One of my favorite moments from E3 2018 was watching Jo-Mei Games CEO Cornelia Geppert debut Sea of Solitude's first ever trailer. On stage, she was laughing, smiling, and tearing up all at once, and it was clear to everyone watching that there was an immense amount of heart, soul, and love being poured into the game. Ever since that day, I've been eagerly anticipating Sea of Solitude's release.
Now it's here, and it absolutely lived up to my excitement and my expectations. The gameplay, while not superb, is enjoyable — but the best of Sea of Solitude lies within its gorgeous presentation and in its thoughtful narrative about healing in the aftermath of trauma.
Sea of Solitude
$20 (opens in new tab)Bottom line: Sea of Solitude is a tremendously moving and well-thought out narrative adventure that nails story and art direction and offers solid gameplay, but could have better voice acting and a longer overall length.
- Phenomenal, moving story
- Amazing art direction and music
- Solid overall gameplay
- Some frustrating moments
- Voice acting could be better
- Feels a bit short
What you'll love about Sea of Solitude
Unquestionably, the best thing about Sea of Solitude is the story. The game places you in the shoes of Kay, a woman who is going through severe mental trauma as she navigates the depths of her mind, which is depicted as an endless ocean. This lonely, desolate setting is dotted with locations from Kay's memories, as well as gigantic monsters that represent what caused her trauma. Over the course of the story, Kay faces these demons — which range from family issues to her own insecurities — and learns how to overcome them.
This is some heavy stuff, but thankfully, Sea of Solitude's narrative feels authentic and rich. It's a story that's raw and real, and its commitment to tackling these themes in a sensitive, yet unapologetically accurate way is precisely what makes it so moving. I cried several times during the game, because in may ways, I've been right where Kay was mentally, and I've been through the journey that Kay goes through.
The story is fantastic, but a big reason why it flows so well is because of how stellar the game's artistic direction is. The use of visual metaphors in Sea of Solitude is on-point, and everything, from the designs of the demons Kay has to face to Kay's own appearance, is dripping with meaning. These artistic choices make for a gorgeous visual experience, but more importantly, they serve to guide the player into understanding how Kay is feeling, and why. For example, the massive ocean that the game takes place in is a representation of Kay's immense sadness. And while the visuals steal the show, the soundtrack doesn't lag behind. The music in this game is amazing, and it perfectly fits every scene it's used in.
Lastly, there's the gameplay, which isn't incredible, but it's still enjoyable. Sea of Solitude is best described as a platformer with light stealth elements, and while its mechanics are very simple, the game does occasionally force you to use them creatively, which adds some challenge. The game is far from a difficult one, but it's not a cakewalk, either, which keeps it engaging. It's also entirely non-violent, which I love because this is a story about healing. The goal isn't to kill your demons, but to figure out how to move past them.
What you'll love less about Sea of Solitude
While there's a ton to love about Sea of Solitude, it isn't a perfect game. I think the thing that bugs me the most is that the voice acting for Kay is inconsistent. Generally, it's good, but there are several moments in the story where something incredibly serious happens, but the response from Kay isn't as strong or as emotionally-charged as it seems like it naturally should be. This took me out of the experience a bit, and I wish that there was more "oomph" to the performance.
There are also a few segments of gameplay where the way forward is difficult to find because of confusing level design and some enemies that feel impossible to dodge unless you move perfectly. These moments are relatively rare, but they were pretty frustrating nevertheless. Also, the game feels a bit rushed, and I beat it in four hours. There's nothing wrong with short games, of course, but I think that even another half-hour's worth of gameplay would have helped to combat that rushed feeling I have about it.
Should you buy Sea of Solitude?
While there are certainly some issues with Sea of Solitude, it's still a wonderful game that offers so much in the way of narrative and art, and the gameplay is pretty solid, too (although nothing amazing). It's clear that an incredible amount of heart, love, and soul was poured into this experience, and I can confidently say that my money was well spent.
If you want something with a next-level gameplay experience and aren't very interested in the narratives of video games, you won't find much value in Sea of Solitude. However, if you're somebody that loves a touching story and enjoys simple mechanics and exemplary visuals, Sea of Solitude will take your breath away.
Face your demons
Sea of Solitude
Explore the depths of a broken mind
Sea of Solitude is a tremendously moving and well-thought out narrative adventure that nails story and art direction and offers solid gameplay, but could have better voice acting and a longer overall length.
Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.
I'm sold. Usually a game review does not sway me much in one or the other direction, except for a few exceptions, like Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice and now this. The fact that it's emotionally deep to the point where it touched you, the tester, deeply, is the best stamp of approval I can get.
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