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Battling with mental issues can be extremely horrible at worst, and I should know about that. Many can understand what depression, sadness, loneliness and anxiety are, but if one haven’t experienced any of those, then you are a lucky one. Mental illnesses are very popular concept in video games nowadays, especially amongst indie developers. Sea of Solitude questions these subject matters. I’m very interest to see, how they manage to pull off something that is hardly describable, and particularly, when everyone experiences these emotions differently.
Player is Kay, a young woman in her 20’s. She also has a son, both parents and a boyfriend in her life. All the characters are turned into monsters, even Kay, and she needs to figure out why. Things succest that Kay is somewhat self centered person and doesn’t listen others and their problems. One person after another turns against Kay and her life is turned upside down, pushing her into the loneliness and depression. She has to overcome her fears and face the truth to be able to heal herself.
The way the story is told is difficult to explain, as everything that happened before (in her life) is only told with voices in Kay’s head with her current thoughts about those happenings. The surroundings also are mostly metaphorical and not literal, making players to have their own perception, basically on everything. The story is OK, but it is kinda cringy and full of cliches, that makes it difficult to take (the story) seriously. I could see the storytelling being much more heavy and sad if all the bad lines and cliches removed. That would’ve give Sea of Solitude some serious points.
Gameplay & Controls
This is one of those games that is 90% about the story and the lesson, and not about the insane graphics and gameplay. Meaning the gameplay with controls are pretty easy going. Player needs to clear areas one by one from the sadness and danger, and also resolve her problems by doing so. There are always someone/something dark blocking player’s way and only solution is to shine light into it. There’re also some little collectables hidden in the surrounding areas.
The game starts with Kay being in the sea, with the city being under water. Every cleared area loweres the water level, revealing more areas. Kay also goes to other places such as apartment building, snowy ice world and school. All the various places tells some part of the story of her life and the gameplay differs with them.
Controls were super simple and they worked nicely, without anything negative to say.
I could see EVERYTHING being metaphorical or having deeper meaning. The sea was the depression itself, everything turning dark is propably the ultimate depression, the monsters were depressed people or bad relationships she had to unsolve, the boat was like a lifeline (the only haven she was safe), sometimes there were like a mud and hands trying to pull you to the mud/water (which reminded me of other people pulling you down with them, with their problems)… I could go on this forever and I really have to give it to the developer for having such vast amount of visual metaphoras, even though they might felt too obvious. I liked how the Sea of Solitude looked artistically, having a kind of painted touch.
I noticed there was two options for the graphics. One was to choose ‘performance’ or ‘standard’. The other was choosing the strength of the blur effect. I played this with PS4 Pro and I didn’t notice any down/upgrade in the graphics when playing with either ‘standard’ or ‘performance’, other than the drawing distance was shorter, and with other the game seemed have higher frame rate.
Now comes the part where I always start yapping about. The voice acting. Yes, it was pretty horrible and extremely bad acted, unconvincing and with horrible cliche lines the cake was done. It’s OK being cliche and overly obvious if a game is for little kids, but this is game for much older audience with a serious concept. They should’ve turned up the knob that read ‘seriousness’ and just make players cry their eyes out. Making a serious matter sound childish and trying to stay serious at the same time does not work. Ever.
Umm…, trying to locate and see the collectable seagulls was the hardest part of this whole game. I honestly couldn’t see any of them, until I was so close to them, that the prompt appeared. I believe it’s intentional, not being too easy to collect them. Making players to listen the sound (and locate) of a seagull, rather than see them from afar is something I actually like; little challenge. About the main gameplay; I did had to try some parts many times, because I kept failing, especially the situations where I had to jump to the sea and swim to next safe place. If not timed correctly, the water monster ate me. Sea of Solitude also had bosses and final boss, but they felt kinda easy-beasy.
I have the most mixed feelings of Sea of Solitude that a player can have. I love the idea and concept of trying to tell story of something that is difficult to explain and everything have to be shown metaphorically. Adding a simple gameplay and controls, that still manages to change throughout the gameplay. But stumbling on bad acting and script just crushes me, because it could’ve been avoided easily. I think what is the most difficult on the game making is to get skillfull (enough) people to work with the game mechanics, coding, graphics, controls and gameplay to output the most gorgeous game. One of the easiest part, I believe, is the writing (especially after the subject is decided), but still Sea of Solitude manages to make everything correct with all other aspects than storytelling, script and voice acting. I still suggest this to players who likes indie games and EA Originals in general.
There was a little warning in the beginning of the game, how it contains serious subjects of mental illnesses and might make some players feel uncomfortable. Even if Sea of Solitude wasn’t convincing, it still made me think about—too much—of my personal experiences with mental issues and life situations. I think this might be the ultimate point of this whole game; telling, you are not alone.
RELEASE DATE: Jul 5, 2019
DEVELOPER: Jo-Mei Games
PUBLISHER: Electronic Arts
PLATFORMS: PlayStation 4
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