Keeping to the apparent recent trend I’ve been on, we have another roguelike game to add to my review repertoire. It’s so odd, but I’ve really become fascinated with this style of game recently, and I have no idea how it happened. That said, I’m not burnt out yet, and that doesn’t bother me. If a fun experience comes of it, the more, the merrier.
With Lost Sea, you play as a random explorer who has crash landed inside the Bermuda Triangle and needs to find a way out, come hell or high water. On your quest to escape the mystery of the sea, you recruit other stranded survivors to help you with the various obstacles on each island. As you explore each area, you collect, battle, and strive to survive on your way to victory (and the world you were ripped from).
At the start of the game, immediately noticeable is the cel-shaded style displayed everywhere, and it’s actually a pretty good choice for this top-down dungeon crawler. Initially, I was kind of put off by it (in theory), but after booting up and taking the game for a spin, I started seeing just how well it worked for me and the title overall. It also lends very well to the water textures. They look great, so it’s a shame that the only time we really get a glimpse of it is on the outskirts of the level. The overhead camera does a decent job at keeping everything on screen that you need to move forward without being too restrictive, and it spins and moves well enough to rarely be an issue in combat or exploring.
Sound-wise, the effects are everything you’d expect. Animals in the distance, enemies grunting and screeching, collecting chimes and dings, etc., all good stuff. The music, however, while decent, is nothing to really jump up and down over. It does its job, not allowing the game to feel (sound?) barren, but nothing it provides is noteworthy to me. It isn’t bad by any means, but it’s mostly unremarkable. This is a game where I had no qualms muting and putting on something else to listen to. To be fair, it’s not only because of the music, but also the type of game that it is. I’ll willingly give praise for their use of the PS4’s controller speaker because we get some grunts and noises from the player character to shoot out of there. I just wish it were used more than it was. Still, a great addition, and I wish more companies did this.
Controlling the game itself took me a couple levels to get used to, and after a few more from there, I felt pretty confident in my abilities. This is another one of those games where there’s not much set up in regards to how the systems work in the game, so you have to figure it all out yourself. After the initial “shock” of screwing up with items and certain ways you move, as well as how your eventual crew operates, it wasn’t too demanding on the brain to keep a good run going. One thing I would have liked is being able to customize the buttons and camera speed. You can view the controls, but nothing other than that, which is a shame. The camera isn’t a huge issue, but still, I feel like it could have benefitted me in the long run with a slight adjustment. Sometimes fast cameras make me dizzy, and while I’m aware it’s not an issue most have, those of us who do always appreciate the option to boost or tone down the speed . This is especially a good feature in a game that requires a big grind to further the experience, and that grind is expected to last many hours in one sitting if you want to take full advantage of the game you’re playing.
Now, as I just said, Lost Sea is a grind. It was created that way, so it’s not something you should initially fault the game for. On that note, you should go into the game with the proper expectations, because what developer/publisher eastasiasoft has created here is meant for that. The experience is meant to be a grinding, explorative, action-adventure undertaking, where you try to complete the game in a single playthrough (or run), getting as much EXP and gold to upgrade your skills and ship to make the next island easier to handle. This is exactly how I perceive it, and how it feels to me, so if there’s a different way to play, it’s lost on me. You can “warp” to any island chain you unlock (of the 4) and start your journey from there to the eventual escape, but in doing so, you lose the time and ability to earn all the leveling up opportunities you’d normally have starting from the very beginning. Some may enjoy that challenge, so that’s not to say it isn’t a worthy way to play. For the most part, I have to assume starting from the very bottom and working your way up to the end is how much of the audience will want to tackle the game.
Keeping all that in mind, each run can last you 6+ hours until you eventually die, or get to the end of the game. One big thing to understand, though, is that you don’t get to save the game. Once you quit, you lose everything if. Nothing is carried over, save for rare instances where I honestly didn’t gather why I was getting EXP and gold back restarting a run. I obviously missed the explanation (if one was given), so shame on me for that, but the overall sentiment is true – if you quit out, you lose out. That said, I have gone through plenty of runs where I put the PS4 and XB1 into their respective rest modes and came back later on or the next day and picked up from there with no visible issues to the way the game performs, which is very good news. Some games have issues with resuming play after resting, and if that happened here it’d be a travesty. I’m thankful this was never the case.
While on your hunt for more gold, EXP, or crew members to join your team, you’ll venture to 4 distinct island chains. I’ll let you see them all on your own, but just think of the staples in world building and you’ll have a good idea as to what we have waiting. At the end of each chain, a boss is waiting to stop you from progressing. A boss that sadly repeats (although with different patterns), but it never got to the point where I was too upset with it. But on to better news in regards to the island chains. You’re tasked with finding tablets on the island in order to chart your way to the next one. Up to 3 appear in a given level, and depending on what number is generated with it, that is how far you’ll be able to travel on the world map. So if you collect 2 tablets and they draw a 3 and a 1 respectively, that means you can move 1 or 3 spaces and land on that island. Each one has a difficulty rating, so if you prefer settling in on the easier difficulty, it’s a valid strategy, because the drive is finding the tablets, and the only thing you’d be giving up on would be EXP and gold opportunities due to fewer enemies and destructible pieces to collect from. At the end of the day, it’s really up to you on how you want to make it to the end. Oh, and the islands you visit? All procedurally generated, which means there’re over a million different islands you could encounter. Pretty neat. And because of that generation, items, and their locations are, too. Whether it’s health, a bomb, or even a warp, you’ll either be really happy when you come across one or disappointed, especially when you have to decide on if this new item should be in your inventory over one you currently have.
Each of the island worlds has its own distinct look/climate, and of course, with that, its own set of enemy designs. While most enemy types share similarities throughout the worlds, the looks and patterns change, and it helps to remember just what those patterns are if you want to last. There are some neat enemy models on display, and they really build into the narrative of “look at all the weird animals that time forgot” based on the supernatural theories of the Bermuda Triangle. Another cool thing is that enemies can hurt each other. The only downside to that is if they end up killing each other, you don’t gain the EXP, but in a heated battle between 4 different dudes surrounding you, it’s probably a fair trade off to come away alive and/or with more health than you may have otherwise. The crew members you find also differ in abilities. Each one has the opportunity to have up to 4 skills to offer you, like constructing bridges, opening treasure chests, or even reviving you should you die, just to name a few. You will eventually be able to recruit up to 4 other survivors, and the strategy of juggling crew members with the best abilities for your run starts immediately. Upgrading your ship will allow for more crew/island bonuses, and upgrading yourself will give you boosts to your health and stamina, new moves, and more. But, all that is really up to you. If you choose to ignore enemies, you lose out on EXP, and if you choose to ignore crates and barrels, you lose out on gold coins. Still, it’s a valid strat, especially if you’re looking for a challenge. Just keep in mind, even with a full upgrade tree on both sides, the game itself is a challenge the further you get. The grind is really real, friend.
During my time with the game, on both PS4 and XB1, I had a fun time grinding my way through it. Even though I would classify my time as “a lot of fun” in the end, that same end contains plenty of nitpicks and real issues I have with Lost Sea. Here are the major ones in my eyes. While it’s really cool that there are a million different islands you can encounter, they all wind up feeling pretty much the same. This I’d classify as a nitpick, but it’s definitely something you’ll notice, even if you don’t want to. I don’t mind it too much because I enjoy games that offer a fun grind, but, it could be an issue for casual grinders. The frame rate randomly locks and completely stops the game, on both consoles, and it’s never for a consistent reason as far as I could tell. It would just happen. It can be a huge jarring experience, but, thankfully, it rarely happened while in battle. Perhaps it’s to load up later areas with a multitude of enemy types? I don’t know, but it does suck when you’re working your way through a level and out of nowhere the game just freezes for a couple seconds. Yes, you’ll catch up, but even though I was expecting to, I always got that fear that the game just froze and I lost out on everything I did for 4 hours up to that point. It’s not constant, but constant enough to be an issue to point out.
Your crew can be the pains in the ass you expect random people lost on an island would be. They’re constantly getting in your way (they’re solid, so you don’t walk through them), or constantly getting lost if you venture too far too fast for their fragile little brains to comprehend, or even worse, they constantly get stuck on the geometry in a level, so you need to make wide berths when walking around terrain. I used “constantly” each time because it truly is that word in action. I hate babysitting in games, and this is a problem here, because, in Lost Sea, you aren’t supposed to be babysitting them, they’re supposed to be following you to help you. Too often will I be moving and realize way too late that one got stuck somewhere, or I went too fast and one just sat down and waited for me to come back to them. This happens the most with a full crew, but even just 1 guy can cause major issues in this department. Even having this at the forefront of my mind, it still didn’t stop it from happening. In the heat of the moment, you’ll lose track and have to backtrack to find them or fix whatever mess they’ve found themselves in. It’s supremely annoying but made worse due to the simple fact that to get the best out of a run, a full crew is definitely appreciated. One thing I will give them credit for in the crew department is that while they can be hurt by your basic attack swing, they can’t be hurt with your special attack moves. Which is good, because one is a 360-degree swing and it would be impossible to avoid them since they’re up your butt the majority of the time.
I did run into a couple of glitches, in both versions of the game. On both PS4 and XB1, I had crew members with halos (they revive you should you die, then lose the halo once you do), but despite being right next to me, I was not revived. I’ve had times where I died and the crew was lost somewhere in the map and I was revived, so I don’t know what the issue was. I never noticed anything that mentioned revives were a chance, so to me, there was a breakdown somewhere. Another tough one to swallow was during a run on XB1, the Achievements stopped tracking. Meaning, the EXP I was gaining wasn’t being accumulated, the bushes chopped, the enemies killed, upgrades made, etc., all counted in game (thankfully), but as far as the grind to get the Achievements (which many are grinds), they just stuck at whatever percentage it was at the start. Luckily, the next run (and beyond) they were back to working, so I don’t know if it was a fluke thing, or because I’m in the Preview Program, but it certainly happened, and certainly sucked while it did. I don’t know if the PS4 ever encountered this issue, but only because the PS4 Trophy system doesn’t work the same as the XB1 Achievements where they have a built in tracker. I’m going to assume not, but, I can’t be 100% sure.
And since we touched on Achievements/Trophies, I may as well continue in that arena. There are quite a bit to unlock, which is a wonderful thing to me. Although, as you should expect already, most will require that grind I so love to address, so keep all that in your mind. The biggest hurdles are the couple of skill A/T, and the time factor. You’ll have to put in the hours to 100% the game here. BUT, as PlayStation owners will be happy to hear, this game has a Platinum. REJOICE!! I hope to one day be less busy enough to be able to at least get one of the systems to 100% on this. I’m having fun unlocking.
So here we are, potentially too many words later, and I need to give the game a rating. Honestly, I really enjoy the game. I had a ton of fun with the game, on both systems, and I still plan on having a ton of fun going forward. Yes, there are issues with Lost Sea, and even some I would personally consider major ones, but you may not, and if you don’t, that’s even better. I would be lying if I said those issues mentioned detracted from the overall sense of fun and enjoyment I had because they didn’t. I really do look forward to the moment I have enough time to come back and grind even further to 100% the game (hopefully on both consoles). It’s an investment of time, for sure, but if I’m having fun doing it, why should I stop?
Lost Sea is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam for $14.99. It’s also available for other major PC digital outlets. Copies of the game were provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.