Sea of Solitude Review: Just you and the monsters

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Unique and charming.

Sea of Solitude is the latest indie title to come from the EA Originals line, developed by Jo-Mei, a team of twelve based in Germany. First introduced back in 2016, the title is all about the lonliness felt by protagonist Kay, a girl who deals with her own torment by literally facing down her monsters. What results is a memorable, yet somewhat repetitive journey that’s ultimately worth your time.

With a visual style that’s equal parts The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Limbo, Sea of Solutide is all about light and darkness. A shadowy, feathered creature herself, Kay starts the game adift (in said sea of solitude), shrouded in darkness and without course. A beacon of hope — again, I’m talking literally here — appears and sets her off on her journey, meeting fellow travellers turned monsters and helping to dispel the corruption that’s engulfed them.

Personal struggles are very much tried to the suffocating darkness that’s ever-present in the world; Kay is able to counter this — at least, for a short time — by gathering the darkness and stuffing it into a backpack. Whether or not this is meant to represent bottling up your own feelings is for you to decide yourselves, dear readers.

Kay’s not tied to the boat she starts upon  — when she’s dealt with corruption around her, she’s able to dive into the waters around her, swimming to buildings and other landmarks as part of her various tasks. At other times, Kay’s glowing companion (she actually calls it Glowy) will be able to miraculously part the seas, allowing access to the city that’s been swallowed up.

When you’re in an environment that’s bright and cheerful, Sea of Solitude oozes with charm and very much encourages exploration. Collectibles in the form of seagulls and messages in bottles help to push that, though at times the mechanics feel like they get in the way of the deeply personal narrative that Jo-Mei’s Cornelia Geppert is trying to tell.

When things are bleak and enveloped in lonliness and despair, waves of urgency and dread succesfully roll off of Sea of Solitude. You feel for both Kay and the characters she interacts with in these monochrome sections, their actions weighing upon you and dragging you ever downward. They’re as beautiful as the colourful portions of the game, especially when Kay fires off one of her limitless supply of flares that not only illuminate the world for brief periods but help you get back on the main path if you’re turned around.

Apart from the light and dark mechanics, Sea of Solitude is split into a handful of sections that each have their own gameplay mechanic tied to it. In one, Kay is required to move from area to area by swimming through a sea invested with a monster keen to gobble her up. In another, Kay must gather corruption whilst dodging childlike demons of despair. Another has her platforming in an office-like area dodging of using heating vents to progress. A final area has Kay stealing an item from fairies that will help her melt ice in order to progress.

While these sections certainly feel quite different from one another, they’re overly repetitive and are drawn out for far too long. They feel like they’re in place at times to lengthen the game, and ultimately detract from the narrative both Jo-Mei and EA are adamant form the core of the game. Despite this, Sea of Solitude is as unique as it is charming, and certainly a title to check out if you’re looking for a break from looter shooters and multiplayer.

 Sea of Solitude is available today on Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4.

 

7.5 out of 10

The good

  • A unique tale about struggles with lonliness.
  • Amazing visuals.
  • It’s great fun to explore.

The bad

  • Repetitive mechanics.
  • Designs that take away from the narrative.

 

Sea of Solitude was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox One X, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.