One Piece: World Seeker sees you once again thrust into the sandals of Monkey D. Luffy as you take on the Navy and their evil cohorts, this time taking you to Prison Island where, with some help from the locals, you have to find the rest of your crew while putting the smackdown on plenty of Marines and other ne’er-do-wells. Once you’re back together, you start to unravel what’s going on by helping out the locals in whatever way you can, building relationships as you go.
It’s the One Piece gang’s first open world adventure, and where Unlimited World Red broke things down into separate areas, in World Seeker you can run all the way from one side of this extensive series of islands to the other. You’ll soon be deeply thankful that there’s a fast travel option though, as there’s generally not a whole lot beyond the odd squad of Marines standing between you and your glowing objective marker.
World Seeker definitely plays the open world fetch quest card too often, and you’ll just find yourself running from pillar to post picking up some carrots for a lunchbox, or discover that you’ve just missed the member of your crew that you’re searching for and now have to go back to where you were before. It’s testament to how likeable the characters are and how well the game doles out new skills and improved stats that you’re not switching the game off within a few hours.
This being a One Piece game, the meat of the combat offering comes from Luffy’s elastic limbs, and while you start out bereft of anything beyond a basic combo you can earn points to spend on the upgrade board in five different categories. Exploration enhancements allow you to move around the world easier, and a few points in its direction are essential if you don’t want to be pulling your hair out as you set out on yet another island-crossing sprint.
You’ve then got the two combat stances, the quicker Observation Haki and the more aggressive Armament Haki, with points in each adding new moves or boosting ones you already have. There’s also Parameters, which allows you to speed yourself up or increase your health, and Battle which plays host to your special Gum Gum moves. The balance it strikes is just right between having to get stuck into a few missions and levelling up and gaining new skills.
One Piece: World Seeker sure looks fantastic. It’s easily the best looking One Piece game yet, but it’s also worryingly lifeless. It’s almost as though they got as far as building an amazing landscape and then forgot to fill it with enough to make things interesting. One of the weirdest things is the lack of noise. You can be running around Steel City – the biggest settlement on the main island – and it’s quiet. There’s often no music playing, no background hubbub, and the sounds of Luffy’s sandals are weirdly hushed as well, like the developers were too involved to allow anything so hateful as noise to reverberate around their wonderful buildings. Maybe they used to be librarians?
It’s biggest sin as an open world adventure is that there simply isn’t enough to do. There’s treasure chests and crafting materials to find out in the world, but when they both appear on your map there’s no real skill to finding them beyond occasionally working out if they’re above or below you. Besides that there’s just the side quests to dive into, but it all feels so empty when you compare it to the Assassin’s Creed games or something like Spider-Man. There’s actually a laughable attempt at one point to be Spider-Man, which would be amusing if not for the fact that failing the section results in bouncing you back to a loading screen before you can retry.
There are a myriad of other odd little design choices that knock you out of the game’s rhythm, like how talking to any NPC the game fades to black before and afterwards for no apparent reason. You can add that in with the excruciatingly long Interact command, where you’ll hold down triangle for so long while trying to open a treasure chest that you can take a good long slurp of your cup of tea and check your phone for messages while doing so. Maybe that’s some kind of a positive. In surely the worst example of RPG levelling up, you can actually spend your hard-earned skill points to speed up this process.
Luffy also handles like a truck with an incredibly large turning circle, and the canned combos that you’re armed with don’t flow properly, hitting opponents with the first couple of shots and then missing with the last. At no point is the combat anything more than perfunctory – on Normal difficulty at least – and the same tactic of getting in close and interrupting the enemy’s moves works on literally everyone.
It’s fortunate that the story holds just enough interest to keep you driving on, and the bright and friendly crew of the Sunny look and sound just as you’d hope, though fans of the manga and the anime will be wishing for more time in their company. Perhaps the biggest shame is that you’re only given control of Luffy, when one of Unlimited World Red’s best features was being able to play as the different crew members with their own fighting style. Ok, really I just want to play as Zoro, but you get what I mean.