Castaways without context…
Lost Sea is an action-adventure game by eastasiasoft, which originally released in 2016 to decidedly mixed reviews. Recently Nintendo released a version on the Switch and we wanted to see how it compared with other indie game ports for the platform. Nintendo has certainly been embracing indie games, to the extent that these titles have garnered an unofficial nickname, “Nindies”. The premise of the game is simple. The player-character is trapped in the Bermuda Triangle, thanks to a plane crash, and has to escape. There are all manners of creatures and enemies in their way but a deserted scientist and ragtag crew of procedurally generated survivors can help them leave safely.
The concept is initially gripping; however the superficial story wastes this opportunity. You are given a premise and told to go ahead without any further development. The player-character has no name. Neither does the scientist or the other survivors, and there is nothing endearing about your little band of castaways except for their helpful abilities. When crew members die, it is little more than an annoyance as there are multiple potential crew members on each island. There was an opportunity to make these characters more human and relatable, with short dialogue options or character descriptions. With this type of additional work, perhaps it would be more meaningful when someone is killed by a falling frog.
Companions you recruit cannot fight and will simply cower in place, which is very confusing. They are basically human shields in combat with no interest in survival. The way the crew is used is peculiar and, in their current state, single-use items would make more sense. If you choose not to recruit someone they just stand in place, doomed to stay there forever. It gets darker the more you think about it, as we would all agree that it’s better to drop a spare spade than leave a man for dead.
On the other side, a crew member who has been with you since the start is indistinguishable from a new recruit. There is a lot of space to make the crew system unique and interesting. Taking inspiration from Death Road to Canada, another ‘Nindie’ port, character customisation would be a great feature. It allows a level of role-playing that is essential to breaking through the monotony of restarting after a long run.
The game’s controls are tight and precise but, compared to other games in the genre, your options are limited. Controls cannot be changed and some features are missing such as a ‘drop item’ button or status menu. A button to call your crew would also be useful as they occasionally get stuck and their passive buffs are only in effect when they are with you.
The items in Lost Sea were a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them are very clear in what they do, Speed Boost, Med Kit, etc. Others were surprising, like the Adrenaline shot, which gives you a massive boost of speed and then sets your health to 1. There is an issue with clarity as there is no text describing what the item is until it is used. The starting weapon is your only weapon and the only buffs it can get come from your crew. This is a further issue because when you are fighting, you may get separated from your crew and lose a significant portion of your damage.
I sea what you did there
The game is technically sound and it executes the core mechanics of the genre well. The crew is of a limited size and each member can only have up to 4 abilities, forcing some tactical decisions. You use money and experience to upgrade your ship and abilities so the progress the player is making is noticeable. The upgrades can be impactful and your decisions can alter your play-style immensely. The singular song in the soundtrack provides atmosphere and does not annoy even after many repetitions. It does the same job as Hearthstone’s ambient backing track, however some of the sound effects have too few alternatives and they can grate on you after a while.
The combat is simple but functional and focused around managing stamina. There are a variety of attacks that all suit specific situations and the charge attack is good to chase down fleeing enemies and close distances quickly. The 360 degree swing is perfect to fend off ambushes and the dodge roll is useful in sticky situations.
You can also pick up treasures that are saved permanently. Each treasure is in a set of three and this system encourages replayability and the feeling of concrete progress. Unfortunately the treasures do not offer any additional bonuses, but it is a nice feature to extend the life of the game.
The game is playable but it offers little motivation to continue with its shallow narrative and how repetitive it can be. Discovering a new island is an exciting prospect; the problem is that the islands are so similar and there are only a few types of enemies. To sum it up, Lost Sea is a time-killer that stays the course, but its lack of variety and charm make it notably forgettable.
Lost Sea is available for the Nintendo Switch now