Xbox One, PS4, PC
July 6, 2016
Lost Sea is an explorative, action, adventure game with added rogue-like mechanics spliced into the mix. After becoming stranded in the Bermuda Triangle you are forced to explore and survive through a string of hostile island chains in an attempt to reach a mysterious portal to transport you home.
The game has a quirky mixture of genres and mechanics that come together in quite a satisfying and enjoyable way. Lost Sea has you exploring the islands for treasure, fighting through enemies, recruiting crew members and earning gold and experience to upgrade your ship and personal abilities, all whilst journeying closer and closer to your end goal. The game is certainly not without its flaws (some more detrimental than others) but it did provide a sense of exploration, strategy and adventure to the mix that had me coming back for more – determined to complete it.
The art direction for this title is actually really solid for a small team of developers. The visuals are clear and clean and draw your attention appropriately to the important elements within the game. The bright colours and bold outlines also make for an aesthetically pleasing experience as you progress through the games multiple regions and structures. With multiple regions and areas to explore the game never gets visually boring and the addition of a day/night cycle and occasional weather changes keep the game feeling dynamic rather than static.
“The way the game is procedurally generated and the varying aesthetics of the games zones and areas means that you don’t ever get bored of your surroundings.”
The game’s HUD may be one of my only visual criticisms of the title. It displays health and stamina bars next to your player portrait which feels appropriate but it also chooses to display a day/night indicator as well as a compass pointing back to your ship. The later two elements of the HUD just seem somewhat unnecessary to me, particularly the day/night indicator. I say this because the day/night cycle seems to have no bearing on the gameplay and therefore knowing what part of the day your in or how close to night it is seems irrelevant.
These sections of the HUD would be far better dedicated to a minimap which I believe the game desperately needs. I found myself opening up the game’s map to get a bearing of where I am or where I need to go far too often which merely served to slow down the game.
Musically the game sounds great. In fact the soundtrack may be one of my favourite parts to the title. It’s jaunty and upbeat and helps you feel a sense of exploration and adventure. It’s varied enough that you don’t get sick of it and catchy enough for it to get stuck in your head.
The gameplay and mechanics that drive Lost Sea are unfortunately hit or miss. The game is exploration and combat driven. You explore through the islands to acquire crew members, items, tablets, experience and gold all whilst fighting to survive from the games hostile creatures, traps or ambushes. The exploration aspect of the game is great! Scouring the islands for the resources you need to help you progress isn’t something you would typically find in you average rogue-like but the combat portions of the game just don’t have enough going for them.
The combat is very one-dimensional. Outside of occasional one-time use weapons such as the pistol or the bomb, fighting within the game basically comes down to either moving to dodge the enemy attacks or swinging your machete in an attack of your own. The two can’t even be done in conjunction, meaning your weapon attacks stop your movement. This simplistic form of combat may be enough for a short game but in a game like Lost Sea where you are likely to be playing for a substantial enough period of time or replaying it in an attempt of completion – it just doesn’t feel like enough and begins to get very repetitive and non-engaging.
Through unlocks you do eventually gain access to additional, permanent movement and combat abilities such as sprinting, rolling, lunge attack and spin attack, however outside of the sprint I didn’t find these abilities useful enough for me to use them very often at all. Particularly the attack abilities only seemed beneficial in very specific circumstances that only tended to arise infrequently.
The boss fights of the game also begun to get on the repetitive side. After each island chain you eventually reach the boss with whom you have to fight before moving on. The boss survives your attack allowing you to pass each time and returns to fight you again, once you have completed the next zone. This idea in theory is all well and good but if you don’t change up the mechanics from one fight to the next it can start feeling unimaginative and dull. The boss does change their attack pattern each time you come across them but that change is negligible and only really serves to make the fight slightly harder than the last. A bigger change to mechanics or multiple bosses all together would help the game stay fresher for longer.
What I did really like about Lost Sea was the way strategy entered into the mix when it came to managing your crew, upgrades, items and more. Having multiple upgrade paths for your ship and for yourself meant that from one game to another you could learn and discover which upgrades best suited you and tailor your gameplay around what skills you have or haven’t yet acquired. Having varying crew members all with differing skills means that you are always faced with a choice when encountering a new potential crew member allowing you the opportunity to weigh up which individual would be most beneficial for you at this point in time.
The game also has a system in place that benefits you the more tablets you discover on an island. Recovering only 1 tablet on an island leaves you with no choice for what island you sail to next but recovering 3 tablets may leave you with 3 different options. Options are always good in this respect because you may end up being able to choose between a harder island or an easier one and you can also choose whether or not you want to sail closer to the end of the island chain for a quicker finish or sail further from it for more opportunities to rack up gold and exp. The trade off then becomes whether or not you want to stay on the hostile island for longer to gather more tablets or if the threat of enemies and traps are too great and you’d rather get off as quickly as possible with fewer tablets.
Similarly the game also gives you choice in items by only allowing you to carry a certain amount at once. Depending on the situation, some items will be better than others and limiting your carry capacity adds yet another layer of strategy as to which ones you choose to carry. A slight criticism of this system would be the fact that you aren’t able to simply swap one item out for a new one. You would instead need to use your current item to free up space which wouldn’t be such a big issue if it wasn’t for the fact that some items have a ‘period of use’ that you have to wait to run out before the new item is able to be picked up.
Exploring throughout the game is also really enjoyable. The way the game is procedurally generated and the varying aesthetics of the games zones and areas means that you don’t ever get bored of your surroundings. You are also rewarded for your explorative nature by acquiring more potential crew members, items and tablets and racking up additional gold and exp for future upgrades.
Last but most certainly not least is the issues I have with this games AI. Acquiring crew to follow you around, carry your tablets and grant you access to areas and items you couldn’t obtain yourself is fantastic! The problem is that these crew can sometimes be a bigger burden then they are helpful. The amount of times a crew member would get stuck behind a wall while I was journeying was infuriating. Even worse still, if you had a big enough crew size and fast enough run speed or if your crew stopped to cower in fear of an enemy they would sometimes just slip too far away from you and stop following all together.
This means that I spent far too much time backtracking to collect my annoyingly incompetent crew members because the game doesn’t seem to have a ‘snap-back’ feature that would cause your crew to teleport back to you and continue following if they fell too far behind. Once you enter combat the crew’s utter useless shines once again. I swear it sometimes feels just too hard to keep your allies alive especially in the latter sections of the game. You have no reliable control over these guys and yet you come across enemies that can kill them in 1 or 2 hits. I’m not looking for the crew to defend themselves or make intelligent, independent decisions but if they did something more than cowering on the spot when confronted that would be great. Even just the option for me to command my crew to stop following me so that I can go into a fight alone and not have to worry about there stupidity would be great.
- Pleasing visuals and soundtrack
- Fun exploration driven gameplay
- Engaging strategic diversity and management
- Dull and repetitive combat
- Unfortunately incompetent AI
- Lack of minimap
Lost Sea is a game that could benefit from further iterations and improvements but it still had enough going for it to engage me in its premise and keep me fighting to survive until the end.