Review: Sea of Solitude
Every now and then you come across a surprise. You enter a game without any expectations and then you have an immersive experience that really touches you.
I hadn't seen any trailers and read nothing about Sea of Solitude. It was very superficial of me, but I mainly wanted to play the game based on a few screenshots. I thought the game had a nice look and feel and it is still quiet in terms of game releases. I started up the game and as usual was already writing up pluses and minuses. I soon realized that I can't judge the game like that.
Personal demons are often used to describe what it is like to deal with mental problems . It often feels like fighting monsters. Sea of Solitude is very well portrayed as a physical representation of this. As a developer you can of course place a monster and you as a character opposite it with the message that it is a demon of yours. However, that does not cover the charge. One minute it's a beautiful summer day with your boat on the water and the next it's a dark and scary world. But even then you will still find buoys that serve as a point of light in the darkness.
You collect memories about different situations in the life of Kay, the protagonist in the story. These memories then manifest themselves in the world around you. In some cases this is very direct, such as the arguments between her parents and the influence this has had on her. Her parents stand over her like giant monsters when the quarrels resurface. I want to write down several examples but I don't want to give away anything and anyway I can't write anything that even somewhat covers the load.
It is not the case that the game is only aimed at gamers who can relate to this. Perhaps more importantly, it paints an image in the mind of someone dealing with these kinds of issues. It can create understanding in people who see it as a weakness or it can bring clarity to people who simply don't know how to get around. Of course there are gamers who simply will not find a game like this interesting and that is not a bad thing. However, if you are open to it, Sea of Solitude can be a deep experience for you.
Gameplay and presentation
If we leave all that aside, Sea of Solitude is a basic platform adventure game. The tasks you perform are not difficult and there is relatively little variation. You do learn a new gameplay element here and there, but these are generally only used once. This is not accidental, however, as these connect to Kay's mental situation. Sea of Solitude is a short experience of about six hours and is never really difficult. You can shoot a flare in the air at any time that will let you know where to go. Also for the puzzles you will not have long to find the solution.
Sea of Solitude has a beautiful appearance. It regularly has vibes from Wind Waker and from Firewatch, which is certainly meant as a compliment. Graphically it's not perfect, regularly some things come along as clipping errors, like one of the monsters swimming right through objects in the world. It's one of those points that are always a bit more difficult in indie games. Some things have to be handed in in places to ultimately keep the total experience in balance. Fortunately, Sea of Solitude always manages to do this and the minuses in the presentation never interfere with the overall experience.
It's a game that's hard to rate. On the surface, Sea of Solitude is a short game with little challenge. But like many people who struggle mentally, there is much more depth. There will be gamers who see the game as simple and poorly developed, others will find Sea of Solitude a deep and personal experience. I played with someone next to me who liked Kay. Who understands from the inside what the game is about. For me it was initially a superficial experience, but because of the connection it has with the person next to me, I only noticed the real value of Sea of Solitude. Most of all, the game taught me that understanding and understanding are two very different things.
All this does not alter the fact that twenty euros is a hefty entrance fee. To be fair, and this is a compliment, the game should be given away for free. It is an accessible experience that can help and learn. Something that society can certainly use. In any case, it is clear that the developers have experience with this subject, who intimately understand how it works and are happy to share it with the world. In that regard, I definitely recommend everyone to try it, even though not everyone will see the depth. This would have happened to me too if I hadn't had the right person next to me. Sea of Solitude is available now for Xbox One , PlayStation 4 and PC via Origin .
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