Adapting anime and manga into the videogame scene happens fairly frequently these days, with the likes of Dragon Ball, Naruto and Sword Art Online having numerous titles on the market across various platforms. Another hugely popular franchise, One Piece, has been lying dormant on Xbox One for almost three years since making its debut on Microsoft’s latest console. Now though, One Piece: World Seeker has docked upon our shores to deliver a fresh experience for those interested in the adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates. Is the treasure seeking pirate’s life all it’s cracked up to be, or have we stumbled into a booby trap?
The One Piece: World Seeker story opens up with Luffy and his crewmates trying to pull off a heist of epic proportions at the Sky Prison, however, things don’t go to plan and they’ve walked right into a trap. Scrambling to escape the grasp of the warden and a whole load of accompanying members of the Navy, the group gets separated. There’s no treasure acquired, the Thousand Sunny ship is in need of repair and the Straw Hats are split up on a place dubbed ‘Prison Island’.
It seems pretty bleak for our protagonists, but the ever-chipper Luffy doesn’t let that bother him and that’s a theme throughout the game. Almost everything is seen from an upbeat viewpoint, with jovial attitudes at times and a determination to succeed against all odds, really catching the spirit of the anime. As far as the original story goes, the newly introduced characters are well-designed and integrate into the world easily, to the point where you’d believe they’ve been a part of the One Piece cast for ages; especially the warden, who’s a real presence. Whilst the narrative is slowly unfolding, it becomes more intriguing as to what’s happening on the island and why the World Government have deployed so many military officers there.
The cutscenes are great, with intense action, occasional back and forth banter, and simply wonderful, vibrant colours adorning the character models. They’ll certainly catch your attention and the opening one in particular will definitely hook you in as it’s brilliant for setting the scene. The only slight drawback is the lack of English voiceovers, meaning you have to follow the action and subtitles simultaneously – unless you’re fluent in Japanese of course – which can be tricky.
Unlike the previous outing, One Piece: Burning Blood, this instalment doesn’t focus on the rather over-used 3vs3 fighting set-up; instead it places you in a third-person open-world action-adventure. Playing as Monkey D. Luffy, leader of the Straw Hat Pirates, you’ll need to reassemble the Straw Hat Pirates by locating the likes of Chopper, Nami, Zoro, Robin and others. Exploring the massive Prison Island and chatting to the locals for information is a key part of the task, with Luffy’s stretchiness coming in handy for traversing the land as he’s able to scale buildings, ledges and trees using an out-stretched arm as leverage. Given that this ability is upgradeable to allow a propelling motion, it’s very similar to Spider-Man, but not quite as cool and the swinging isn’t as free-flowing.
Nevertheless it beats running around on foot all the time as you’re moving from one end of the island to another, partaking almost solely in the main missions for a while. Along the way, enemies will be patrolling in various spots and you’ve got a few methods of dealing with the various types of sailors, pirates and robots in your path. Zooming past them is an option, but the most fun is either in sneaking about to take them down one by one, without alerting anyone, or catching all of their attention and defeating them whilst being outnumbered.
In combat there are two different Haki – the mysterious power everyone in One Piece has – modes to switch between on the fly: Observation and Armament. The former is great for swift movement, dodging and lots of quick attacks, whilst the latter is more about power and a strong guard. Depending upon the enemy you’re up against, both Haki types have their strengths and weaknesses. Where Observation Haki edges it though is with the ability to show the position of enemies for a limited time within a certain radius. In addition to this, Luffy can perform a ranged punch attack which is like having a gun that damages from a short distance away. The standard single button combos do get repetitive unfortunately, but performing these are a necessity to build up the special moves meter.
Through earning Skill Points from beating enemies and missions, up to three exciting special attacks can be unlocked, including the extremely useful Gum Gum Elephant Gatling Gun that causes devastating damage to anyone nearby. Garnering the SP is rather sparse outside of mission completion rewards however, with unlocks pertaining to abilities, health and movement priced in the 100s whilst you’re lucky to get a single point per patrol group decimated. And that brings me to one of the biggest negatives; it takes too long for the game to get into its stride.
Early on, the side quests are few and far between, and main missions are essentially all you’ve got to get on with. Granted these can be enjoyable as mini-bosses lie in wait or there’s a stealthy task at hand to reach one of your gang who’s been locked up, but until about five hours into One Piece: World Seeker, the fun is infrequent. Even collecting materials that spawn around the island and opening treasure chests is pointless. After the crew are reunited though, there are a load more side missions and story furthering tasks to get involved with. The narrative has plenty more to offer from this point onwards as well, that’s for sure.
Side missions often consist of fetching items for folk in return for a reward, but could involve menacing baddies too, and more of these types of activities are revealed as you build up Karma with other characters in this world. Not only is there much more choice in what to do next, but also crafting equipment is possible, albeit a tad limited, and you can send your crewmates out on quests that will reap materials too. All those items you picked up will finally come in handy when you want to craft a belt to increase your health and such.
In terms of the technical aspects, there is a slight concern when interacting with chests and buttons, as the detection window seems miniscule. It’ll see you spending an age lining up Luffy in just the right spot and then it takes further time, too long in fact, to actually open the treasure chests. And whilst the elongated arm swinging makes for a nice change in getting from one place to the next, it’s too finicky to accurately aim the reticule at where you want it; not ideal if you’re in a hurry. Fortunately, fast travel is a very welcome option to traverse the massive open-world.
And that open-world is certainly huge. Prison Island itself is made up of many different little areas, from a harbour and a mining town, to a full on Navy base and a graveyard. There’s a ton of greenery in-between, almost too much, and the patrol outposts are quite samey, but Steel City makes up for all that. It’s a place full of colour, market stalls, high-rise building and an array of NPCs, which stands tall above the rest of the island for the design. The NPCs are weird though, with too many copies of the same character model throughout the island.
One Piece: World Seeker is to be praised for the ambition to attempt an open-world experience, instead of going down the tired fighting genre route. The tale of Prison Island is a very interesting one, the new characters complement the old, and the cutscenes are exhilarating. As far as gameplay goes, the combat is fun and the variety of enemies is decent, without both aspects ever reaching greatness. What’s disappointing though is how long it takes for the game to get going, the crafting is far too basic and the movement lacks finesse, which is a pain when there’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing.
Could I recommend One Piece: World Seeker on Xbox One to those that aren’t in the know about Luffy and co.? Probably, but it’s a slow burner. Meanwhile, fans will definitely enjoy the original story featuring all of their favourite Straw Hats.