IGN First: No Rest for the Wicked’s Crunchy Combat Draws More Inspiration from Dark Souls Than Diablo

Ori developer Moon Studios is creating its very first action RPG with the game No Rest For The Wicked. Despite the familiar isometric perspective, this project differs greatly from popular ARPGs like Diablo and Path of Exile. Combat in No Rest for the Wicked is calculated, strategic, and every swing of the sword has significance. Ultimately, it seems that Moon Studios may be developing your next favorite game if you enjoy the intense experience of Dark Souls boss battles.

Thomas Mahler, co-founder and creative director of Moon Studio, says, “Our major objective for the combat was to make it feel incredibly visceral To create a combat system with meaningful animations that deliver satisfying swings with each button press, while avoiding spamming.”

The term ARPG in the isometric space typically generates thoughts of high APM gameplay that involves rapidly clicking and utilizing abilities the moment the cooldown counter reaches zero. No Rest for the Wicked defies this expectation.

Gennadiy Korol, co-founder and technology director at Moon Studios, explains, “We aimed for it to feel more intimate, focused, and strategic, rather than overwhelming with sensory information. You want to feel each and every action your character takes. It’s about being up close, focused, and not dealing with 20 enemies on screen at once, but rather engaging in encounter after encounter where each move matters.”

Given these objectives, it’s not surprising that Mahler lists Dark Souls and Monster Hunter as inspirations. Deciding on a top-down, isometric camera, the team believed they needed to diverge from the typical approach used by most other games with this perspective, resulting in a design document that promises something boldly innovative.

Mahler notes, “We also drew inspiration from fighting games. We loved the idea of being able to perform combos and wanted to incorporate that by allowing players to execute various combos and moves, such as a kind of overhead slam.”

This fighting game influence is combined with a classic RPG element – runes. These runes provide unique abilities specific to each weapon in the game, which can be woven into patterns of attacks, dodges, and parries Korol explains that the runes unlock “really remarkable moves” due to the top-down camera making certain animations much more readable than in a lower third-person camera.

It’s not 20 enemies on screen all against you. It’s encounter after encounter. Every single move matters.

Combat moves in No Rest for the Wicked are closely associated with the weapon that players possess. Moon aims to offer a wide range of weapons, from daggers to hammers to bows, each with its own unique moveset. Moreover, there is a collection of variations within each discrete weapon, ensuring no two versions are identical.

One example is the Blood-rusted Sword, which Mahler describes as “one of the straight swords that we have.” He explains, “[Your friend] could have a cursed Blood-rusted Sword that deals more damage, but you also take more damage.”

As with all action RPGs, battle in No Rest for the Wicked is not a matter of just continually pressing the attack button. Multiple character elements, including health and stamina, must be considered at all times. The first is handled by a cooking system that streamlines Breath of the Wild’s food mechanic, while the latter aims to counter the attack cadence seen in Diablo-strain ARPGs.

Korol says, “The idea is that it shouldn’t feel like you’re just running around and spamming all the time. It’s more strategic and tactical. That is where the stamina system comes in.”

A third resource is present, differing from the expected magic points. “We don’t have a mana system,” says Mahler, explaining that he sought something more dynamic than a blue meter that depletes and then is refilled. The answer comes in the form of ‘Focus,’ which “increases as you play better in combat,” and powers the powerful rune attacks.

Korol states, “It creates this push-and-pull dynamic where you can build up your Focus, then you do a cool special, then you have to build it up again.”

We want to get your heart rate as high as possible. We want you to feel like, ‘How am I going to do this? How am I going to beat this?’

Health, Focus, rune attacks, and weapon choices are all interwoven in No Rest for the Wicked’s boss battles. The first major foe, Warrick the Torn, is a man twisted into the form of a grotesque, spider-like monster by a plague ravaging the world. He’s a frantic attacker whose speed defies his enormous size, galloping across the arena and launching himself high into the air for dive-bomb like attacks.

Korol elaborates that the battle design aims to “get your heart rate as high as possible. We want you to feel like, ‘How am I going to do this? How am I going to beat this? This is relentless. This is impossible.’ Then, little by little, it’s like a puzzle that you figure out, and you feel empowered.”

Warrick’s relentless strategy is to create distance between himself and the player, emphasized by the isometric camera. In the video above, you can witness moves like a forward lunge being executed to quickly minimize that distance.

Korol adds, “My favorite part is when he gets angrier and he gets even more relentless, and he starts jumping. You have this really powerful fantasy thing where it’s not just a creature that’s on the ground, but he also has this crazy mobility to get to you. I think that’s just terrifying.”

Despite Warrick’s terrifying nature, he does have a vulnerability. “He doesn’t like fire,” reveals Korol. “He really doesn’t like fire, this Warrick guy. Fire is bad for him.” We can see the hero setting his sword alight and using it to spread flames through Warrick’s flesh in the video.

“I have an amazing tip,” says Mahler. “You meet Filmore the blacksmith early on. When you talk to him, he will actually sell you some stuff. The scrap bombs that he sells … They’re very good.”

While I haven’t had a hands-on experience with No Rest for the Wicked yet, everything I’ve seen so far gives me confidence in its intense, brutal combat. Being someone who grew up with the late ’90s era of computer RPGs, the isometric camera of Baldur’s Gate and Diablo is something I truly appreciate, and seeing them return last year in new versions of those games was a delight. But No Rest for the Wicked’s Soulsian combat appears to set itself apart, and Moon Studios’ approach to creating a game that captures the thrill of Elden Ring from a whole new perspective really excites me.

The actual experience remains to be seen – as any fan of deliberate combat systems well knows, what appears great on video doesn’t always feel good in the hand. However, we’ll soon learn much more about combat as part of Wicked Inside, Moon’s developer stream taking place on March 1. And then, hopefully not too long after, we’ll be able to actually take on Warrick ourselves when the game launches in early access.

Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Features Editor.

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