Review: Lost Sea

Review: Lost Sea

Being lost at sea, stranded on an island in the Bermuda Triangle and trying to find your way back home would really suck. It would suck even more if the only path back home is through exploring islands full of vicious monsters while searching for tablets to help you navigate your way to the next island, and then the next, and so on until hopefully you make it out. On the bright side, you’re not the only benevolent one lost, and working together with a crew made up of other survivors maybe, just maybe, you’ll make your way out of the Lost Sea.

Title: Lost Sea
Developer: eastasiasoft
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by Developer
Interface: Handheld Switch console
Available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, Steam (Windows, Mac, and Linux)

After a freak storm over the Atlantic, you find yourself stranded on the shores of a mysterious island. Do you have what it takes to escape the Lost Sea?

Lost Sea is an action-adventure game set inside the Bermuda Triangle. Recruit a crew of survivors who can help you explore the hazardous islands as you hunt for the artifacts needed to navigate the Lost Sea.

Lost Sea is made up of several areas, each of which has numerous islands and a final island with a boss fight on it. Aside from the final island in each set, each island is procedurally generated and full of enemies, survivors, and tablets to retrieve. These tablets and survivors are scattered throughout hexagonal pieces of a map, where you’ll also run around gathering gold and experience to earn new abilities and buy ship upgrades. These upgrades will allow you to see where survivors and tablets on the map, run faster, give you new combat moves, carry additional items or have more people in your crew.

You’ll spend most of your time running around, fighting enemies and exploring. Exploration is simple enough with the map, especially if you get the upgrades to show you where tablets and survivors are, but even if you don’t you’ll have a light blink near the compass that lets you know when you get close to a tablet. Tablets are the primary goal – each island has up to three of them and you need at least one to leave the island you’re on. Once you leave your island, you’ll be given up to three choices for your next island depending on how many tablets you brought back, and each one can take you 1-4 spaces. Having more options is definitely best as most islands don’t have collectible treasures to find and islands can either have an easy, medium or hard difficulty level attributed to them. Furthermore, you may want to choose to go through areas as slowly or as quickly as possible, so having more options means more chances at your preferred distance.

Going as slow as possible is a valid strategy for two reasons – the slower you go, the more islands you’ll explore and the more experience and coins you’ll get. Upgrading is vital to survival, so if you’re patient you can explore a bunch of easier islands and upgrade yourself as much as possible before getting to harder sets of islands. You may also want to go slower because when you die you’ll lose everything, but you’ll start with experience and money based on the number of tablets you gathered on your last life, so it’s nice to get as many as possible as an insurance policy.

In addition to ship upgrades and player skills, you’ll gain a wide assortment of abilities from survivors. You can keep 1-4 with you at any given time depending on what player skills you’ve unlocked with experience, and survivors can increase your attack power, give you more experience from defeating enemies or even resurrect you if you die. Many also have their own abilities – some can unlock item chests, some can dig up treasure and others can construct bridges in specified areas. What’s risky about survivors though is that they each have their own health bars, and if they die their abilities go with them. They follow you mindlessly like your body follows you in the classic game of snake, and while you can unlock a player skill that makes them cower invincibly once combat begins, they almost always get at least one free hit first. Some enemies, like the jerk frogs that leap in the air and always seem to smash down right in the middle of all of them, really take advantage of that first strike and if you run into a few frogs in different areas on the same map you can lose a few members of your crew fairly easily.

Bad luck finds itself making trouble throughout the entirety of Lost Sea sometimes. You may get unlucky and discover that your visit to a hard difficulty island with only one tablet leads to another hard difficulty island with only one tablet and so on. You may also get unlucky and fight lots of tough enemies on a map with little or no healing items, leaving you crewless and hopeless. You can even find yourself dying shortly after starting over again, which is the worst luck of all and exactly what made me give up on trying to beat Lost Sea.

When you die in Lost Sea you lose everything, including your upgrades, and you begin again at the very beginning of the game. You can warp yourself ahead to (seemingly) the last area you completely beat  – if you beat the third set of islands and got to the last island of the fourth set of islands, you can’t start on area four, for example. You start with an amount of experience and money based on the number of tablets you found on your last life, but ONLY the last life. If you find a bunch of them, die, start with a bunch of money and experience and then warp to a hard area and die quickly you’ll have to start the next life with barely anything at all. Because so many of the skills and ship upgrades are so necessary to even stand a chance on anything but the first couple sets of islands, and beating a set of islands easily takes an hour or more after the first couple, it’s incredibly frustrating grinding back through old areas. When one bad island can wipe you out from a full crew to total death, that’s brutal, and this is made even worse when so many of the upgrades are basic things like the ability to sprint, find healing items when defeating enemies or find your way easily back to the ship without pulling the map up a bunch of times.

I also found numerous issues with the crewmates. As I mentioned, they want to follow you around closely, but their pathfinding can be very troublesome. Sometimes I’d run halfway back to the ship to find that I left a crewmate stuck behind a wall, or after they were crouching invincibly during a fight they were just a bit too far away from me when the fighting stopped and they’re still back where the fight happened. Worse yet, their abilities only seem to extend so far – if you get in a tough fight and they crouch to hide, then you end up a decent distance from your crew, you won’t get their bonuses to attack power until you get close enough again. This ends up being a huge deal when fighting really tough enemies; if you stack your crew right you can easily be 2-3x more powerful than on your own, and if they’re too far away then suddenly you’re stuck hitting an enemy 2-3x more before they die.

One last thing worth mentioning is the speed of the game. The whole time I played Lost Sea everything felt a bit slow. Yeah, you can unlock the ability to sprint (and then unlock being able to do it more and having your stamina return faster), but the game always felt a little slow to me. When I watched the trailer again after playing the game I was blown away by just how quick-paced the game looked, it was such a blatant difference that I wondered if they ran the gameplay fast-forward to make the game look more interesting. To put the theory to the test I watched a couple YouTube Let’s Play videos, and they were just as quick! I’m not sure if this is only an issue with Switch, or if it’s only a Switch problem while playing handheld, but it’s a big enough problem to bring up.

Lost Sea is a good amount of game, especially since it’s often on sale for really good prices. I managed to get to the fifth set of islands, and even if that’s the last one that’s a good hour or more on average, plus many more for replaying and more yet if you want to find all the treasures (I ended up with 7 out of 18). I was a bit disappointed when getting a whole set of treasures didn’t do anything special at all (they’re separated into 6 sets of 3), but maybe finding them all will. Having a full set of treasures granting you a special ability or a boost to experience at money after you die would be fantastic and make them really worth collecting! If you really enjoy roguelike games and like games where death really sets you back (which adds an extra element of stress for death and the importance of staying alive!), you may still really enjoy Lost Sea. I just wouldn’t recommend the slower version that comes in the handheld Switch.

Also, as a sidenote, Lost Sea should have a board game version made of it. It’s already heavily themed as one – the crew information looks like it’s on a card, the island selection map looks like a board (and you even move across it with tablets that give you a number for movement) and each island map is set up with hexagonal pieces just like many board games use. Please, eastasiasoft, make it happen!

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