Myth or legend, if the theory of the Bermuda Triangle is to be believed then the three lines that formulate a triangle spanning the North Atlantic ocean, reaching Florida, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Bermuda truly have a lot to answer for. To this day the U.S Navy still deny its existence although reports of aircraft’s, ships and humans vanishing without a trace have occurred since the 50’s, it’s within the very lines of this unanswered phenomenon that EastAisaSoft Limited’s colourful roguelike Lost Sea takes place.
In Lost Sea, players take on the role of a shipwrecked character, who find themselves trapped inside the feared Bermuda Triangle. Tasked with retrieving golden tablets in order to travel throughout its various islands and regions while gaining valuable allies to aid in the cause and of course fending off a whole host of enemies all in order to escape the inescapable and make it out alive.
Lost Sea: PlayStation 4, Xbox One [Reviewed], PC
Developer: Eastasiasoft Limited
Publisher: Eastasiasoft Limited
Release Date: 29 June 2016
Price: £11.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
Lost Sea is predominantly roguelike with its permadeaths, randomly generated islands and unlockable skills that ultimately help to better equip the survivor, ready to brave the games torturous conditions. Lost Sea also offers a wealth of characters from the start to choose between with both male and female avatars readily available to take on the arduous task that lies ahead. Although there is no difference between each one, it allows players to choose a character that better suits their particular style. Lying throughout each region are golden tablets, which when collected, allow for travel between the games islands – the end game – to reach a large boss before proceeding to the next region for more of the same in a seemingly neverending loop where death makes you stronger but also weakens you in equal amounts.
Along the journey, players will come across a whole host of castaways, each with their own particular skillsets which include the ability to revive, open locked chests, repair broken bridges and give the player extra XP when fighting off enemies. While it’s possible to have up to four followers at one time with a skill unlock the early moments of Lost Sea rely heavily on juggling or balancing what you need over what you might want when selecting a follower or two to join you in your crusade. The first region, for example, leaves players with no skills of any note and pretty helpless. Unable to move between an island with any real speed and unable to dodge enemy attacks I found myself quickly looking for companions that could revive me although this can only happen the once, it is a lifesaver in every sense of the word, with the thought of permadeath not too far away.
The length of time spent on each island is entirely up to the player, however, a golden tablet must be obtained in order to progress further. Every tiny piece of land holds more than just one tablet. With further exploration and a couple willing followers, you could easily depart an area with three tablets in hand, which then offers players more islands to venture to as opposed to the single island available if they preferred to merely grab a tablet and run, rather than explore. Although there are easier islands to crawl with limited enemies to fight off, the notion of an easy competition couldn’t be further from the truth. Lost Sea is rarely ever that simple, exploring its land can make progress easier and reward you greatly, it will also punish you whenever it can, wearing down your patience in the process.
Picture this. You’ve travelled to many of a region’s various islands, fighting its enemies and pilfering its loot and XP. You’ve unlocked multiple skills that help you to move quicker, fight better, you also now have the ability to run with more followers by your side, things are on the up and you’re more confident now of progression than ever before. You’ve taken on the regions end boss and defeated him with consummate ease and swagger and are off to explore a new and glorious land. Stepping off the ship onto fresh land you encounter more frequent and far deadlier enemies, you’re somewhat unprepared for these encounters and are lost, you make a small error, a minor lapse in judgement and that my friend is where Lost Sea wins. All the spent XP is gone, your spent cash now means squat, your followers abandon you along with your sanity and you’re back where you started, penniless and stranded on an island where you can die from simply looking at a foe the wrong way because once more you are utterly useless and out of your depth, or of course you could just start from the first region…
Designed to be completed in one sitting is a novel idea if that idea is reachable, and for the more ardent gamer it may very well be, however, the average player in most of us might find the notion of working through Lost Sea’s regions without making a single mistake, at times praying for the sight of a health tree or a first aid pickup a largely tiresome and unrewarding experience. Undoubtedly, starting over leaves a lot of replayability and a real challenge which I admire, it may also lead to the loss of a controller or two. The key to unlocking all of its regions and eventually making it out of the Bermuda Triangle safely relies on patience, skill, the correct combination of companions and a decent amount of health and stamina.
Every region visited introduces new enemies to the fray, unfortunately, the majority of Lost Sea’s enemies are too easily worked out. Refusing to alter their individual attack patterns during each encounter which brings about a major sense of repetition, the same can be said of the games end bosses, who’s attack pattern changes slightly but is again largely overused. Bigger enemies will throw an object in your direction before proceeding to pound the ground over and over while you stand back and wait for your moment to get in a jab or two. Frogs launch themselves high into the sky only to come crashing down dazed whereupon they are easily killed off. In truth, the aforementioned enemies are too easily handled and shouldn’t result in a swift return to the main menu, the smaller, faster, more agile creatures such as birds, rats and dinosaurs on the other hand are a different kettle of fish altogether and will no doubt be the masters of your downfall more often than not. Surrounded by a group of quicker foes will see you likely take damage, whether you can recover from the hits depends on mastering the previously mentioned notes.
Visually, Lost Sea is beautiful to look at. With each region entered both colour, feel and enemies change to better suit the theme. Switching to a snow region sees the scenery now covered in a coat of white snow with yeti for company, sadly it all feels slightly regurgitated and eerily similar to previously visited regions, albeit with a change of colour for effect. Enemies change which brings in a sense of variation, however, previous creatures return fresh with a new dash of colour and sometimes new attack method to boot. The game also boasts a map to keep players on the right path both from the back button or alternatively with the use of an on-screen compass, which helps to guide players towards vital objects and back to the ship, which is docked with an upgrade shop outside to ensure your character is ready to explore more, battling the many enemies that await ahead.
Overall, Lost Sea is full of great ideas, sadly those ideas get all too quickly lost beneath its largely frustrating permadeath system and lacklustre enemies. Full of sprite and awash with bright and beautiful colours Lost Sea certainly strikes the right cord visually and with a story centred upon the Bermuda Triangle Lost Sea definitely has its appeal. While it adds to an already growing collection of roguelike titles on the modern day console, when compared to more recent titles such as The Binding of Issac, Darkest Dungeon and Sunless Sea it does, however, fall considerably short which is a real shame because it has the potential to be a somewhat enjoyable experience, if you can piece back together your broken controller.