Platforms: PS4, PC, Xbox One
Genre: Anime open-world action adventure game that needed 1 more year of polish
If there’s one thing you can count on from Kohei Tanaka, is that his anime/video game compositions and work can elevate even the most subpar experiences to epic heights. Much like how Michael Salvatori, Skye Lewin, and C Paul Johnson did with Destiny 2, so to did Tanaka make miracles in making the half-baked open world ideas of One Piece: World Seeker seem like a wild ride.
If you take away the music, or choose not to customize the in-game soundtrack jukebox, you get a pretty tepid attempt at an open world game. In its quest to be an anime version of a superhero action game with an open world setting, the whole game feels janky and floaty, thus falls on its face because of its not-so-hot execution.
“A” for effort though, Bandai Namco and developer Ganbarion.
A Pirate’s Life For Me?
So what’s the tale this time? In an original story from One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda (a selling point these days to bait fans to buy this game), Luffy and co. are stuck on Prison Island after a botched attempt at stealing treasure. Somehow or other, they end up helping the denizens of the place from rogue pirates and angry Navy soldiers.
Just like your shonen animes of then and now, you stick your nose in this business and eventually uncover the mysteries of the place. The original characters in this storyline, anti-Navy sympathizer Jeanne and island warden Isaac, are fleshed out just fine for this particular tale which fans are going to love.
But what about the game? For the first time in forever, you now get to use Luffy and his gomu gomu elastic attacks and skills in an open world setting. And there’s a lot to do! Help out townsfolks who would love nothing more than to make Luffy an errand boy. Beat the crap out of Navy soldiers and pirates. Stealth assault them by sneaking up on them. Instant-fail in mandatory stealth missions. Farm for materials to craft equipment to power yourself up for many fights ahead.
And fight you will! You can switch between Observation Haki and Armament Haki, which are essentially two different fighting styles with different attacks. The former lets you use nimble attacks and dodge, while the latter gives you access to area-of-effect slow-but-hard-hitting attacks and the ability to block. Both have their uses against certain enemies; you can switch to Observation Haki for faster enemies, while you use Armament for heavier foes surrounded by groups of smaller ones.
This would be exciting to use and master if it was not for the fact that enemies here are brain-dead and have questionable AI. While they will attack you when spotted, half the time they’ll try to run away and reposition themselves, only to be stuck in a corner ready to get an ass-kicking.
Swing When You’re Winning
The janky and rigid controls when using Luffy in combat do not help. I feel like there’s a bit of delay when dodging and guarding. And when I knock enemies down, they can’t be picked up or attacked until their getting up animation is done. Whoever thought that this was a good idea to do this for the sake of positive feedback needs to be fired. When your combat takes up most of your estimated 20 hour or less playtime of this entire game, you’ll feel as burned out as I do.
The whole open world concept looks decent, even if it comes off as soulless with its static NPCs and near-empty spots. In fact, traversal between areas is pretty fun since you’ll be using trees and signposts to swing and launch yourself like a catapult thanks to Luffy’s elastic powers. I do wish more improvements could be made with the movement and swinging around though; half the time I’m wrestling with the camera because it’s a bit too close for comfort. And certain ledges and spots cannot be grabbed even though Luffy has effortlessly stretched and launched himself time and again on anything that’s not touching seawater.
If you want to get the most out of this game, you’d do well to save up your Skill Points (earned by completing Main Missions) and buy the aforementioned traversal and movement skills. And even if you unlock most of them, the end result is still not as fine-tuned and as flexible as last year’s Marvel’s Spider-Man. Hell, even Crackdown 3‘s basic mechanic is done right and feels better than Ganbarion’s efforts.
In addition to other foibles, like instant-fail stealth missions, stilted animations during key dialogue moments with the main cast, and the deadness of the towns you’re in, and you have a package full of disappointment for fans who want more than an average anime license game.
If I have to sum up One Piece: World Seeker in one word, it’s “rigid”. Okay, let’s try a couple more: “potential” and “tryhard”. I really want an open world action adventure game based on the world of One Piece, from controlling its pirate heroes to steering the Thousand Sunny, defeating pirates and Navy soldiers in blissful no-nonsense combat using Luffy’s powers.
Instead, we get half of that in a semi-baked gameplay experience that’s earned itself a passing grade and nothing more. It’s not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but it could have been more than a sum of its part.
Maybe it’s time Bandai Namco let Western developers take a crack at an open world-esque action-adventure game set in the anime IPs they’re currently holding. Last I heard, those Ubisoft Naruto games still hold up the test of time.
-Looks decent & colourful.
-Basic gameplay works.
-Luffy’s method of travelling is interesting (when it works)
-Repetitive missions & fetch quests.
-Little to no challenge at the default setting.
-Janky and rigid controls not suited for open world games AND an action game.
-Instant-fail stealth missions.
-Soulless world to explore in.