One Piece: World Seeker Review
Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates go on an open world adventure.
One Piece debuted back in 1997 in manga form before getting its own anime series in 1999 and still continues to be one of the most successful Japanese franchises today with no signs of stopping. This has naturally spawned a plethora of different video games over the years based on the series, though Western releases were non-existent for awhile. After more than 40 games across the last two decades, Bandai Namco has tasked developer Ganbarion yet again with their most ambitious project for the series yet in the open world One Piece: World Seeker.
Like most anime inspired video games, previous One Piece games have typically been set during the long running series while retelling events that fans will recognize. One Piece: World Seeker takes a very different approach by offering a self-contained standalone story set in the same universe of the series instead, which allows it to be accessible by both fans and newcomers alike.
The game starts in rather epic fashion with a unique opening that feels like it is right out of an action movie, as Luffy and the Straw Hat Crew are infiltrating a new area known as Jail Island to try and get treasure. However, this ends up being an elaborate trap to capture the gang, but Luffy ends up falling off this sky fortress and lands on Jail Island proper, or as it was once known, Jewel Island. Here, Luffy meets the new character Jeanne and sets off to find his missing friends and help the citizens that have been on the wrong end of a conflict for years now between Pro-Navy and Anti-Navy factions. The story truly does feel like it fits in with the world of One Piece that fans know and love, offering a fresh take instead of a retread of the same old stories.
One Piece: World Seeker may start off with an exciting cutscene that sets the game into motion, but those moments are way too few and far between throughout the rest of the game. Most of the conversations in the game just have characters standing around and talking, yet this doesn’t even include full voice acting. Instead, you only get a couple words at most for each line of dialogue. Even with the only voice option being in Japanese, it would have been nice to have actual fully voiced cutscenes to make it feel more like you are watching episodes of the anime.
This is made even more disappointing considering just how good One Piece: World Seeker looks in action. Luffy and company look like they are taken straight from the anime and manga, with a nice mix of cel-shading on characters and more realistic environments around them. This looks great both when standing still and when running around as Luffy. The environments aren’t all that varied, but they still look good and fit within the One Piece aesthetic people recognize. One issue that does pop up though is that they don’t feel particularly lively, with few NPCs around to interact with and the inability to walk in doors that are clearly open.
Making up for the lack of being able to venture inside buildings though is the ability to scale atop them using Luffy’s expandable arms. You are limited in how far you can go in one movement, but typically you can make your way to the very top of each building in an area. Navigating as Luffy through the larger towns and cities definitely feels inspired by games like the Batman: Arkham series, along with a few other ways, though you are much more limited here in what you can do.
You will find yourself traversing the landscape of the open world island found in One Piece: World Seeker as you play through the main story missions and side missions. The story missions sometimes even work in tandem with side missions, where you have to complete a few side missions specifically before the main mission is advanced. When you first are traveling around the world, it can seem a little tedious as you are running around so much, but thankfully a fast travel option is unlocked that lets you travel between specific locations with ease.
Going along with the missions, you also have Karma with different characters in the game that you will unlock as time goes on. To increase Karma with that character, you must complete missions or tasks from a checklist provided in the menu. While you would expect this would provide you with rewards or a boost in some way, these simply serve as a way of tracking and getting missions in the game for you to complete outside of an extra cutscene. As a result, this is left reserved really for only completionists in the long run unless you’re really looking for that extra scene.
Combat should have been much more complex and varied.
The combat is pretty straightforward in One Piece: World Seeker, with Square serving as the basic melee attack that you can build upon by spending earned Skill Points on new abilities. In addition, there are two modes for you to switch between, Observation Haki and Armament Haki. Observation Haki is the default mode and has more range and speed, while Armament Haki is about more brutal force and defense. It felt like these two could have really been combined into one setup since the attacks are all using the Square button, but you can at least switch between them at anytime.
What does get rather frustrating though is how easily enemies fall down after a few attacks, which requires you to wait a few seconds before you can continue your moves. This often means the latter half of combos are completely useless and it really interrupts the flow of battle. You will feel like you are spending more time waiting for enemies to get back up than actually dealing damage to them. This is also combined with an awful camera that will get turned around and stuck on walls when fighting way too often.
Regardless of which mode you are in, you also have Special Attacks at your disposal as well. These special attacks rely on your Tension gauge, which you can fill by attacking or taking damage. It will start depleting if you stand still, so moving around in battle is very important. Two additional Special Attacks have to be unlocked as well, when they really should have been available from the start.
One Piece: World Seeker also tries to implement stealth elements, but they really do not work all that well. If you can sneak up on an enemy, you can press square to execute a takedown, with additional upgrades available to this as well. However, you really have to slow down Luffy to a snail’s pace to sneak up on somebody, when you could just as quickly run up and smack the enemy instead. You can also utilize ranged attacks with the right trigger, but this also felt pretty useless most of the time as well. While the combat should have been much more complex and varied, it instead feels undercooked. For an open world game that should have had you learning new techniques as you move along, nothing really changes in the game beyond the early hours, making the later portions start to feel stale.
Luffy also has what is known as the Observation Haki Gauge, which allows him to use his Perception power. This is basically the game’s version of Detective Mode, where Luffy can temporarily detect nearby enemies and other objects through walls and buildings. This can be useful when trying to find a particular person on a mission or to mark enemies for stealth sections, but you likely won’t find yourself using it all that often.
The world map is littered with collectibles for you to find, some represented as sparkling icons on the ground and others in treasure chests. These can then be used to create new equipment and outfits that you can equip on Luffy for special boosts, but the amount of time it takes to open treasure chests by holding down Triangle almost makes it not worth dealing with most of the time. Even with the skill unlocked to speed up this process, it takes five seconds of holding down the button to open a chest, which is way too long.
Bandai Namco and Ganbarion team up yet again for a brand new One Piece game that tries plenty of new things, but falters in just about as many as well. The story and setting of One Piece: World Seeker legitimately feel like they fit right in with the rest of the series thanks to a brand new compelling story that lets you traverse an open world for the first time in the series. This open world also brings its own downfalls though, with plenty of lifeless locales and what feels like an unfinished combat system that is way too simple for its own good.
Original stories for longtime running manga and anime series have become the popular option in recent years in games such as Dragon Ball FighterZ, and One Piece: World Seeker does just that with a captivating new story for Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates. Even as fun as it can be zipping around the island with Luffy’s outstretched arms, the numerous issues start to bubble up very quickly though and they make One Piece: World Seeker start to feel very monotonous and lackluster way too early into the game.
One Piece: World Seeker
- Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
- Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
- Developed By: Ganbarion
- Genre: Action-Adventure
- US Release Date: March 15th, 2019
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "Even as fun as it can be zipping around the island with Luffy's outstretched arms, the numerous issues start to bubble up very quickly and they make One Piece: World Seeker start to feel very monotonous and lackluster way too early into the game."