By Michael Fontanini / August 8th, 2016
|Release Date||July 5th, 2016|
|Genre||Roguelike, Action, Adventure, Indie|
|Platform||PC (Steam) / Linux / Mac, Xbox One, PS4|
You wake up stranded on a strange little island. You’re shipwrecked after being pummeled by a nasty storm in the Bermuda Triangle. After waking up on the beach alone, you take a look around and find that you’re not the only stranded person in the archipelago. Can you survive the many islands and escape with your life?
The starting island in Lost Sea is essentially a tutorial level. It can be skipped on subsequent play-throughs if you wish. Each island is also different every time you play since they are procedurally generated. The game’s genre is listed as “Action, Adventure, Indie” on its Steam page, but this is very misleading as the game has heavy rogue-like elements. If you die, you start over. However, there is also an option to warp to any world you’ve already cleared and start a new game there. This is better than starting back at the very beginning of the game if you just want to progress. Each world also has its own theme, with world 2 being an arid desert-themed world.
As you explore the islands of Lost Sea‘s archipelago, you will find other stranded people. You can recruit them to join you if you have an empty crew slot. Crew members have different skills that can help you in your exploration of the islands. One skill is Carpenter, which allows you to walk up to certain wooden structures near gaps and interact with them. The crew member with this skill will then walk up to it and build the bridge for you. Another skill is lock picking, which allows you to open locked treasure chests. Your crew members can also carry tablets for you, but we’ll get to those in a moment.
In Lost Sea, you can also chop down bushes and they sometimes drop health items. This Zelda-esque game mechanic is not the only way to get health, though. You can also find med kits in chests. They come in two varieties, ones that only heal you and ones that heal both you and your crew members. There are other items found in chests as well, such as bombs. These can be used as weapons against monsters.
Each world in Lost Sea can be thought of as a small section of the overall archipelago. You don’t move through the islands in a linear fashion, though. There are as many as three tablets to find on each island and carry back to your ship. Each one unlocks another possible destination to choose from when you leave the current island and move on. These are random in every play-through. Each island has an associated difficulty level (easy, medium, or hard). That difficulty level affects the size of the islands, too. Higher difficulty level equals larger island and more enemies. The final island in each world features a boss battle with a nasty pirate who rains cannon balls down on you. The battle does vary in different worlds, too.
Defeating monsters, causes them to drop XP which you can use to unlock player skills that do a variety of things. You can increase your maximum health or stamina, learn things like a spin attack, and plenty more. You can also slash barrels and crates, which often contain gold coins. Larger metal crates have even more coins. These can be used to upgrade your ship to increase your maximum crew size and get a bunch of other advantages during your time in the archipelago. Lost Sea also has a bunch of special treasures that randomly appear in chests, which you can find to fill out the treasure screen. Only one treasure can ever appear on a single island, and often there will be none at all. The special treasures are just collectibles and don’t do anything in-game, and you don’t lose them when you die. There is an achievement for collecting them all.
As you’ve probably noticed in the screenshots, the game has a charming visual style with vibrant colors. It makes the visuals very nice to look at. Lost Sea also features some very atmospheric music tracks, adding some nice ambiance to the game and its world. The sound effects are not bad either, and bring the world to life more. Lost Sea has gamepad support, but I had to play via keyboard since for whatever reason their game doesn’t like Xbox One wireless controllers. They released a patch for this, but it doesn’t seem to help anything at all as it still flat out does not work.
The gameplay itself is enjoyable, and exploring the islands is fun. The AI for your crew characters is rather poor, though. They often get stuck or left behind, especially when you have a lot of crew members. However, by the time you’ve reached World 3 (which still isn’t even halfway through the game), you’ll have noticed problems with the level generation. The islands are different every time, but they are made out of hexagonal chunks. The developers did not create enough chunks for the level generator to work with, resulting in excessive repetition. You will often wander into a new area, feeling like you’ve been there before simply because you’ve already seen that chunk in many other islands. The enemies are placed randomly, though, which helps make it feel a bit different in spite of that. Another issue is that the chunks are the same in each world, but with some minor modifications so they fit the theme of the world you are in.
In the first two worlds the gameplay is casual in nature (with the player free to take their time and explore), but at World 3 the game suddenly changes gears to a more hardcore rogue-like experience (with exploration suddenly much more dangerous). This sudden shift is a poor design choice leading to frustration, and also makes the warp feature rather useless for the later worlds. World 3 is also when a variant of the previously most annoying enemy in the game (a little charging raptor) shows up. You have to move quickly before he dashes or he’ll hit you. The new variant in World 3 is larger than the original and armored so you can only hurt it by hitting its tail. Another variant is a giant version of the jumping frogs that try to smash you when they land. Enemies in World 3 also have excessively increased attack damage compared to their earlier counterparts. In short, World 3 is a brick wall of sorts.
Overall, Lost Sea is a fun little game for a while. Its main flaws are the fact that the random levels get repetitive, especially since the developers gave the level generator so few chunks to work with. This is not good when combined with the rogue-like elements, which introduce additional repetition. The poorly designed difficulty curve causes the game to go from fun to annoying and more of a chore than fun. All of these things hold the game back from its true potential. Lost Sea is available on Steam for $14.99, and also has a bunch of achievements. Given the controller problems and other issues, you might want to grab it during a Steam sale. Lost Sea is the game that drops you on a small island on the tip of an archipelago and asks if you can recruit a crew to help you survive.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
EastAsiaSoftLost SeaPlayStation 4SteamXbox One