The follow up game from the team behind 'Ori and the Will of the Wisps' is already hauntingly spectacular

No Rest for the Wicked
(Image credit: Windows Central | Moon Studios)

No Rest for the Wicked: Moon Studios' next big game is almost here. 

Moon Studios is an acclaimed team known for Ori and the Blind Forest and its sequel, Will of the Wisps. As a result of those games, Moon Studios is easily arguably responsible for two of the best Xbox exclusive games ever made. But now, the team is spreading its wings for its next entry. 

No Rest for the Wicked is being published by Private Division, and expands from its 2D side-scrolling perspective of Ori to a fully realized, 3D environment with a fixed camera perspective, akin to Diablo and other traditional ARPGs. No Rest for the Wicked, however, is very much not a traditional ARPG.  

Borrowing from soulslike sensibilities, No Rest for the Wicked is less about battling dozens of enemies at a time and more about carefully managing stamina, positioning, and brutal difficulty that punishes the impatient. It is by no means a "true" soulslike, though, for those concerned about the stresses inherent in the genre — but the game is fully prepared to offer a challenge for those who seek it, much like Ori itself did previously. 

I had the opportunity to try out No Rest for the Wicked's preview build this past week, which offers a glimpse at the first thirty minutes of the game. Without a doubt, No Rest for the Wicked is now immediately one of my most anticipated upcoming Xbox games, and here's why it should be among yours as well. 

No Rest for the Wicked launches on April 18, 2024 in early access on Steam, with full releases penned for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S in the future. 

No Rest for the Wicked

No Rest for the Wicked

No Rest for the Wicked is an upcoming action RPG from the creators of Ori and the Blind Forest. Borrowing some soulslike traditions, No Rest for the Wicked is a challenging game with heavy combat and a haunting, painted art style. The game launches into early access on PC on April 18, 2024, and is coming to Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 once completed. 

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Moon Studios' spectacular art treatment returns with a haunted vengeance

(Image credit: Windows Central | Moon Studios)

I really have to lead this preview with No Rest for the Wicked's art delivery because, once again, Moon Studios assaults the senses with layers of raw quality. Every now and then, a game comes along that is so immaculate in its presentation that it frustrates my writing abilities since putting into words what Moon Studios is achieving here is far beyond my skill set. 

No Rest for the Wicked is an absolute triumph of an art showcase; that much is apparent right from the game's first scene. Set in a fictional kingdom, No Rest for the Wicked hovers above the deathbed of the king of the land, who has just passed. Initially, I thought this was a static painting, but in true Moon Studios fashion, the painting begins to move, revealing a uniquely dream-like visual pallet with distorted proportions and hand-painted textures. It's incredible to watch Moon Studios' Ori traditions translate so well to fully-realized 3D, alongside uniquely expressive characters that paint the tale the game is trying to tell. 

Even from this brief cutscene with a few lines of dialogue, Moon deftly reveals a ton about the game's setting with expressive art and telling character portrayal. The king is dead, and a power vacuum seems to be forming. A concerned Lord is shocked as an arrogant prince spares no time criticizing his own recently-dead father as weak-willed before swiftly decreeing a holy crusade. The target is the island of Sacra, where a mysterious "pestilence" seems to be driving the citizenry mad. 

Despite No Rest for the Wicked's isometric view, the game frequently pans out to show off its impressively vertical environmental design.  (Image credit: Windows Central | Moon Studios)

From there, we are greeted with our custom-created character, a Cerim, infused with holy power, washed ashore and separated from the landing party. 

These early scenes do so much in a short space of time to set the tone for the game — which is very familiarly Moon Studios, albeit strewn through a nightmarish lens. Much like the pestilence that forms the game's plot, every corner of Isola Sacra is dripping with darkness, with its color tucked beneath layers of carnage and distress. 

The shoreline is battered with wrecks of all shapes and sizes, decorated with washed-up corpses picked apart by gulls and giant crabs. You emerge in rags, defenceless, disoriented, and thrust into a deadly situation not of your own making. 

No Rest for the Wicked continues Moon Studios' mission to put art and design at the absolute fore, but that isn't to suggest its combat takes a supporting role. No Rest for the Wicked's gameplay is the perfect dance partner for this macabre waltz that Moon Studios is building. 

It's not quite a soulslike — it's something else

(Image credit: Windows Central | Moon Studios)

Juggling my daily duties, I was only peripherally aware of No Rest for the Wicked outside of the trailer. I saw the phrase "soulslike" linked to the game repeatedly, offered in headlines and the like, but I'm not sure I'd really say that it's truly steeped in the genre — but there are a few key inspirations. 

No Rest for the Wicked is quite ambitious with its early access development plan. It's totally playable as a soloist, but it also supports 4-player co-op, and will feature both optional PvP gameplay and an endgame boss ladder. For my preview, I was treated to the game's initial tutorial areas, which describe how to survive in this bleak world, as well as dish out punishment to the roaming ferals that want to murder you for the crime of existing. 

For me, what defines a "soulslike" is the punishment for dying, which can include losing resources you need to run and reclaim, while enemies respawn after resting and saving, and so on. No Rest for the Wicked isn't quite this demanding, and simply sends players back to a manual checkpoint upon death — enemies remain dead, regardless. There are some clear inspirations from Miyazaki's acclaimed RPGs, though, while also blending in Moon Studios' celebration of Metroidvania map designs. 

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There is carry weight in No Rest for the Wicked, and the amount of armor you wear impacts your dodge roll. Interestingly, though, it also adds a shoulder barge attack if you're wearing heavier armor, so it's like the game gives you benefits as well as downsides for building your character out that way. Indeed, there aren't really "fixed" classes in the game, but you can build typical archetypes. For my run, I picked up a staff and played as a wizard, flinging gorgeous fire spells that spread shining embers, lighting up the environment as they incinerated my foes. 

There are multiple types of replenishable resources to track. You seem to have separate stamina bars for dodging and blocking, on top of attacking, depicted by a dial that encircles your character. There's also health, which is replenished by cooking meals or eating scavenged food from the environment, as well as focus, which is replenished by attacking or parrying enemies successfully. Focus lets you unleash magic spells and other special attacks that can be incredibly powerful. One attack allowed me to ignite an area with fire, while another allowed me to blink through enemies for an easy dodge. 

The parry window is quite difficult and tight initially, at least, but dodge rolling and the associated invincibility frames feel like a generally far safer way to avoid attacks. Parrying can be devastating, though, allowing you to follow up with a flurry of attacks on a stunned foe. 

You will meet various characters on your trip across the island. Some are nice, many are not.  (Image credit: Windows Central | Moon Studios)

The combat is incredibly satisfying in any case and has a great, weighty feel to it. The spells I had access to were spectacular and complimented the game's incredible lighting well, sending sparks across the battlefield. It seems as though there'll be a strong arsenal of weapon types to experiment with, from bows to daggers, from magical staves to swords and shields — there's most likely something for everyone here, and the fact you'll be able to play with your friends is a welcome addition on top as well. 

The variety of weaponry, consumables, crafting systems, and resource-gathering options (including fishing, yay!) makes exploration quite rewarding. Despite its isometric, fixed-camera design, the environments Moon Studios built here are surprisingly vertical. You can climb up on ledges and ladders, jump across gaps, and often find pathways that you might not expect to be able to traverse in a game with this camera perspective. There are also plentiful enemies to fight your way through, too. 

Indeed, make no mistake — No Rest for the Wicked is quite a tough cookie, and will punish those impatient enough to learn and prepare for those enemies. It's not quite as stressful as a true "soulslike," given that besides losing some equipment durability, there's not much friction for trying a second, or third time. 

My demo culminated in a battle with a freakish entity utterly transformed by the pestilence. I interrupted this hulking, arachnoid bag of bones and rotten flesh during its cannibalistic feeding session. This thing was a human once, still wearing bits of armor atop its withered husk of a face. Its huge, crazed sword slashes were no match for my deftly (panicked) i-frames rolling and fireball flinging, though. It fell beneath my stave, backlit by the pulsing lighthouse and scorched by my fiery whims. 

I was then welcomed into the game's primary hub city, known as Sacrament, as the camera zoomed out to reveal a medieval cityscape plunged in darkness, desperate for salvation. Will you bring it to them, Cerim?

Something wicked, this way comes

(Image credit: Windows Central | Moon Studios)

No Rest for the Wicked is launching initially into early access on April 18, 2024 for Steam. Once it hits 1.0, it will also be heading to Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 down the line too. 

Even in this vanishingly brief slice, I was treated to, I find myself once again excited to dive into another Moon Studios adventure. I have mountains of unanswered questions. What exactly are Cerim? What is the nature of the pestilence exactly? What will the general gameplay loop be like? Will this be playable indefinitely, akin to Diablo? Why does that prince guy seem like such a dick? Amongst various other pressing concerns. 

One thing I am not concerned about is the game's quality, which, even in this early incarnation, punches up there with the best and most polished AAA action RPGs out there. No Rest for the Wicked is, hopefully, set for greatness, and you should definitely put it on your radar. 

No Rest for the Wicked

No Rest for the Wicked

From the creators of Ori and the Blind Forest, No Rest for the Wicked aims to take isometric action RPG gameplay to the next level. Soulslike traditions blend with Moon Studios' signature haunting painted art style, and our initial impressions are INCREDIBLY positive. 

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Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!