- Released: 2019
- Played on: Xbox One
- Also available on: PC, PS4
- Time to get into: 2 Minutes
- Time to complete: 4 Hours
- Multiplayer: No
Sea of Solitude is a gorgeous, wonderful, almost magical game that sees you exploring a flooded city and avoiding monsters. But it’s not really about that – this is a journey of self discovery for your character Kay and it’s her own mental and emotional struggles that are manifested in those monsters that you must overcome. Whilst the gameplay isn’t Sea of Solitude’s main focus, the way its blended into the story by Jo-Mei Games is nigh on perfect. There’s a growing number of games, to the point that they are almost becoming a genre, that combine puzzle based-gameplay with a moving and poignant story – this is one of the very best examples.
What’s good about it?
- Sea of Solitude looks stunning. It’s beautiful. Whether you are running across rooftops in the summer sun or bouncing over the waves in a storm, the visuals are great. Not in the sense of great graphical fidelity at all: it’s about the remarkable art style – it’s very evocative.
- The voice acting is great – many different kinds of monsters are given very human emotions and reactions in Sea of Solitude and the voice cast is the main reason that works so well.
- Although the gameplay is not the main focus here, it’s worth noting that it all works great. Running and jumping, navigating in a boat or simply pressing buttons to solve puzzles, it all feels just right and exactly what you’d expect.
- The marriage of the gameplay and puzzles with the storyline struggles of Kay and the other characters is near perfect. As you solve a puzzle, so you right a wrong in a relationship. As you come to a realisation of why someone feels as they do, so you finally complete a set of tasks. This synergy between what you do and what it means is the magic in Sea of Solitude.
- It has some amazing moments of joy, of understanding, of wonder. Within this little mini-genre of games, from Fe (another EA Originals game) to Rime to Old Man’s Journey to Gylt to The Gardens Between and more, Sea of Solitude is the best of the bunch for me.
What’s bad about it?
- It’s too short! Clocking in at only 4 hours (although there are collectibles that could extend that if you are so inclined) the experience is over just too soon. I’m happy the story doesn’t get bogged down by extended sections of repetitive gameplay but I don’t think Sea of Solitude would have been too bloated with a bit more content.
- Sometimes draw distance can be a shame, particularly with the locations being so beautiful. There were definite occasions when I should have been able to see farther than I could.
- Sea of Solitude can be slightly heavy handed with it’s message in parts. Jo-Mei clearly wants to make sure that anyone can understand the sentiments it is putting across, which is admirable, but there are times when it strays too far into tell rather than show.
- Likewise, always being able to hit a button to be shown exactly where you should be going is great in the sense that no player will ever get lost and frustrated. However, I started to try not to use it, to allow myself to explore the world a little more. Sea of Solitude is a game that needs to be felt and making sure everything is really obvious and direct almost gets in the way of that from time to time.
Sea of Solitude is a must play game for anyone who enjoys these puzzlers-with-a-heartfelt-story, or whatever you want to call the mini-genre. Immersing yourself in it’s world is rewarded with a combination of a sense of awe and a feeling of lessons well learnt. If only it didn’t end so soon!