Sea of Solitude Review
Go on an adventure of depression and self-discovery.
EA is known for publishing many of the biggest AAA games around, but they also introduced the EA Originals program a few years ago to help smaller indie titles get published. Games such as Fe, A Way Out, and Unravel 2 have come from this program, with another announced at least year’s EA Play conference. That very game has finally arrived more than a year later and is known as Sea of Solitude.
Sea of Solitude is an emotional journey through the past, as lead character Kay has become a monster after strong feelings of loneliness have overcome her, leaving her trying to become human again. While exploring the physical Sea of Solitude in the game, Kay must face the past and go on a journey of self-discovery to find herself across the short three to four hours of game time.
The game is separated into what the trophies specify as four levels in the game, but the game itself is split into smaller chapters within each of these as well. Each level introduces a different inner conflict for Kay based on her past, starting off with her brother and going from there. Sea of Solitude does a great job at actually conveying the pain of not only Kay, but also the people associated with her. Hearing her brother being constantly bullied in school while Kay is just brushing him off to spend time with her boyfriend is very hard to watch, which is done in a very unique way that is best to experience yourself.
Aiming to personify the feeling of loneliness, Sea of Solitude utilizes very dark and dour visuals that really work well with this type of game. These darker colors make the moments where you are able to light up an area stand out even more, with the color schemes often reflecting Kay’s struggles or realizations throughout the game. Even the monster designs are very cool to see, albeit pretty simple overall. The visuals are also paired with a perfectly suited soundtrack that helps to set the atmosphere for the various moments in the game.
Sea of Solitude starts off with a very confused Kay as she wakes up all alone in a boat in the middle of the sea. Before long, a flying shining girl appears and gives Kay a light on her boat and has her follow after her, while also teaching her how to fire her Flare move. This is essentially the only thing Kay has in arsenal in the game, with it being used to open gates and often fight off enemies. You would expect there to be more ways to use this in the game, but really the only way it is used later is to destroy shadow creatures by shooting the Flare at a light source that causes a small wave of light.
The depressing narrative itself is very captivating
From here, the gameplay in the game is essentially a mix of a lot of the same. You must take your boat to a location where you can get on land, traverse some platforms, and get to the next area. Kay does not have the best platforming skills though, with a very small jump and the ability to climb very short obstacles. There are a lot of moments where you have to watch a monster moving around in water before making a leap to quickly swim to the next platform before it touches you, as well as moments later where you can’t touch the water at all.
At the very start, the game felt reminiscent of games such as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons where you are going on an emotional journey, though with a bit less puzzle solving. However, the major difference here is that while Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons evolved throughout the relatively short experience, Sea of Solitude felt stagnant throughout when it came to the gameplay. Outside of a few moments, this game feels the same at the beginning as it does at the end, with no new tricks up your sleeve by that point. This is made even more disappointing considering the depressing narrative itself is very captivating and is handled incredibly well, but the gameplay manages to drag it down along the way.
Besides the very linear story progression, Sea of Solitude does offer a couple collectibles for you to find throughout the game. The first of these are empty bottles with a message inside them. These add a little bit to the lore of the game and are worth finding. On the other hand, the other collectible is pretty useless. That is the shooing away of seagulls you find throughout the game, which really adds nothing to the game outside of obtaining the trophy associated with it.
Sea of Solitude is the latest from the EA Originals program and continues the trend of unique visuals and atmosphere from their previous games. Whereas the story and emotional beats are top notch, much of the rest of the game feels incredibly mediocre. This mostly unchanging gameplay as you advance through the game is very disappointing, but the introduction of a different personal relationship for Kay each level is enough to push players to complete the full game.
While Kay’s emotional journey of self-discovery does not pull punches as she learns why she has become a lonely monster, Sea of Solitude struggles to stay afloat at times due to unimaginative gameplay that struggles to evolve beyond the opening moments of the game.
- Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
- Published By: Electronic Arts
- Developed By: Jo-Mei Games
- Genre: Adventure
- US Release Date: July 5, 2019
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "While Kay's emotional journey of self-discovery does not pull punches as she learns why she has become a lonely monster, Sea of Solitude struggles to stay afloat at times due to unimaginative gameplay that struggles to evolve beyond the opening moments of the game."