Swords & Souls: Neverseen is a game that really wants you to think it’s funny. It works hard to present the image that it’s lampooning standard fantasy quest tropes whilst also engaging in them. The trouble is, while it’s not bad at the latter, it’s terrible at the former.

Swords & Souls: Neverseen

Soulgame Studio
Armor Games Studios
PC
July 22, 2019

You start Neverseen aboard a ship, arriving in a new land. From here, the game allows you to design your character, providing the usual sliders for features and a reasonable palette of color choices for your hair.

You can see what I mean here as far as how hard this game tries for the mood it wants: it’s got cartoony sprites with floating limbs, meme-y fonts, the works. This is a game that wants you to play it without necessarily taking it seriously. In character creation at least it’s successful—I find it hard to grow attached to this weird, floating doll of a creature.

A screenshot of the character creation screen, which features a cartoony gray-haired character with floating limbs standing on a blurry ship background. There are appearance sliders on the left, and palettes for color selection on the right.

Once your character is ready, you arrive on the isle of Neverseen. Your starting town is right on the coast, and there are various tasks that will open up to you as you complete the beginning of the game, from investing in shops to training your combat skills. Once the game deems you ready, you’ll move beyond that town onto your first quests. Encounters are marked on a map by destinations you arrive at, then have turn-based fights at. Encounter difficulties are marked by banner colors and skull icons (for the especially difficult).

It’s also here that the game tries again for its signature brand of humor—things such as a signpost marked “SURPRISE AMBUSH!” It’s fine, I suppose, and maybe it’ll be someone’s first game, so this sort of thing will feel fresh to them, but I can’t say I’m feeling the same.

A screenshot of the island and the levels players can navigate to. The second level marker has a banner reading "SURPRISE AMBUSH!" under it. Past the fourth marker, the island is obscured by clouds.

Combat itself is turn-based, but also automatic—your character and your enemies both continue attacking each other until one side is defeated. You have the option to tap certain abilities, and your character will use those on its next attack, but otherwise it will continue swinging away on its own. It’s a weird system that disconnects you as a player from the actual gameplay in much the same way as the story disconnects you via tone; Neverseen feels like a game that’s constantly holding the player at arm’s length while attempting to be something it’s not. The stakes are low: should you fail at combat, you’re given the option to either return to the world map screen or go directly to training to improve your skills.

One refreshing bit is that training itself is not identical to combat as other games might have it; instead, you’re given a series of timing minigames where you have to hit certain goals so many times in a row in order to improve. Unfortunately, while I did like that this was different, it still wasn’t actually… fun. I’m not really a fan of twitch-based gameplay, so including it here was frustrating.

A screenshot of the player character training. They're in a fenced off yard, waving a cutlass at small wheel-shaped targets.

I wonder how much of that is the platform, too. Neverseen is a Unity-based game released on Steam and GoG, but it’s not really the type of game that lends itself well to playing on a PC. It feels instead like something that should be mobile- or tablet-based, to spend a few minutes on whilst killing time between whatever else you might be up to on a given day. Granted, this could be a case of my brain being broken by constantly filling my free time with projects and freelance work, but it doesn’t feel like a good investment of that time at a computer, even recreationally. There are other games I could be playing, and I suppose in that, at least, the game succeeds in convincing me not to take it seriously.