One Piece: World Seeker Review
If you’ve played a One Piece game in the past, there won’t be too much familiar here outside the main cast of characters, of which only Luffy is playable. Instead of falling back on the decades old mechanics and game play of past titles, the development team decided to look to new heights, and tackled an ambitious, open world approach to the game. Does it pay of after the nearly 20 hour campaign? Let’s dive in!
One Piece: World Seeker’s story is fairly simple, but understandable as well. The setting is Prison Island, a location with multiple prison’s were the Marines takes pirates from around the world. The rumour of a mysterious treasure on the island is used to lure the Straw Hat crew to the island, so that htey can then be captured and imprisoned. With the help of his crew, Luffy escapes capture, and instead of getting off hte island as soon as possible, sticks around to help the various islanders deal with the realities of life, most notably taking their homes back from the cruel grip of the Marines.
What follows is a simple, yet interesting story that folds new characters into the already complex world of One Piece. Old foes return for fun boss fights, and new allies make for some interesting interactions outside of the usual Straw Hat crew. You will play as Luffy exclusively as you explore the towns, forests, and caves of Prison Island, which is a bit disappointing as other playable characters might have made the entire journey a bit more entertaining, and varied. When not moving from area to area for the main quest, Luffy can engage in fetch quests for the numerous islanders, as well as send out his crew on missions and track his Karma with key individuals.
It all works well, but the game ultimately could have been so much more. Longer side quests with stories that added something to the overall narrative would have been a welcome addition, and deeper combat would have made both the fetch quests, and the main quest, more enjoyable all around. Regardless of your difficulty level, each fight generally came down to a whole bunch of button mashing. With two ‘modes’ to swap between – one more more direct attacks on a specific enemy, and another that deals area damage for large groups – I never felt myself feeling required to switch between the two when dealing with waves of enemies inside Marine bases, or outside towns. Special attacks exist, and everything can be upgraded via a skills tree menu, but it never felt necessary. In fact, after the required purchase in the skill tree for the tutorial, I never made another skills purchase for about 4 or 5 hours!
Thankfully, however, when the game seems to stall, you always have a beautiful world to look at and explore. In terms of varied environments, the development team did well to differentiate towns, forests, caves and beaches. A few key towns are littered across Prison Island, but thankfully they all feel different. The same goes for other major exploration areas, like forests. Even if there are 4 or 5 of them on the map, they all feel unique, which is a key for an open world experience.
The issue, however, is that nothing feels particularly alive. Even the largest city of Prison Island, Steel City, feels large environmentally, but empty when it comes to bustling activity or interesting NPCs. It is times like this that I wonder how much the development team wanted to dive into the open world concept. A city that doesn’t feel alive is easily hidden in linear game experiences, but becomes very noticeable when you move to an open world. This is a pretty big misstep, but one that isn’t entirely surprising as this is the first foray into this open experience.
Travelling through this world is both entertaining and frustrating, depending on how fluid your actions end up being. Once you’ve upgraded a few skills in the skill tree menu, jumping and slinging using Luffy’s rubbery arms is fantastic fun, and when you add in the ability to spin for extra distance, flying across treetops or through cities is fairly satisfying…when it works. When it doesn’t – if you clip a building, or get shot at for example – it’s frustrating, especially when your only course of action is to run along the ground, which is much less interesting.
As a first attempt, the development team does deserve a fair bit of praise for going outside their comfort zone to re-imagine what the One Piece franchise could be like. While longtime fans of the franchise might not be as open to this new endeavour, it could possibly bring in new fans. I for one, have never been a huge fan of the One Piece titles, but this one, despite its flaws, grabbed me and pulled me in. With roughly 30 hours behind me, I can safely say that despite the issues, there is still a really strong game beneath the surface.
One Piece: World Seeker will be the perfect jumping point for the development team as they look to change and adapt the franchise for modern day gamers. They didn’t hit a home run here, but have a solid base to build off of for future titles.