I think it’s safe to say that EA, as a whole, has been on a knife’s edge over the last year or two, more predominantly, at least, since Star Wars: Battlefront II. Whilst their first party games have been quite hit and miss, their indie publishing has been rather remarkable, and the newly unleashed Sea of Solitude is no exception. I’ve no doubt that this is going to split the proverbial crowd, but allow yourselves to be consumed by not only the game’s beauty, but its deeper meaning, and you’ll find an adventure that’s unlike any other, and then some.
Sea of Solitude is a very relevant experience in today’s age, and for more reasons than one. It manages to pull from a pool of emotions, and paces itself quite nicely across the board. I guess what I’m trying to say (whilst horrendously avoiding spoilers) is that regardless as to who you are, and regardless of your background, you’re bound to relate to at least one issue brought about in this game. Players take on the role of a young woman by the name of Kay, and inadvertently work through Kay’s inner feelings, her emotions, and her loneliness.
Starting out, the game sees you observing Kay, asleep in a boat in the middle of the ocean. From there, you’ll explore vast surroundings as the game’s plot and framework bobs and weaves around its touching narrative. I’ll confess, I had no clue what was going on for a little while during the initial stages of play, but bear with it, because those aforementioned emotions pull through. Nearly every element of the game has some form of meaning to it, which is something you’ll witness as you chart the game’s intimate and evolving world.
The more you invest your time into this game, and the more you engage with its framework and story, the more you’ll pull from it. It’s one of those games that you really need to play first hand to appreciate its beauty, and that’s precisely what Sea of Solitude is; a personal adventure that knows how to grip you in all the right ways. I’m purposely being vague here, because outside of its premise, I don’t want to spoil any plot points. Take my word for it, if you’ve a soft spot for deep adventures that tease your senses, this one is for you, for sure.
Either way, and back to the point, you control Kay through a world of desperation and, well, solitude – exploring sea and land in unity. Before too long you meet a young girl that shows you the sun, and exactly what it means to feel happy. Upon this, you then gain the ability to fire flares; a mechanic that helps guide you as to where you should be heading in the adventure next. This one encounter shows how invested the game is in its ability to toy with your perception, being that it’s an emotional signal that signifies hope, love, and warmth.
Much of these points may go over the heads of many a player, so I would certainly caution against playing this game as anything other than one you need to dedicate your heart and attention to. Doing so will ensure that you’re wrapped up in not only its tale, but its expression. It really is a surreal sort of trek, and one you need to take seriously to get the most out of. Throughout the entire game, you’ll come across a wide range of environments; many of which are full of monsters, narrative points, and puzzles to solve.
Perception is key here. Like I said above, almost every element of the game has a meaning to it, from locations and puzzles, right up to each and every monster you encounter. Not a single aspect is clear cut, and instead, they usually take some inner reflection to understand. How you perceive this game will drastically alter how much you pull from it, or at least exactly what you pull from it. Sea of Solitude doesn’t hold back on the subjects that it covers, nor in its approach as to how it resolves said matters, and for that, I massively applaud it.
What strikes me the most is how much it made me look inside myself, to which I found myself dazed by its ability to instill this behavior; leading to moments of deep thought. I’ll say this, if you’ve ever had a tough hand in life, or if you’re going (or have gone through) a tight spot, for many more reasons than one, Sea of Solitude will be eye opening. Perhaps its time we got back on track, eh? The overall feel of the game is massive, with an ocean covering a vast city below. Kay controls a boat that patrols these environments throughout.
The elements of play, as alluded to above, is a mix of puzzle work, exploration, and dealing with monster encounters. For a range of reasons, the sea level will rise and lower as progression is made, and at certain sections. This alone opens up new play possibilities, but for the most part, you’ll be dealing with the above core aspects. The game’s puzzle work doesn’t step outside of the spectrum of expectation, but the puzzles present do prove to be quite challenging all the same; most tend to rely on careful thought and manipulation.
Dealing with the game’s monsters sees you whipping out that flare, and then firing it at the right time to alleviate you from danger. It’s very simple, but very, very effective in regards to how it plays out. When you’re not engaging with puzzles or evading monsters, you’ll likely be charting the game’s desperate, yet stunning world. This is achieved on land and sea, with heaps of things to engage with to keep the proceedings well paced and varied; shooing seagulls, collecting messages in bottles, dealing with segments of corruption, and more.
The game plays fluidly throughout, and there’s rarely ever a hiccup in sight. Everything from boat traversal, platforming, and any thing between, is well laid out and very responsive. In fact, the only downside to the game is that, despite its sheer depth of meaning, outside of the above mechanics and some collectibles, there’s little else to do. This isn’t a deal breaker by any means, because at the very least, Sea of Solitude paces itself remarkably well, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that I was expecting a little more from the gameplay.
Nevertheless, when all is said and done and despite its few lows, Sea of Solitude is a great game. It’s an experience that’s unlike anything else, and one that showcases the heart of its developer magnificently. It helps that its all upheld by some stellar voice acting, which comes across very human, and very touching. This, on top of everything the game gets right, goes hand in glove to further emphasize the game’s tone, its beauty, and its underlining message. Take my word for it, if you enjoy this sort of game, you’ll be moved here.
Amidst all of that, Sea of Solitude sports a very distinct, fitting visual design. The game makes great use of colors (another smart way of pulling at the emotions) and comes packed with a lot of detail throughout its diverse and varied locations. Whether you’re at land, in the water, or at sea, you’re only likely to be pleased by what’s on offer. The audio gets a huge thumbs up too, it’s deep and sensational, without ever being overbearing. Among the few already stellar EA Originals, Sea of Solitude finds itself a comfortable, worthy home.
Sea of Solitude offers a surprisingly deep adventure that not only toys with perception, but inadvertently encourages you to look inside yourself. Whilst the gameplay would have benefited from a bit more depth, what’s present is well balanced, well varied, and well paced. Collectively, this makes for a massively involved journey that showcases its developer’s heart remarkably. Whilst slightly flawed, Sea of Solitude is unlike anything else.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.