Title: One Piece World Seeker
Release Date: March 15, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Bandai Namco
As a fan of One Piece franchise, I’m always up to try the new games that release under the license. The series has taken on some interesting twists by releasing entries in the Musou and a 3D adventure beat em’ up genres. However, nothing seems to be as ambitious as Bandai Namco’s One Piece World Seeker, a new adventure told in the One Piece universe featuring fan-favorite characters and an open world to explore.
One Piece World Seeker brings the series to new and interesting areas that fans have never experienced. I was glad to finally be Luffy and utilize his insane abilities in a new open world environment. In many ways, this new formula works well and a great adventure lurks around every corner for fans to discover. However, the lack of experience with open-world design and player traversal skills end up showing prominently in the games first few hours of gameplay, which weigh down the overall experience for the rest of the adventure.
One Piece World Seeker begins with one of the best cinematic openings of a One Piece game that I have ever played. The game opens up as if it were a new One Piece movie and the Straw Hat pirate crew are planning a heist on Prison Island. Sadly, it’s a trap and they leave with nothing, but end up being separated and spread across an island overrun by prisoners and Navy guards. While these cinematic scenes are fully voiced, the conversations in the game are not, and instead, substituted by noises and one-liners that don’t also reflect what the characters are saying. Still alive after falling from the island, Luffy meets Jeanne, a local sheriff type character who has vowed to protect the citizens of the island and lend a hand wherever she can.
The first few hours of the game are spent exploring the island and gathering up the members of the Straw Hat crew who are scattered across the map. Sadly, this is perhaps the weakest part of the game because nothing really gets established character wise and you’re merely making your way to points on the map to meet up with known characters from the franchise. However, it does offer the chance to almost fully explore every area of the map. It’s only after this initial mission that the game establishes a proper antagonist and reason for staying on the island and caring about Jeanne’s efforts to bring order to the island.
What’s interesting about One Piece World Seeker is how the game locks its most necessary traversal mechanics behind purchasable skills. Completing missions and defeating enemies will grant the player skill points that they can use to increase Luffy’s attacks and abilities. However, included in this skill tree are things like a slingshot mechanic that lets Luffy quickly travel across the map by swinging on trees and buildings. Similarly, there are even skills that increase things like the time it takes to open a treasure box which just seemed a little off to me.
With that said, there are some interesting skills that Luffy can learn and each of them add their own unique benefit to the playability of the game. For instance, some skills can add to Luffy’s combos or increase the power of a particular attack, which ends up making enemy encounters a little easier. The game seems to be built around Luffy encountering enemies so expect to fight wherever you go. This makes things a little confusing because there is a stealth element in the game that is rarely needed outside of a few missions that require it.
Enemy AI in the game comes in waves of different difficulties, but there is some challenge offered on the game’s higher difficulty modes. With that says, there are some frustrating moments of increased difficulties during missions that come out of nowhere. However, what’s more frustrating, is trying to get from one place to the other and swing around a corner only to get shot by an enemy far off on a roof and fall to the ground mid-swing. The accuracy of these enemies is as spot on as their reaction time because they will never miss a shot which forced me to stop what I was doing to try and deal with me. Combat is fairly satisfying in the game when it works, but this only happens when a handful of skills are unlocked like dodging and additional special attacks.
The difficulty of these enemies increases when you have to deal with flying robots later on in the game. These enemies are irritating to take down and dodge most of your attacks. While Luffy does have a sort of gun-like projectile attack, it doesn’t always land. Don’t get me wrong, there are some fun moments during combat and I enjoyed taking down enemies, but this was only after five hours of unlocking skills that should have been available in some capacity from the start of the game.
Throughout the game, players will gain affinity with the characters that Luffy helps. These unlock special rewards and events and offers a nice way to track missions. However, missions direction is sometimes difficult to understand because of how little the game tells you about what you’re supposed to do. Most missions will just give you a general area to look around until you find a crowd of people who will trigger an event. This causes unnecessary confusion at times of just running around until you find the right area.
The map in One Piece World Seeker also introduces its own problems since the game has underground levels and tall buildings that aren’t showed anywhere on the map. However, treasure icons are clearly displayed but the level as to where the treasure is located isn’t so if the treasure icon appears to be on the top of a build and it’s not there, well, then it must be below it. Again, this just adds to the confusion to those who just wish to collect the treasure in the game. Furthermore, it’s upsetting that Luffy can’t swim because he’s a freaking pirate, there should no reason why he can’t swim in shallow waters or in the game’s rivers.
One Piece World Seeker offers only a preview of what a true One Piece open world game could be. The developer should have taken cues from other great open-world games and attempted to implement them into this game to make it a bit more approachable. As it stands, only huge One Piece fans will find appreciation in this new adventure based on the amount of fan service and compelling original story arcs that the game offers, but the systems hold it back as a whole.
I love the idea of One Piece World Seeker, but I felt that it might have needed some more time to explore the features that it presents. Making a large world for the sake of it means nothing if you can’t fill it with interesting things. The lengthy opening will turn many people away, but after the skills are unlocked and fast travel becomes your main way traversing the island, there is a nice original One Piece adventure to be found here. Hopefully, the developers don’t give up on this idea and improve on this concept because it has so much potential to be great.
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