Works being adapted into other mediums is generally one way to make something more popular. I, for example, was not aware of the many side stories Universal Century Gundam had until I played a couple of PS2 games, and it certainly piqued my interest. On the flip-side though, things can get ‘lost in translation’ when being adapted. Meaning it was portrayed in a way that misrepresented the source material. You wouldn’t want to introduce your friends to Dragon Ball through it’s Hollywood Movie, would you? Unless you’re pulling some sort of prank. Not only is it a terrible movie, but it hardly represents anything that the rest of that brand actually has. Shifting between games and anime is no exception. One Piece: World Seeker is one of those things that justify such fears. It looks good and you can tell that the original creators have had a hand in how the game is presented. But when it comes down to actually getting to the gameplay, there’s a huge gap of the experience you get and the expectations formed by seeing the opening cut scenes.
This game presents itself as one of the first truly open-world anime games around. No more changing rooms that have load time, and even loading new instances when entering or exiting towns. It also opens up a completely new story instead of just basing on what’s already in the series. In fact, there’s even original characters made just for this story. It already sounds like a stand-alone movie. So, how did I find playing this a rather unfortunate occurrence?
Production (3.8 / 5)
On the PlayStation 4 the models look mightily impressive. The team behind this was able to translate the characters into a 3D game to a pretty convincing level. In fact they were able to incorporate them into the cutscenes so well that they’d probably pass for anime cuts if given a bit more refinement. Unfortunately all the cool stuff you see them do are generally limited to cutscenes and that’s a real shame. They also hardly match at all with how the maps and the towns are designed, the areas don’t have much of a character to them and is generally a large map full of nothing notable. It’s a bit painful to look at when you’ve got generally great character models clashing with absurdly plain looking stock assets for the map. Actually, when you think about it Jump Force had a very similar problem, and there’s a good chance they’re using the same engine to get this all done.
One issue I noticed with Jump Force continues to be an issue here, the efficiency of the game is really mediocre at best. If you’re just walking or running around like normal, you don’t tend to run into this problem. But once you quick travel to certain locations, or just travel fast enough, player models and some map assets don’t appear to be there until they just decide to pop-in. I was sometimes caught surprised by getting detected by an enemy that wasn’t visible yet, but was actually standing right in front of me! This became evident within Steel City. Then, if you somehow travel through the air for long enough and end up falling into the water, you’ll have to go back from where you last had your feet planted. Which could mean a loading screen for you. These disruptive load times really got in the way for me to enjoy this title. It would probably have not been so bad if the loading times weren’t that long, but they can take a full minute.
On the other hand, the music was pretty okay. And the voice acting was actually pretty great, it’s a bit sad that you don’t get the option for English audio, and that would really affect those who are expecting that. But hey, considering how good the cutscenes play out, and how nice the voice overs actually sound, maybe this is where the budget went?
Mechanics (2.5 / 5)
One Piece World Seeker attempts to have something go both ways. Make your character capable of being a quick, sneaky stealth fighter and be able to freely switch to being this tanky mob fighter. This is pretty cool because you can handle vastly different situations with a simple tap of a button. And while in combat, you also build up meter that gives you access to even stronger moves assuming you continuously move along and engage your enemies. Unfortunately, there’s a few things built around these concepts that didn’t quite hit the mark in making the game.
It’s evident that this title took much inspiration from the format of Assassin’s Creed, having stealth takedowns that can chain into each other, being spotted can alert nearby enemies, and even an eagle vision that barely gets the job done. The huge problem with trying to play this out with stealth mechanics in mind is the grave lack of proper tools to get the job done. Sure, you can scan the map quickly and it looks like it can get the job done. But seeing them isn’t enough, you have no proper way of tracking enemies. Centering them on your screen doesn’t always work, the map is hardly reliable because of how badly scaled it is compared to what you actually see. There is no way to actual way to keep yourself hidden while properly observing the area.
As for combat mode, certainly the block button is a welcome function. The attacks needing windup is somewhat worth it since they are meant to attack clusters of enemies around you. However it’s difficult to tell when your guard is about to break, or which attacks can’t be blocked. You just kinda have to find out with experience.
Moving around areas can also be a drag until you unlock at least two movement skills, the UFO move that allows you to extend jump time, and the catapult that flings you upward past whatever you latch onto. Honestly, being able to freely spring about helped really opened up how to get across areas, and made travelling from point A to point B far more engaging. Before that, you have a simple jump and the ability to spring up to flat ledges. I find this pretty annoying because the initial part of the game makes you run around a good chunk of the entire map before you have enough points to make these abilities available. Which gets me to the skill system.
There’s generally 5 areas to to progress abilities on for your skill chart. There’s the sense and combat mode skills (or haki), basic stats, traversal abilities and ultimate attacks. It’s a little hard to tell what you want to use because all your abilities aren’t fun to use at all from the start. Dodging with dash seems almost impossible without an upgrade, your health drains way too quickly, you can’t reach certain areas and you don’t know if any of that is worth it because you never really enjoyed them when you started. And if you’re going to get any of those much needed skill points you’re going to have to clear quests because that’s the best way to gather those precious points.
On paper, it’s a pretty cool idea to incentivize clearing quests by helping you make significant progress in more ways than one by clearing them. But there’s also the fact that you want to be able to prepare in some way, and there’s also the fact that you and your enemies seem to scale in stats for some reason without you really knowing why.
Finally, there’s a way for you to forge equipment through NPCs, during my playthrough all they seem to do is boost stats and not much else, so I won’t delve into it much further.
Content (2 / 5)
I find it difficult to talk about what this game has for you to play through, I mean, it’s got a main story and sidequests to boot, but pretty much all of them require either fetching items or getting to some arbitrary point on the map to either talk to an NPC or fight some bozos.
The game does start with a striking set of scenes that can get you hyped. Even some of the main story quests play out some really fun visuals to show off the new character or to boss to fight. But it kinda lives and dies within those few moments. Then you’re taken back into the world that feels nowhere near what you just saw. Mechanics that feel completely held back by an arbitrary grind, controls that feel more clunky and restricted than responsive. It became difficult to feel motivated playing it when I started seeing initial boss characters I had to fight be relegated as regular mobs later on.
I suppose another source of ‘stuff to do’ would be affinity tasks assigned under each other major character you encounter. I wouldn’t really call them as quests but more of trophy hunting, as some tasks require defeating a certain number of enemies, or maybe travelling a certain distance on the ground or on the air. Maybe talking to a number of NPCs is also one of them. In any case, rather than making quest lines under certain characters, they went with producing a grind when they made a skill system that’s supposed to avoid that. Which I find really strange.
Features (3.5 / 5)
One Piece World Seeker features a jukebox function, allowing you to pick whatever songs you want to play while you go about your play session. Considering the songs are quite good, this is a plus for me. You can also review a bunch of information in the gallery mode if you ever feel that it could be significant. They also have a separate save function from their auto-save, which I find more reliable.
I also feel like I have to bring this up, but at some point my data got corrupted. I’m really not sure how this happened, but thankfully I had a backup. I couldn’t find other people running into this problem, but maybe they just haven’t talked about it. But I think people should know that there’s that possibility.
Oh, and above all, they have a good fast-travel system. Something I seriously wish Red Dead had.
The trailers World Seeker had shown me got me excited for it as the fully open-world format is rare for anime titles if it happens at all. But I was met with a lot of disappointment as much of the more entertaining abilities were locked away behind skill unlocks. This lead me to having the first 3 or 4 hours of the game experiencing more of what the game was unable to do well. And by the time I got to somewhat more enjoyable gameplay the negative aspects easily overshadow it as they dominated my opening hours of the game, only to remind you of its glaring problems whenever they rear their unwelcome head.
It’s even more disappointing because you can see a lot of heart being packed into its creation, the cutscenes were good enough to probably be its own animation feature, which is a hugely disjointed experience from actual gameplay. It even has an original spin-off story behind it. It could be made into its own movie for all we know. Somehow it just couldn’t make it through the rest of the game, beating enemies and bosses felt more like a chore than an exciting battle to see where the story will go next.
I came to a point where I knew my opinion would no longer change when I suddenly felt a huge difficulty spike. This would be where I suddenly had to fight Sanji’s brothers, making a 3-on-1 situation that was pretty difficult and frustrating until I realized I can infinitely kite them by running in circles. Why they suddenly felt like I can have such an unfair battle out of nowhere, which I easily kited off just got me to throw my hands up and decided I’ve had enough.
One Piece: World Seeker doesn’t have much to find, scoring a 2.95 / 5. A painful failure.
Available on PS4, XB1 and PC.