Review: Saviorless is the excellent debut of the Cuban indie game development scene


Saviorless holds the honor of being Cuba’s first major indie videogame to be released, and to that it’s a fantastic start of their scene as it’s an engaging narrative platformer in the likes of Limbo and Inside, coated in beautiful hand-drawn graphics and guided by a story that could be best described as an unreliable narrator’s wet dream. Knowing the obstacles that its developers had to overcome in a less than ideal situation being from a country that’s been through what theirs have over the last 70 or so years, it’s especially impressive that Saviorless is as good as it is.

Guided by its narrators, which in the world of the game are considered beings way above the limitations of flesh and bone, the protagonists, who take many shapes and sizes, are doomed to live their lives under the watchful gaze of their unseen puppeteers. Still, there are ways to escape their fate, and it’s through your influence as a player that history gets rewritten, thus giving them a chance to do so. While this premise might sound weird at first, it’s worth sticking through to its conclusion, as Saviorless is likely to be one of the more out there games this side of Nier and its prequel.

In terms of gameplay, though, there isn’t much going on, to be honest. You control one of many characters and guide them through a number of linear levels where you activate levers, set traps in order to kill your enemies, and collect scraps of paper that form the script from which their life has been based on. If this were to be a game without much of a purpose and story, it would definitely be an unexciting affair, but given its unique setting and style, it ends up being more than meets the eye.

Saviorless’ visuals stand in contrast to its creepy and unsettling vibe.

It also helps that it’s quite a good looking game. Sporting a hand drawn art style with some well animated characters, Saviorless goes against the flow of polygonal games that are usually associated with Unity in favor of 2D, which helps give it flavor and cement its tone, which is of a grayish nature, true to its name, not only visually, but in writing. Dialogue between the narrators is usually where the meat of the story lies, and the tidbits that you discover by playing help fill the voids and answer some of the questions left in the air.

All of which is followed by some very good music as well. The score at first listen sounds like your usual take on background filler, but the more you stick around and pay attention, you’ll start picking up on the undercurrent of dread and hopelessness buried deep within the notes that play as you scurry around the levels. In many ways, Saviorless has a lot in common with another niche indie game from a few years ago, GRIS, from Spanish studio Nomada. 

And when I talk about pretty, it is VERY much so indeed.

Similarly drawn and themed, both games try to go beyond the usual motions and attempt to deliver a deeper experience. While Saviorless lacks much of the depth that GRIS had going for it when it came to variety, it manages to carve out its own space among the rest of the less gamey, more story-focused ilk of platforming experiences. That makes it even more impressive, considering that it’s team Empty Head Games’ first foray in gaming, much like GRIS was for Nomada.

Saviorless will definitely appeal to those who can look beyond the simpleness of gameplay in order to see what lies within its beating heart. That alone is reason to give this one a go, but the entire struggle that happened behind the scenes is an extra incentive to try it out as well. It’s an achievement and a marvel of perseverance that turned into an above average game against all odds. It’s short and to the point with a message to get across – it only depends on whether or not you’re there to listen to it. If this is a slice of what’s to come out of Cuba’s gaming scene, I can’t wait for the rest of the cake!

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