There have been quite a few of these side-scrolling narrative games, and you know of the ones I mean. While not as many or as booming as the Metroidvania genre, you are aware of the distinctive vibe of these games. Limbo, INSIDE, Planet of Luna, and Stella are examples of this genre. You know a narrative-driven adventure game when you see one, be it simplistic in their tone, or aggressively obscure and arthouse in nature. It all comes back to 2008’s Braid which set the template for many to follow, and since then, there have only been a few to succeed to the same level of grandness as Braid.

Well, I believe I have played such a game which manages to enter the graces of the elites, such as Braid, and INSIDE.

What is Saviorless?

Saviorless is a profound tale of storytelling coming to life, which explores challenging the notion of the written word and understanding the fragility of structure, where strafing too far from the line could lead to the end of the days.

As an old narrator speaks the words of a story as old as him, we see a young adventurer, Anter who embarks on a journey to The Smiling Islands, a mysterious place that beckons for him to come. He grasps the beautiful concept of “Saviors” yet is fully unaware why he should go there at all, other than to answer a call and ascend to something grander than him, and the world before him.

Anter will face all sorts of dangers, from death traps, mutants, and the broken narrative which now includes a new antagonist, who is on a blood-soaked path of revenge and willing to tear Anter apart. Journey through a stunning hand-drawn 2D world, that traverses decaying forests, ancient palaces, and the sinister tower of Red known as The Red Fortress.

A Thousand Heroes with one face?

For those who have studied the nature of storytelling in university, or maybe read the works of Joesph Cambell, particularly The Hero with a Thousand Faces, surely this is for you. The notion of storytelling and the repeating words, structures, and events across a landscape in different languages, creeds and aspects of time are just remarkable to think about. And video games have had an even more profound impact on storytelling in recent years, especially in repeat playthroughs.

Saviorless is a tale as old as time, the call to adventure, the discovery of something greater, a villain who stands in your way, and the message at the end transcends us into a new platform of understanding. I could go on into a much deeper level of explanation … but after playing through this twice, Saviorless still leaves me with many questions.

But in a good way.

In a way like that of INSIDE, and the recent survival horror hit, Signalis. Where their plots are complex and expensive, you’ll be looping in circles on their themes, and practicality, and will pick up new details with each visit.

Saviorless gives us interesting characters we talk to, devastating events which evolve the overall crisis, heroic moments of joy, and a lot of action to gear us towards the profound climax of the tale. While I would have liked some more interaction between certain characters, there is more than enough here to grasp a somewhat coherent understanding of the world and its inhabitants. I would probably be less impressed with the narrative overall if it weren't for a couple of important things.

First, Saviorless does not waste my or your time with countless documents to read, and an ungodly amount of lore. Too many survival horror games (including Signalis) bombard you with endless documents and lore, that ruin the pacing quite a bit.

This leads to the second thing, as Saviorless captivates through its environmental storytelling. Every scene is beautifully drawn and provides plentiful notes on the world-building and overall themes you’ll be dealing with along with Anter. I could see each scene had amazing attention to detail, nothing was repeated or simulated falsely, but showing all manner of incredible world-building that provided answers and raised many questions.

I wondered if a mass graveyard was raining frogs (like that scene from 1999’s Magnolia), witnessing the pity of hunters being violently transformed into slugs, or gazing at the beautiful, yet haunting vision of the Red Fortress.

A game like Braid gave me everything I needed to know in one playthrough, and repeated playthroughs didn’t give me much more. Saviorless while a little vague and slow to begin with, soon piqued my interest in a sharp jab and kept me invested until the end. Where I just wanted to go back and see everything again.

Saviorless is utterly compelling be it through its vague, yet intriguing plot, the thematic elements of storytelling meeting reality, and magnificent presentation that provides beautiful artwork, the best I’ve seen in quite some time.

Go right, be the hero … or the villain

While the complexity of the storytelling for Saviorless is profoundly gripping and exciting, the gameplay takes on a much simpler form, yet does manage to provide plenty of danger, excitement and variety which impressed me tremendously.

Saviorless is much like games from Braid, to INSIDE, where you will be mainly pushing forward to the right side of the screen, facing different challenges, and dangers and partaking in exciting platforming sequences that will test every cognitive part of your brain.

Much of what you do is simply to walk, explore, climb and jump with little mechanical mobility for the most part. You’ll pull levers, jump from platform to platform, lure monsters to a trap, and collect key items.

I was impressed with the variety in set pieces across the game, and just how enjoyable they were to overcome. The start of the journey is quite mellow and the dangers minimal, yet things do escalate quite dramatically by the halfway point. And don’t be fooled, the first character or so can be a little slow, yet still provides some neat obstacles and light puzzles to figure out. But soon enough come the brutal trial-by-error challenges that do test your reflexes and rely much on memory and quick thinking.

Now I understand the idea of trial-and-error gameplay isn’t for all, and I would understand if this turned you away somewhat. But thankfully the developers have been forward-thinking enough to accommodate for a higher stance on accessibility and approachability. While some checkpoints are oddly placed for my liking, there are plenty of them and usually in the exact right places to make sure failure isn’t utterly devastating. The more intense set-pieces while brutal don’t outstay their welcome, and boss battles are paced quite perfectly to require a lot of attention, but not be so stressful that you begin to loath them. The few boss encounters are terrific!

I will add, however, that there is one chase sequence which I’m sure is a little broken, as getting past it felt like I only did so by the absolute skin of my teeth. Hopefully, this will be balanced!

But overall, there is a good amount of recoverability when you fail, and getting back on track is nothing major to do. Anter is a little slow in general, but never felt overly cumbersome to control. He did and responded well to everything that came about, and things like memory and quick thinking do play a vital role in various set pieces.

A spectacular and varied hero's journey

And speaking of which, I loved how many different events, and action sequences there were, from using cover to avoid the deadly screech of a golden Heron, driving a tram through a maze of death, or being chased by a giant, almost God-like being, armed with swords. There are many moments like this, and they always felt so different from one another, and so brilliantly executed that I would be happy to replay them again and again.

But the most interesting element here is becoming a Savior, and being able to attack enemies when things get troubling. At key moments, you’ll be able to transform into the Savior, a powerful being who can rip and tear nasty enemies, make daring leaps and do the things human Anter can’t do. However, each transformation is limited, and only by destroying enemies, or various objects in the scene can extend the time. It’s a good way to keep the tension high, but also provide moments where you can unleash a devastating sense of destruction as a demi-god.

These moments are also fun and varied and have outstanding pacing. Even to include an elevator section which I found rather amusing. But both forms of Anter provide some excellent gameplay moments, which shined through brightly in the second half of the game. While I do wish there were some more engaging puzzles, and aside from the first chapter feeling a little slow, the journey is pretty much near perfect in pacing, gameplay execution, and the sense of challenge will keep you going, and be a massive joy when you overcome it.

There are also some little side activities to do as well, gathering pages of a manuscript which you can trade for collectables. This plays a big part in the ending and feels quite similar to Braid’s jigsaw puzzles. These little side quests which never reach the same level of challenge as the engaging and ruthless set-pieces, do add a nice layer to the exploration and problem-solving. These can tend to be in hard-to-reach places, or require an ultra-keen eye to spot in a chase sequence, or just to think outside the box to grasp a torn fragment, or a story long forgotten.


I honestly was not expecting much, maybe at least a good adventure game with a nice visual style. Yet, Saviorless left its mark on me, piquing my interest and keeping me thoroughly engaged. This means it can sit high and mighty with the likes of INSIDE and Braid, as a profoundly beautiful narrative that will fascinate you, a remarkably stunning-looking adventure that will leave you breathless, and its ruthless, yet enjoyable gameplay and set pieces will make you feel like a true hero who’s conquered a massive quest of bravery and endurance.  

There aren’t enough words to describe just how glorious Saviorless is and being Cuba’s first video game … it’s a phenomenal one. I can not recommend Saviorless enough, and for anyone who loves a great adventure tale, and gripping challenges, and admirer of immensely talented artwork, please go and check out Saviorless and experience something quite special indeed.

Saviorless is quite frankly one of the best in the narrative-driven, side-scrolling adventure genre.

+++ Looks truly stunning! One of the best-looking games I’ve played in a while.
++ Pretty perfect pacing, and gameplay variety.
++ Engaging and brilliant gameplay set pieces and action.
+ An intriguing story that’s worth thinking about and revisiting.

- A little slow at the beginning of the story.
- Maybe could have given some more character interactions.
- One set-piece is too ruthless … might need some tweaking there guys (developers).

A PS5 copy of Saviorless was kindly provided by the publisher for this review.