Saviorless review

by on April 2, 2024
Release Date

April 2, 2024


Saviorless is the debut title from Empty Head Games, and apparently the first ever Cuban indie game to be published by an international house; in this case, French outfit Dear Villagers. It was a labour of love, too, going through a successful Kickstarter campaign before almost being derailed by a number of setbacks, including political strife, legal tangles over the title, and reshuffling of the dev team. Now it’s finally here, out in the world – but was it it worth the battle?

In a word, yes. In two words, very… yes? Saviorless is a game that immediately feels unique. It’s a side-scrolling Metroidvania-lite set in a pseudo-religious dark fantasy world that would make the Penitent One from Blasphemous feel comfortable. It’s a game in which hand-drawn, painterly art and gentle piano tones can give way to sudden horrific violence without a moment’s warning, where everything wants to kill you and everything else wants to encourage you to kill.


It opens with a trio of storytellers, an old veteran extolling the virtues of good narration to his two young apprentices. The idea, he says, is to never let the protagonist reach their goal, for then the story ends, and without the story the Narrator has no power. Of course, the young whippersnappers don’t heed his words, messing with the story, and creating calamity for our actual protagonist.

Antar is a young boy who seeks the Smiling Island, a place where pilgrims become Saviors, all-powerful beings who can change the essence of the world around them. Up until his arrival, Antar believed what he had been taught, that the Smiling Islands were a place of paradise and beauty. However, he finds a much different truth. A band of hunters led by one named Nento have arrived ahead of Antar, and their actions have corrupted the Smiling Islands – or were they corrupted by them?


It’s now a place of horror and bloodshed. Nento’s hunters have become twisted Saviors all, and if Antar is to stop them before the Great God falls and the world is doomed beyond repair, he’ll need to become a Savior too. Led by the grace of the Radiant Heron, Antar forges on despite having no combat skills, weapons, or provisions. He has only the robe on his back and his own ingenuity. Well, your ingenuity, really.

When controlling Antar you can only run, jump, and crawl. Enemies must be avoided and lured into death traps, as you seek the answer to environmental puzzles. Pulling levers, finding fuses for switches, beating ruthless timers. You cannot fight and must instead think your way out of problems.

At around the halfway point you’ll begin to receive the powers of the Savior, represented by a mask that settles on Antar and gives him the power to fight, dash, and jump great distances. It lasts a limited time, bolstered by the life essence of living creatures, and you must complete whatever gauntlet is set before you and reach a checkpoint before the mask kills you. Even the checkpoint slices the mask off you violently and will kill Antar on the backswing if you’re not quick. The juxtaposition of gameplay styles is stark and jarring, but deliberately so. As a Savior, violence is your ally, death your communal bread, to be dished out judiciously to any living thing you see. It’s a huge shift from desperately running and jumping as the fragile Antar.


At times, Antar will find special Altars and dream, seeing Nento and his hunters, or will dream that he is Nento. In these moments you take control of the grotesque, horse-headed hunter in brutal boss fights. None are overly challenging, but then Saviorless is a game built on its narrative and world, rather than its combat, which can feel rudimentary at times.

Throughout each area there are six scattered pages, and bringing them to the mysterious writer will alter the story. He’ll also give you the chance to “rewrite” the story, which plonks you back at the start of the area and allows you another chance to find the pages.


Death sends you back to a recent checkpoint, and some of them feel just a little bit mean, but usually death is a result of not reading the terrain, or mistiming something. There are many hazards, and more setpieces in its short runtime than I expected. But this is no action game, and even the sections played as the Savior or Nento are short and end abruptly.

Saviorless is wonderfully macabre though. It has the look of a kid’s cartoon and the sudden shocking violence of a horror film, but it gels together perfectly. There are no ancillary skill trees to bog it down, no gear menus or upgrades, no XP to earn or boss skills to absorb. It’s a dark, sometimes frightening, often sorrowful tale told with little exposition and sparse dialogue, that took me a little while to get into and then held on tight for the duration.


Looks amazing
Compelling, interesting story
Superbly paced


Controlling Antar can be a little clunky
Combat is quite basic

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Saviorless is a dark, frightening, often sorrowful tale that took me a little while to get into and then held on tight for the duration.