This is an odd one but in a good way. Sea of Solitude kind of just starts, you on a little boat in what seems to be a city completely flooded. It is dark, stormy and there is a huge fish swimming about. What is going on??
Well, from the short play-through, the game deals with a few subjects. Loneliness, anger, depression among what you will witness.
If you are still wondering how to categorize it, think of it as a game like Journey and ABZU but with dialogue.
QUIET WATERS… FOR NOW
You play as Kay, a young woman dealing with major events in her and her family’s lives. Kay and everyone else is transformed into red-eyed monsters covered in black feathers, Kay being the most in human form. You travel the waters in your little boat, at which I assume acts like that little safety-net you have when dealing with issues in our lives.
It is not all open waters, there is a city beneath with building sticking out, which is where most of the game’s objectives will be.
At first, you are just exploring the picturesque scenery, but are soon met with Kay’s own demons, and when these monsters do show up, it goes dark, the water becomes rough and the music changes to a saddening tone almost.
After this first meeting, the game continues onwards towards your next point in the tale. The lead up to each chapter is evenly paced, giving flashback conversations as you progress through the level.
When everything is calm, it truly is beautiful to just watch and listen to the sounds of the water.
However, when things go turbulent, beauty disappears. At the same time, you are constantly followed by a giant, angry fish, and make no mistake, it is out to get you when you set so much as a foot in the water. I will admit when jumping in to swim to a platform with an oversized fish-finger at your heels, is rather nerve-racking, even though it caught me only once.
You can view the water as a metaphor. When the waters are calm, your flow of life, beauty is everywhere. When the waters are rough, it becomes difficult to just keep afloat.
SEA OF SORROWS
Most of the time when in the sea, it wasn’t so much solitude as it was sorrowing. There is that short bit before and just after each major chapter, leaving you to take in the tranquillity after the chaos.
Kay generally finds her way with the help of a flare that points in the general direction of the objective.
While traversing the level, you will find 2 types of collectables. Messages in bottles and seagulls you have to chase away. The messages in bottles give some backstory and the chasing away of seagulls doubles as a temporary vantage point. While both add just that little extra, they don’t affect the main story in any way.
The game’s usual tasks are to clear corruption, which then ends up in Kay’s backpack she is carrying. Without spoiling too much, that backpack is a metaphor.
There are no puzzles to solve, it is mainly platforming to a basic level. While you are more focused on the story at hand, but a few puzzles would be a friendly variety.
PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?
Sea of Solitude took me by surprise with its deeper subjects like dealing with depression, loved ones with anger issues, breakups. The start, middle and end of each chapter, is well delivered, however at some points, the dialogue was completely off and borderline cringe-worthy. But it is hardly game-breaking.
After finishing the game, I do feel like it deserves a lot more time for polish and further refinement. Certain animations like when walking slowly looked too robotic, so I ran most of the time to avoid seeing that.
Even facial animation is decent for the art style of the game, but again, some more time would have been appreciated.
AND SO WE DEPART
Sea of Solitude is undoubtedly a pretty game to look at and the music sets the mood and atmosphere just right, even if a bit too short, but heavy in delivery. With minor issues that can easily be overlooked, there is a rather deep experience to take away.
Despite its flaws, I quite like Sea of Solitude, and would like to have seen a bit more to Kay’s backstory that leads to the events she goes through in the game.