What the heck happened to One Piece: World Seeker? Was the developer short on time? Short on budget? Or was it just an awful idea to make an open world setting your one and only gimmick in 2019? We would genuinely love to know, because the game feels completely unfinished in almost every possible way. Even for the relatively low standards of anime-based action titles the game's bad, but compared to any half-decent open world game released this generation, it's a disaster.
One Piece: World Seeker is a full price game with nothing in it. The open world itself is one of the most barren, lifeless virtual lands that we've explored on PlayStation 4, quickly reminding us of the days when the genre was in its infancy back in the PS2 era. There are gigantic cities and huge towns in World Seeker, but barely anyone lives in them. The streets are empty, and the few non-playable characters that actually do exist simply stand in place or walk the exact same path over and over again. What year is this?
At times, World Seeker has to be seen to be believed -- it's just that desolate. It feels like some kind of test area for developers to play around in, rather than an actual product that people are expected to pay for. And when it comes down to it, the game isn't even that big. You can uncover most of the map in about 20 minutes if you do a lap of the main islands.
To make matters worse, this isn't an open world that you can ignore. Main story missions force you to traverse large swathes of land on a regular basis, with some missions even having the gall to make you run to the other side of the map and back again just to see one measly cutscene. On top of that, the game seems to think that fetch quests are all the rage, so if you want to beef main character Luffy up with some nice new equipment, you're going to have to venture out into the nothingness and bring back a few flowers or a couple of special rocks.
But hey, at least Luffy has a variety of traversal tools at his disposal -- it's just a shame that you have to unlock them all through the title's skill tree. The enthusiastic pirate captain can latch onto objects with his rubbery arms and propel himself forward, and if you can stomach playing the game long enough, you can unlock additional moves like a gliding technique and a more powerful launch that rockets Luffy farther into the air. World Seeker wants to be the next Marvel's Spider-Man, and while it's nowhere near as fluid or as enjoyable as Insomniac's web-swinging masterclass, it's a distraction from how shoddy the rest of World Seeker is.
In fact, Luffy seems like the only thing that the developer had the time and money to finish. He's quite well animated and the aforementioned, rather robust skill tree eventually grants him an impressive amount of versatility, both in and out of combat. The kicker, though, is that you need to spend hours and hours with the game if you want to save up enough skill points to purchase all of this relatively cool stuff. It's essentially asking you to trudge through god-knows-how-many tedious quests before you can actually make the game fun to play.
Given Luffy's gum-gum powers, combat could have been one of World Seeker's saving graces, but the enemy design puts a swift stop to that pipe dream. When you're not up against incredibly annoying grunts armed with automatic guns and pinpoint accuracy, you're fighting big bruisers who shrug off attacks and knock you on your arse if you dare to get too close. Failing at the game's borderline broken stealth system usually results in fighting off whole groups of foes, and as you can imagine, being hit from all sides -- stunlocked into submission -- can be immensely frustrating. Boss battles generally fare a lot better, but they're infrequent and not nearly exciting enough to shoulder the weight of what is a fundamentally boring combat system.
Is it possible to just push all of World Seeker's problems to one side and simply blast through the story as a gigantic fan of all things One Piece? Well, you can, but the source material deserves so much better than this woefully presented plot. The story itself is pretty standard -- Luffy gets separated from his crew and he has to find them before taking down a big baddie Marine commander -- but the way that it's told is embarrassingly bad.
Aside from a few choice cutscenes that are fully animated (is this where all the budget went?) the story is relayed through voiceless dialogue. That's right, the vast majority of World Seeker's narrative is delivered in total silence as characters stare blankly at one another. It's the absolute minimum that you expect from a game with a story in 2019, but it somehow sinks even lower. Instead of having any kind of direction, these dialogue scenes cut to black whenever something happens. A character leaves the scene? Cut to black and have them magically disappear instead of showing them walk away. Someone has to turn around in order to join the conversation? Cut to black instead of just giving them the most basic of animations. It's laughable.
We could be here all day writing about all of the little things that clearly earmark One Piece: World Seeker as an unfinished product, but it's the silence that really seals the deal. On top of the voiceless dialogue, there's a distinct lack of music as you explore the open world -- it's eerily quiet to the point where it takes you out of the experience. There are a couple of battle tracks and a handful of jingles, but overall, it's uncomfortably devoid of audio.
One Piece: World Seeker is an unfinished game. Its open world is shockingly barren, its gameplay is clearly undercooked, and its presentation is placeholder. Eventually, Luffy's skill tree does allow for a little more fun, but the title still ends up feeling like an in-house development build that's used for playtesting, not a full price retail release. As a One Piece game it's bad enough, but as an open world title in 2019, it's borderline unacceptable.