I may well have said it before, but one of the joys about writing for an outlet such as TheXboxHub is that we cover pretty much any game going. No matter how many “A”s are slapped on the end of it, we will usually get a review out there at some point. This can often feel like spinning the wheel of fortune and waiting with baited breath to see where it stops. So then, what do we have this time?
Why it’s Sea Horizon, a roguelike turn-based RPG for those seeking adventure. The shattered archipelago of Myrihyn is the land you set out to explore, fraught with danger but also rich in rewards. You can sail the high seas by ship, as well as making landfall to explore the numerous islands scattered across each map.
Each time you venture out, the hex grid map is rolled out in front of you, along with an objective marker to guide you in the right direction. Otherwise, only the tiles close by are revealed, hiding both the treasures and dangers that await you.
As you make your moves, you’ll need to manage both hunger and health to prevent a nasty death. If you begin to starve, your health will start to decrease with every step you take. You will happen across base camps where you can buy food, but deciding whether to venture out further or play it safe will be a choice you are constantly presented with in Sea Horizon.
There are all sorts of points of interest out there, from treasure chests and skill shrines, to dungeons and tiles simply marked “????”. However, the most common discovery will be random encounters denoted by a little skull avatar. Crossing over these tiles will trigger a battle.
These are turn based encounters, and each of your characters will have a set of five cards that all represent different skills. There are lots of different skills available, depending on the character you are playing as. For example priests will be able to heal and provide armour to party members, whereas the adventurer can deal huge damage to opponents under the right circumstances. Many skills will also inflict status effects, which can prove decisive in battle.
Your fortunes are decided by dice rolls at the start of each turn, which enable you to play certain cards in your hand depending on the outcome. Managing these resources carefully will maximise the moves you can make per turn, especially when choosing skills and gear that compliment each other. You can modify your build at any time during your run. This means a strategic mind is definitely needed – but also a little good luck will be required too.
Boss battles are certain to provide you with a challenge, and may well feel like a huge spike in difficulty when you first attempt them. One way to offset this is making the most of your run, levelling up and collecting as much gear and as many skills as possible. However, often it’ll most likely be a case of learning from your failed attempts and experimenting with different skill combinations before you crack it, and down the boss. This process can take hours, and may well put some people off Sea Horizon. However, it’s all the more satisfying when you finally emerge victorious.
There are three ways to play Sea Horizon, with the gameplay remaining consistent across each one. First up is adventure. This tells the story of each character, who all specialise in different classes. These include a ranger, priest and wanderer amongst others. You’ll be playing solo in this mode, following your objectives until you reach the boss battle whilst discovering more about the character you’re playing as.
There’s another mode which features dungeons to explore that task you with battling through each floor before taking on the big bad at the end. For this challenge you’ll be able to choose a party made up of three characters. This opens the door for various combinations depending on how you like to play.
Lastly, there is the exploration mode. Again, you’ll need to take a party of three, but despite having an objective to complete, there’s a much larger environment for you to, well, explore. In fact, if adventure mode had you feeling that Sea Horizon was a little linear (as I did to start with), then this goes a long way to resolving that.
There are three locations to explore, and I spent hours wandering around just the first one alone. This is thanks to the fairly typical, but nonetheless exciting design which makes you want to keep pushing on to see what treasures and secrets you can discover. Of course, to finish this mode you’ll still have to face off against the all too familiar boss character. There’s no getting away from that I’m afraid.
When you finish each run in Sea Horizon you’ll be rewarded. This is where the roguelike element comes in, as you will have the opportunity to pick certain gear to take with you for your next adventure. However, you’ll also earn tokens that can be used to unlock different skins for each character, and your ship. The different character skins come with extra skills that can be preloaded for your run, and prove pretty handy in the more difficult encounters.
Sea Horizon adopts the cel shaded – dare I say it, Sea of Thieves – visual style, but it works really well regardless. In all fairness it looks good, and the soundtrack is pleasingly catchy. Despite some rather small text in some parts, and navigating around the UI taking some getting used to, the use of colour helps easily identify card types and status effects on characters.
I really enjoyed my time with Sea Horizon, and despite being a fairly simple and familiar strategy game, it works really well. The difficulty feels about right overall. Even when the boss battles sometimes seem impossible there’s always a way to squeak through.
There’s also a deceptive amount of gameplay hours on offer, especially when you take into account the map will look different on each run you undertake. The gameplay also feels well balanced, despite the various character combinations and different skill decks you can experiment with.
Despite not breaking new ground, Sea Horizon is a thoroughly enjoyable card based strategy game that offers both challenge and adventure.