Review – Sea of Solitude

During EA’s E3 2018 appearance there was one game that caught my eye. A curious little indie title called Sea of Solitude. A dark game that promised to tackle themes of loneliness and depression in a new and interesting way.

Set in a sunken city overrun by monsters you play as Kay, a monster who has managed to retain her human form. As Kay travels through the city on her boat she will help other monsters overcome their demons and become human, all the while trying to battle her own inner darkness.

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It’s a great story that hits some emotional high points and also delves into darker themes better than most games. Kay is well written and her motivations and reactions are all emotionally realistic. But the other monsters are a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the writing can feel pretty awkward and unbelievable. Sometimes dialogue lands whilst other times it comes off as unintentionally funny or cringe-worthy, which was enough to take me out of the experience occasionally. When it works, it does so in a way that pulls me right back in.

The world of Sea of Solitude is amazing, great use of colour brings the world to life as you clear the world of corruption everything brightens up. Whereas areas corrupted are devoid of light, it all fits extremely well with the themes that it tackles and the characters state of mind.  It’s a shame much of the world just looks the same with very little variation in the design, with the exception of a few late game areas where the world gets a refreshing new look.

Where the graphics and visual art style carries the game, the sound design does falter it a little. Voice acting is among the most inconsistent aspects of Sea of Solitude, ranging from passable, if not a bit cheesy, to pretty bad. Kay in particular suffers quite a bit whilst the monster fair a little bit better. Thankfully the soundtrack and ambiance pull it back and fit the moment to  moment gameplay perfectly.

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The great use of colours looks stunning.

Much of the gameplay has Kay exploring the silent world, climbing buildings and using her boat to navigate the waters. It’s peaceful to explore the world but it can get rather tedious going from point A to B. When in the corrupted areas things get much more interesting as Kay is being stalked by a giant sea creature, whilst the boat is safe it can’t go everywhere and you will need to leave it behind. You will need to avoid the monster by finding your way across the rooftops of buildings and making daring leaps. Often you will need to jump into the water and the monster will chase you, it’s intense fun when you need to swim from platform to platform with the monster nearby only to narrowly escape with the monster smashing into the side of the building.  However, each of these encounters end up feeling the same with a single obvious path and generous timings, only a few of them really stand out.

In its short four hour story, Sea of Solitude attempts to spice things up every now and then and this is when it’s at it’s best. An exciting tower climb sequence in the later parts of the game was a great exercise in timing and precise jumping, using the games platforming to it’s fullest potential. Whilst major boss battles don’t require much strategy and just fall flat. One of the games final major encounters in particular is just disappointing from a gameplay point of view even though it pulled off a great story moment.

I feel like there’s a missed opportunity with the gameplay to do something bigger with the world and concept. The idea of helping other monsters with their inner demons could have been extended to optional content as well with more challenging scenarios. Instead all we get is two types of collectibles; messages in a bottle that give you some flavour text that expands on the story and birds that Kay can shoo away. The birds offer nothing substantial other than a nice view which you will see plenty of regardless.

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Careful of what lurks in the water.

Sea of Solitude manages to be a great story driven experience though it’s limited scope and wonky writing can occasionally bring it down. The mechanics are all there, it just doesn’t do anything with them.

 

Graphics: 9.0

A visually stunning game with strong use of colours and great monster design.

Gameplay: 6.5

The gameplay never quite reaches its full potential.

Sound: 6.0

The sound design is generally quite good, but it does falter in a few moments.

Fun Factor: 6.0

Despite a great story and a few good sequences, Sea of Solitude falls flat in other aspects.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Sea of Solitude is available now on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.

Reviewed on PC.

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