Sea of Solitude is one of the latest additions to indie games. It had been printed under the EA Originals label that has built its reputation throughout the past couple of years. Cornelia Geppert, who has been working on it for the last few years conceived the thought of Sea of Solitude for a video game. It has always looked like an imaginative game that utilizes storytelling as a medium to inform.
In Sea of Solitude, you take charge of a woman called Kay. The narrative is her travel through a fictional world that’s a city where she faces her fears in the kind of red-eyed monsters. When creating this city that was underwater for Sea of Solitude, the developers have taken inspiration from the city of Berlin, Germany. There is a lot of significance placed on providing the players story momentspayoffs, and also a sense of progress as Kay makes her way through town.
The story of Sea of Solitude feels a lot personal and intimate, especially if you have suffered through loneliness and moments of depression. It is easy to get attached to the character of Kay because of how her personality is developed throughout the story. You start to form an emotional connection with her as far as the narrative is concerned. Sadly, whenever the game opens up with gameplay, this connection dies down as you try to make progress by doing monotonous and tiresome tasks.
It is admirable how the developers were able to craft such a gorgeous looking game with a strong story that carries a deeper meaning. It is also disappointing that they forgot the key element, fun gameplay, that is the foundation on which we have to experience it all. The pacing of the game also has its fair share of issues. It starts off brilliantly but begins to drag the further you make progress. It does come out altogether in the end but the middling gameplay can take its toll making it a struggle to finish Sea of Solitude.
The gameplay never boils down to something interesting. It starts off simple as you drive a couple of small boats, solve dark/light puzzles, and make your way inside the city while the game drops story moments one after another. You can do some optional tasks like finding bottles with messages in them or making eagles fly away with noise, but they are as boring as they sound. Later in the game, there are encounters where you evade enemies and attempt to destroy them but these are also mostly infuriating with bad design choices becoming a big hurdle in appreciating them.
I have enjoyed indie games which place an emphasis on their storytelling instead of gameplay. When it comes to some great examples, What Remains of Edith Finch and Inside are two top contenders this generation, but unfortunately Sea of Solitude doesn’t make the list. It is a good story that culminates in an interesting finale but the journey to the end is not satisfying with constant hurdles placed along the way in the form of its shallow gameplay.