Throw This One Back Into The Ocean
HIGH Pirates are cool
LOW The AI is bad and there’s no saving
WTF The music is maddening
There aren’t enough pirate games.
I can count on one hand the number of good pirate titles released in the last five years, so the idea of Lost Sea, a pirate-themed roguelike, sounds great. Sadly, some annoying design choices and horrible AI cause this to be a disappointing voyage.
Lost Sea has a setup, but as for an actual story? Not so much. Whatever character the player picks has crashed, and is now trapped in the Bermuda Triangle. To escape, the player will need to find mystical stone tablets that will allow them to move forward. After island hopping far enough, a boss appears. Defeat it, find a new chain of islands, and do it all again.
Each island is randomly generated and contains pretty standard video game stuff—enemies, chests, keys and locked doors. Exploring the islands in Lost Sea is done from a top down perspective and the combat is similar to what one might find in older Zeldas.
Early on, players will only have access to a basic attack. Eventually I was able to unlock more moves like sprinting, spin attacks and dash attacks. However, none of this changed the fighting dramatically and I never enjoyed the combat in Lost Sea—it was just a thing I had to do. Technically, fighting feels floaty and inconsistent. There is no block or parry system, either—just run around wildly swinging a sword. It never satisfied.
Worse, the random island generation will create dead ends filled with enemies but no reward, and no reason to actually fight beyond some experience. After a few hours I got tired of these pointless scuffles and exploring dead ends. It didn’t help that the randomized pieces that make up the island are overused, so I ended up exploring the same dead ends over and over. Eventually, I stopped exploring altogether and critical-pathed as much as possible.
Finally reaching a new chain of islands will allow the player to start new games there. However, this is a bad idea because the player will have little to start with besides a bit of gold and EXP, but not enough to make starting on an advanced island survivable.
Apart from this advanced start, there’s no way to save progress in Lost Sea. No matter how far I got, if I quit, that was it. This harsh lack of saving is counter to how it I wanted to play—it strikes me as a game that should be played in short bursts, the way I do most roguelikes. Apparently the developers disagree, and this lack of respect for the player’s time is frustrating.
What’s also frustrating is that most of my time in Lost Sea was spent babysitting dumb crew members. As I explored, I came across fellow survivors. Each one has different abilities or skills, like being able to unlock chests or revive the player if they die. Most of these abilities are useful, but the crewmembers themselves are not.
Frankly, the AI for these characters was about as smart as a half-filled barrel of rocks. I was managing them constantly, making sure they weren’t stuck in doorways, behind trees or under bridges. And when I would run into enemies? They just cower in fear, offering no help at all. The only thing they are good for is carrying the magical tablets, unless they get hit and drop one without me noticing. No part of the crew management is entertaining.
In terms of production, Lost Sea looks nice thanks to the cell-shaded look it has. The visuals are vibrant and colorful, and the jungle looks especially gorgeous. If nothing else, it certainly appears like a bright and enjoyable adventure. On the other hand, the game offers some of the most repetitive and dull music I’ve heard in a while. After playing for a few hours with the same tracks looping over and over, I actually had to turn the music off and start listening to AC/DC to keep from going insane.
Lost Sea has some good ideas. Exploring randomized islands alongside talented crewmates sounds exciting and it looks like an enjoyable swashbuckling adventure, but the annoying music, repeated areas, boring combat and terrible AI sank this game long before the ship reached its destination.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by East Asia Soft. It is currently available on PS4, Xbox One and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via a publisher provided code and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+ and contains fantasy violence. The action is cartoony and never felt too violent or disturbing. Some use of guns, but these moments are also cartoony and feel lighthearted. No swearing or gore.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Some enemies have audio cues that telegraph when they are going to attack. No subtitles are available.
Remappable Controls: No, the controls are not remappable. Actions are spread across all buttons of the controller with no way to remap them or choose an alternate control scheme.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.