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The Punk Demo Dives Head-first into Nihilo

It used to be I'd never venture into a demo with high expectations beyond general excitement to try out someone's hard work, so when I discovered Nihilo shortly after finishing Theia, I was beside myself because I felt immediately drawn to this game based solely on the screenshots, gifs, and presentation alone. After sitting down to blaze through the demo two-times over, I'll safely say that this was one of those demos that I'm glad I dropped myself into because if the quality exhibited here is what the finished game is going to be, then I firmly believe it'll be amazing. So, join me as I Demo Dive and give my first impression of this apocalyptic RPG.

Being that this isn't the full game, a quick note: I won't be giving this a starred rating because once the full game is released, I'll be revising this to reflect the final project and rating it then. With that said, let's break this down into Presentation, Combat & Mechanics, and Impressions.


From the moment the screen pans down and the title screen is shown, we immediately see numerous small details – wind blowing the sprites hair, dust clouds, and how despite being a wasteland, there are specks of life to be found if you look closely. This is something I'll note on a few more times because the level of detail to atmosphere and the surroundings your characters are placed in have been exceptionally done. Environments are well mapped, tight but not restrictive, and your ability to interact with the surroundings to get Estes making commentary on what he's looking at adds personality to what would otherwise seem like a desolate world. Being observant in this game will serve you well in terms of survival because there are items hidden in places you wouldn't expect, so slowing down to check out your surroundings is a must.

Other RPGs have tried to hammer down an apocalyptic landscape and either made it too empty or too busy for the eyes but in Nihilo, it feels tight, but not restrictive, expressive and telling you what it needs to without wasting time. In a sense, it nails down its atmosphere and does a lot by saying very little at times and that's detail worth appreciating.

The menu and icons, weapon designs and tabs are all sleek and show polish and consideration to design – especially when the menu in-game, when pulled up, is simple but informative without being overwhelming, and the same is true for in-battle. Attention to detail and making the most of your space, while also not flooding the player with unnecessary information, is astounding.

Way-points are a feature I wish more games would incorporate because in this game they're helpful when exploring, especially in a world where debris and the environments themselves seem at odds with you.

The game manages to garner investment into the world lore via environmental story telling and backstory via side quests, lending meaningful reason to tackle optional content to see what else has happened to this world and its inhabitants. Characters are driven by their need to survive, but there's a paper thin hope (and cynicism) in the characters you meet – much of the changed world is as much as a mystery to them as it is to the player, and in that regard you feel like you as a player are growing wiser with the characters you play.

Musically and sound wise – the soundtrack, with whats presented in the demo, has a great balance between ambiance, somber tones and then during battle it hits you with fast beats and electro-rock, and I for one am all for it. The battle music alone gets me pumped up and then in between fights the ambient music further solidifies a grim tone edged by the cynical and measured hope mentioned in the last paragraph.

The movement of sprites in combat, as well as seeing their attacks animated, choreographed, and even the enemies being animated, really makes combat 'pop' all the more. Attacks can change – such as Estes using 'burst' and how his Galvanic and Thermal variants have their own attack animations.

With such a strong presentation nailing down so many fine points, is the combat and mechanics behind improving your characters as robust? It certainly is!

Combat & Mechanics

While turn based, Nihilo's approach is to reward you for being a smarter player versus being a reckless one, though sometimes you'll find recklessness can be as rewarding, if riskier. Allow me to break it down.

First, let's cover Estes and Nikolai's Ability Gauges. Estes uses Components to bestow elemental properties to his sword, while Nikolai can change up what ammo he uses in his gun (Pierce and Blast in the demo). Estes has an 'Output' gauge, meaning you have to watch your consumption or his weapons output will drop and you'll be left with more limited options, while with Nikolai, remembering how much ammo you have for any given type is key, in addition to munitions he uses (such as Napalm).

Auxi, their robotic helper, also relies on output and you'll find that the first thing you want to use him for is to Scan your enemies, as this reveals weaknesses and what enemies are susceptible to, as well as what they're resistant to. Find yourself not doing as much damage? Then throw up a scan and exploit the enemies weaknesses immediately. Auxi can also heal, boost Fortitude, jam robots, and more.

Fortitude, on the other hand, is a component of combat that is in constant flux throughout the battle. You've two gauges – red and green, and if you want to break this into more modern terms, imagine the red is a characters fatigue and green is their adrenaline. Estes and Nikolai build Fortitude differently – Estes builds it simply by attacking but loses it when attacked, while Nikolai builds it by being attacked but loses it when he acts.

Once your green gauged Fortitude maxes out, you can use Rush attacks (think of them like limit breaks) or, if you've played a smart offensive and defensive fight, you can sync up their Rush attacks for an even stronger Unison Rush. Pulling off a Unison Rush makes you feel like a badass because of the way the characters have been animated showing off their individual Rush techniques working together.

You'll always want to take extra care to keep an eye on your Fortitude because the higher the red gauge fills, the more damage your characters will take.
Outside of combat, you'll find that crafting ammo, tools, and more with Auxi to be an ongoing stable and you'll definitely want to manage your resources wisely so you can always have a leg up on the enemy. Too, you'll have flexibility over how you develop your characters.

After fights you acquire Refine Points (RP) and these can be spent on upgrading individual stats for each character – but let's say you don't like Estes having more HP and want to make him a riskier, but stronger, unit? You can – deduct the points from HP, which can be done freely, and move them to his Attack. The way this is done helps fine-tune what you want both characters to do in combat, and in the final release I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what maxing out stats with them will be like and how it'll effect how they fight.

You do gain levels through fighting by itself, with stat boosts included, but you'll want to keep an eye on how you spec your characters to give yourself an edge in combat. Auxi also has stats you can upgrade to make them a better companion to Estes and Nikolai. Alongside this, you can modify and power up your weapons as well as unlock new abilities or strengthen damage done for different ammo types, and while you can't do much with that in the demo, this will have a much heavier impact in the full game, going by what stats we can see to each upgrade in the demo so that's something I'm definitely looking forward to playing around with.

It seems there will be more permanent party members as the game goes on, or you'll have a robust rotating cast of guest characters who, while not as customizable as the main cast, offer plenty of raw perks on their own.


Nihilo's demo is damned impressive – there's been careful attention paid to crafting the individual parts that make up the sum of the experience, from the sprite work to the customization, to the way it tells it's story through multiple facets. While this review of the demo skipped around the story shown in the demo, I assure this is intentional because the mystery we're introduced to in the demo is far from answered, and the characters we encounter immediately show off their personalities, all tinged with that survivors mentality where they have to keep their wits about them. But with how Giznads is crafting the story to be told through the main journey, the side content, and the environment? I've faith this game will draw in enthusiasts that enjoy a narrative they can enjoy but can enjoy more by piecing together the context earned and explored by being curious and observant.

Fans of turned based combat rest assured – you'll definitely be able to scratch that itch with this, but also be rewarded with experimenting and building your characters how you deem fit.

If you're like me and skeptical about trying out a demo, then I encourage -right this moment- to download it and give it a go. Nihilo is definitely on my 'to-watch' list as it develops as it's going to be one of those games I'll be diving straight into once the full game comes out.


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Thank you so much!
I'm overwhelmed by the amount of detail crammed into this review of just a demo! It really warms my heart.<3
I can't wait to put out the full game with all new modifications for people to play with, and a more fleshed out and detailed story and lore!
I'll be pouring the same amount work of and more into the rest of the game, and I truly hope it will live up to the expectations!

Again, thank you so much for taking the time to write in detail such a kind review!
Looking forward to your views on the full game!
Thank you so much!
I'm overwhelmed by the amount of detail crammed into this review of just a demo! It really warms my heart.<3
I can't wait to put out the full game with all new modifications for people to play with, and a more fleshed out and detailed story and lore!
I'll be pouring the same amount work of and more into the rest of the game, and I truly hope it will live up to the expectations!

Again, thank you so much for taking the time to write in detail such a kind review!
Looking forward to your views on the full game!

I'm incredibly stoked for the full adventure! I was surprised I had as much to say about a demo but I forget that I often take everything I can into account! I've a lot of love for your game and I can't wait to see what Nikolai and Estes are going to experience moving forward~!

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