems are fixed? I wasn’t able to see the end of No Place for Bravery, making it difficult to fully evaluate. It certainly has some good pieces: great art, a strong concept, and satisfying combat. Maybe that’s enough for it to be worth a shot. Still, from what I did see, it’s hard not to feel that with a bit more thought and care No Place for Bravery could have been a much better game than it is.
NO PLACE FOR BRAVERY IS NOT RECOMMENDED
Unscored as could not complete due to Technical Issues
Many thanks go to Ysbryd Games for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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A veteran of Oregon Trail and Battletoads, Wes has been playing and talking about games for as long as he can remember. He’s down to try almost anything, and he especially enjoys games with gripping narrative experiences.