Cuba’s First Independent Video Game Saviorless Launches Internationally After Multiple Struggles faced by Developers


Released April 2, on Steam and Epic, “Saviorless” is the highly anticipated debut title from Cuban studio Empty Head Games.

Billed as the country’s “first major indie game,” this 2D side-scrolling platformer captivates with its muted post-apocalyptic aesthetic and thought-provoking narrative.

It is a 2D game with hand-drawn illustrations that invites players into a dark fantasy world to unravel the mystery of the “Islands of Smiles” by fighting monsters and solving puzzles.

The creators of this groundbreaking video game are Josuhe Pagliery, a 43-year-old graphic artist who first conceived the idea in 2016, and David Darias, a 35-year-old former professor at the University of Havana.

Developing a Game is not an easy task for The Creators During Economic Turmoil

The journey to bring “Saviorless” to life was a big challenge for developers as it was filled with numerous obstacles.

The project idea came at a historic time in 2016 when Cuba and the United States saw a thaw in relations under the presidency of Barack Obama.

Then the game received support from an American foundation and crowdfunding, and Pagliery even traveled to the United States where his dream of creating an independent Cuban video game was covered by the various media.

However, the project soon faced a storm of obstacles as the political tensions returned under the US presidency of Donald Trump, who reinforced economic sanctions on Cuba.

Initially, programmers thought to migrate development but soon pandemic hit, and the dev got stuck in Cuba which plunged into its worst economic crisis, marked by shortages and electricity blackouts.

Despite facing setbacks like power outages that caused them to lose progress, software incompatibilities due to sanctions, and slow internet connections, Pagliery and Darias remained determined.

When their finances ran dry and international publishers ignored their efforts, they decided to release a free demo to showcase their hard work.

It was then that Dear Villagers, a game publisher based in France, spotted their talent and decided to support them in realizing their dream.

Platforming and Gameplay: A Familiar Yet Engaging Experience

While the visuals and tone of Saviorless are truly unique, the gameplay itself draws inspiration from classic 2D platformers like Abe’s Oddysee/Exoddus and Prince of Persia.

  • Here players played as Antar, “a recklessly curious child” with limited combat abilities like jumping and crouching traveling through treacherous environments, and facing monsters
  • Enemies are more like puzzles to be solved rather than straightforward combat encounters
  • Antar’s single-hit deaths make the gameplay challenging, requiring careful timing and precise platforming
  • Periodically, Antar transformed into a 10-feet tall horse demon named “Nento
  • Nento has access to combat skills, including slashing attacks with his claws, providing a fresh approach to combat
  • Later in the game, players gain access to a third playable character “Savior” that combines aspects of both Antar and Nento
  • This third character’s abilities, such as an air dash, further diversify the traversal and combat mechanics

What makes “Saviorless” unique in the Cuban gaming landscape?

According to Cuban gamers Luis Antonio Noa and Carlos Oscar Anaya, “Saviorless” stands out as a unique offering in the Cuban gaming scene.

While Cuban video games are typically more educational in nature, “Saviorless” is a dark, narrative-driven game that prioritizes entertainment.

Its stunning hand-drawn graphics and musical score have also garnered praise from the local gaming community, which is accustomed to playing free, pirated, or locally produced games.

The game’s creators, along with Cuban gamers, hope that this groundbreaking title will reach a wide audience worldwide and showcase the talent and perseverance of Cuban developers.

“Saviorless” represents a significant milestone for the island nation’s independent gaming industry, paving the way for future projects to gain global recognition.

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