As the game’s moniker indicates, Lost Sea’s protagonist is marooned on a cluster of islands located near the Bermuda Triangle. After choosing from one of eight character skins, players begin their journey across the sprawling archipelago, collecting up to three tablets from across each procedurally-generated isle. Once one or more of the stone slabs has been gathered and returned to your ship, a number is revealed, indicating how many atolls you can advance, in board game-like fashion. Like most of Lost Sea, it’s an easy mechanic to grasp, fostering accessibility while capitulating to tedium.
Islands are composed of hexagonal zones, most containing destructible containers that house gold coins. Gathering currency is used to augment your ship, but since your craft isn’t playable in the game, upgrading can feel a bit contrived. In execution, the benefits are assistive, with purchasable perks offering to reveal the position of tablets or restoring health to one of your crewmates, but it all feels like you’re purchasing menu options instead of any kind of tangible enhancement. Similar to currency collection, defeating enemies releases green orbs that act as experience- with players able to boost the abilities of their avatar.
Islands have preset difficulty levels, with easy-rated stages having erratic clusters of adversaries while hard ones are densely populated with tougher troublemakers and a single tablet concealed on the island. One element that Lost Sea handles well is the variety of creatures, with each demonstrating their own distinctive attack patterns. Invest a bit of time and you’ll learn to sprint from ground-pounding giants and sneak up on purple frogs before they get the drop on you. Largely, combat is simple and draws from vintage games, as you use a single button to carve through foes.
Unfortunately, this tendency toward variability is absent from the boss battles which punctuate every island chain. Lost Sea has you battle the same foe, who attacks in roughly the same method, with the only divergence is the speed of his strikes. As such, these encounters are humdrum when they should have been one of the game’s high points.
Another troubling element is how passive and occasionally pigeon-brained your crewmates are. Sure, they bestow abilities like building bridges to new areas, opening treasure chests, or even offering a one-time resurrection. And they can be ordered to carry a tablet, allowing the players to fend off attackers. But when antagonist appears, they don’t lend any kind of helping hand and need to be babysat so that their undersized heath bar isn’t depleted. Most vexing is when they fail to follow you through a doorway and get lost behind.
When they do get displaced or when the game’s blinking tablet-finding indicator is too ambiguous, you’ll be forced to consult Lost Sea’s in-game map. The ability to rotate and zoom the cartographical document is helpful, but given the title’s ramp-heavy environments and lack of any jumping, you often rely on exploration to make progress across the game’s intricate alleyways. Clearly, the development team knew of the limited usefulness of the map, allowing players to buy a perk that reveals a trail back to their ship.
While trees that restore the vitality of the players and crewmates are rare, if you take it slow, progress isn’t too difficult. But when you find yourself without access to medical kits and battered by island beasts, you’ll discover that Lost Sea exhibits a Rogue-like approach to mortality. Death robs gamers of any gained skills or ship enhancements, only allowing a restart from the most recently completed island chain. While you do receive a coin and experience bonus depending on how far you’ve ventured into the game, you’ll always be at a deficit. As such, most will find that it’s easier just to start the island-hopping journey anew, instead of taking a paltry payoff.
Adeptly, Lost Sea scales well, offering a sixty-frame per second delivery on most decent rigs. From a lowly AMD A10-powered laptop with integrated Radeon HD 8650G graphics to an older i5 desktop with a GTX 650 GPU the title performed flawless, demonstrating the versatility of its low-poly, cell-shaded art style across a variety of milieu. Musically, the game’s stirring soundtrack doesn’t warrant listen outside of play, but makes for a component accompaniment with its light Calypso-influenced instrumentation.
Although Lost Sea isn’t a requisite Rogue-like, the game’s simplicity makes the title enjoyable is diminutive doses. Had there been less repetition and perhaps even another mechanic to enliven the jump between isles, a visit to Lost Sea would have been easier to recommend. As such, you might want to board this expedition at a discounted price and with tempered expectations.
Lost Sea was played on the PC with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4
Developer: Eastasiasoft Limited
Publisher: Eastasiasoft Limited
Release Date: July 5th, 2016
Price: $14.99 via PSN (PS4), $14.99 via Steam (PC), currently on sale for $13.49