No Rest for the Wicked cut me off at the knees

No Rest for the Wicked is a brutal, unforgiving game that quickly spurns pretenders.
no rest for the wicked moon studios

No Rest for the Wicked entranced me from the moment I set foot in its strange, gothic world. From its gangly-limbed heroes to the dark shades of its beaches and valleys, the game brims with a real sense of charm. For a self-proclaimed “Souls-like” it begins in surprisingly approachable fashion, allowing you to get to grips with its harsh, violent world as guided by a steady hand.

You enter its world as a seasoned traveller, and then lose everything. After a dogfight on a ship, you wash ashore on a strange, illuminated beach, and are immediately beset by a cavalcade of threats, each looming larger than the last. Eventually, you make your way to sanctuary in the town of Sacrament, and the paths before you twist and turn in insidious fashion.

For the first ten hours of this journey, I was enamoured. No Rest for the Wicked is terrifying and beautiful, each of the game’s regions brought to life with a stunning and painterly art style. Its cutscenes are breathtaking, backed by a film-like animation technique that gives each character a real sense of personality.

Read: No Rest for the Wicked: 13 Tips and Tricks for Survival

Beyond these visual touches, No Rest for the Wicked boasts an array of clever systems that make its adventuring feel satisfying. Its gear and crafting systems are simple, and easily understood. Loot is rewarding enough to encourage wide exploration. Quests are also layered and challenging, and remain engaging with every twist.

>no rest for the wicked gameplay
Screenshot: GamesHub

But as much as I loved No Rest for the Wicked, it was hard to feel like the game loved me back. Because after ten hours of striving, conquering towering bosses, and pushing myself seemingly beyond the limits of my patience and gaming combat skills, I hit a wall.

It was in attempting to conquer the Nameless Pass that I found myself at breaking point, having taken the time to grind my level up in multiple quests littered throughout the base of Sacrament and beyond. The Nameless Pass appears after you’ve hit Sacrament, and is essential to the game’s core story. When it’s first revealed, it’s presented as being an urgent pathway.

Madrigal Seline, a royal advisor with an air of antagonism about her, instructs you to follow her through the Nameless Pass on a roundabout quest to deal with the game’s rising plague, which is transforming people into hideous creatures and infecting others with sickness.

But the Nameless Pass is not your next destination, as it’s immediately marked “Deadly” and any attempt to conquer the pathway will lead to certain death – while you’re under-levelled, most enemies can kill you with a single hit, and your attacks do no damage.

What you’re actually required to do is double back, take on alternative quests, and revisit past locations to grind for additional levels before you return. The tasks aren’t insurmountable – new enemies will appear in familiar locations, so by the time you re-encounter them, you’ll know more about their particular attacks. Additional knowledge about traversal and how to unlock new areas will also allow you to conquer fresh pathways and create new ones through harsh terrain.

>no rest for the wicked gameplay difficulty
Screenshot: GamesHub

I spent hours treading these alternative paths, levelling up to prepare myself for the Nameless Pass and a cavalcade of new enemies. But even having completed as many quests as possible – collecting new resources, crafting new items – I still found each battle tough as guts, to the point where powering on was an exercise in frustration.

Hours invested into levelling up, boosting my stats, upgrading my weapons, finding the best combat techniques, learning the cadence of enemy attacks, only for the game’s main critical pathway to immediately kick my arse and cut me off at the knees.

Every enemy on the Nameless Pass was like its own mini-boss battle. They all had incredibly powerful swings, and huge scope for attacks that I simply couldn’t match. So many enemies, particularly those armed with hammers, seemed to be able to leap across the entire screen, targeting me the entire way, and landing right on top of me with their weapons – despite being half-way across the map when they leapt.

My chosen hero is tiny, in comparison. They have a bitchy little swing, and can only get in 3-4 jabs before they tire so much they stand on the spot, and wait for death.

“Skill issue”, one might say. And that would be a fair enough assessment. But I will say, I don’t think it’s only my fault that I’m stuck in No Rest for the Wicked with no real impetus to move on, and conquer the Nameless Pass. The game is currently in early access, and there are plenty of changes I anticipate would make the entire journey more encouraging – and less of a slog once you hit the “serious” meat of the adventure.

>no rest for the wicked exploration
Screenshot: GamesHub

Various systems are currently working against the game. There’s the matter that recipes are hard to find in the early game, so you’re stuck finding fish, mushrooms and herbs for pie and fish skewers. Plus, resources are relatively finite between quests, so there are occasions where you’ll have no healing items on hand and must struggle through boss battles, only hoping to survive.

On another note – when you die, healing items are consumed, and don’t return. If you think you’re doing really well in a battle, and you’re healing to keep yourself alive, but the boss kills you in one hit (which happens very often), you’ll have wasted those essential resources.

Cerim Whispers – the game’s Fast Travel points – only seem to work between Sacrament and your last locale, so if you’re returning to other areas, you’ll need to trample the entire map to get there. The Whispers also provide zero healing unless you die outright, so they’re not particularly useful overall.

There’s also combat itself, which feels in need of certain tweaks. For one thing, the game has slim weapon durability, so you’re constantly needing to head back to Sacrament and spend cash to repair your weapons. Sometimes, you may get stuck without weapons. Then, there’s the matter that even though weapons can be upgraded, they always feel weak in combat.

There are certain players that will love No Rest for the Wicked‘s tough, pattern-based Souls-like combat. You really have to memorise enemy movements and swings to get your hits in and survive, and for most enemies, combat is a wonderful, deadly little dance. But some mandatory enemies still feel very overpowered, and the quirks of combat don’t help matters.

Sometimes, my Cerim hero would have stamina left, but would simply refuse to dodge. And if you get caught in one hit, it’s more likely you’ll stall and get hit by second and third hits, which will take you out.

On the Nameless Pass, one ogre-like warrior with a giant club got me so many times with their aggressive triple-hit that I had to go take a walk to calm my heart. It pains me to admit this, but even with the time I spent levelling, I fear No Rest for the Wicked is too difficult for me.

In starting slow, I grew my confidence and my love for the game. But the carpet has firmly been pulled out now. I’m stuck before the game has really kicked off – and I know there are challenges ahead that will kill my pride, and force me to retreat again.

>no rest for the wicked
Screenshot: GamesHub

I struggled on in No Rest for the Wicked with optimism, winning battles that should’ve been way above my head. I learned more about myself in the process. But now, I think it’s finally time to admit that this game has defeated me.

For certain players, the challenge will be gratifying. Overcoming the game’s many existing flaws in early access will be a delicious task, and one accomplished with relish. But I know what sort of person I am – and whether it means I’m a coward or not, I know my time with No Rest for the Wicked has come to a close, much earlier than I expected.

My failure does not take away from the strength of the game’s potential, and its stylistic devotion. I want to see more of it. I am enamoured by its art, its worldbuilding, and its animation. I care about its characters and their strange plight. It’s a fascinating game, one that deserves a chance to build and grow from here. Perhaps in future, I’ll revisit it with renewed vigour, conquering my fears on the path to victory.

For now, it’s time to accept my truth, and move on.

No Rest for the Wicked is now available on PC in Steam Early Access.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.