Although commendable in its ambitions, One Piece: World Seeker is a disappointing, half-hearted attempt to create a world as vibrant and engaging as the anime.
Title: One Piece: World Seeker
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PS4 (version reviewed), PC, Xbox One
Release Date: March 15, 2019
One Piece: World Seeker is trying. It is trying a lot, desperately. Created by Japanese developer Ganbarion, World Seeker is the first open-world title in a long line of video games based on the mega-popular, long-running anime One Piece. The franchise’s popularity cannot be understated, and the series’ basic premise of pirate exploration and man protagonist Monkey D. Luffy’s elastic powers make for some tantalizing open-world gameplay possibilities.
But in a gaming marketplace littered with more open-world titles than ever before, proper execution of any ideas is invaluable. Unfortunately, One Piece: World Seeker is anything but proper.
The game features an original story from series creator Eiichiro Oda that follows the aforementioned pirate captain Monkey D. Luffy and his crew, the Straw Hat Pirates, as they journey to Prison Island in an effort to, in somewhat typical One Piece fashion, find epic treasure. If you can get past the fact that the story is mostly told through boring text dialogue between the characters and a minimal amount of actual cutscenes, the story is quite satisfying.
…the environment of World Seeker is more like a single set of monkey bars rather than a fully-realized playground.
The source material is, after all, quite the impressive one. The eclectic roster of characters that fans of One Piece know and love are all here, along with some new additions that add their own kind of unique personalities. The anime should be commended for how unapologetically zany and effortlessly unique it is, but that doesn’t matter a whole lot if the game itself isn’t fun, which it rarely ever is.
World Seeker does, indeed, feature an open-world environment with hidden collectibles to find, but this feels more like a gimmick. Prison Island feels remarkably empty and using Luffy’s powers to zip across it like you’re Elastigirl from The Incredibles gets old fast. Unless you like collecting randomly generated treasure over and over, the environment of World Seeker is more like a single set of monkey bars rather than a fully-realized playground.
Aside from exploring, World Seeker features an action-adventure combat system for taking down enemies in both a loud and quiet fashion. The former is, at times, enjoyable thanks to the fantastic animations for both Luffy’s Observation Haki stance, which focuses on speed, and Armament Haki stance, which focuses on power.
Both stances offer some truly bonkers moves to utilize, like an absurd barrage of quick punches from the Observation Haki stance or a slow, but deadly charge shot from the Armament Haki stance that can send a multitude of enemies flying like they were at 300% in Super Smash Bros. (well, not that much, but still).
…the lack of fluidity in your motions makes battling several enemies at once feel like a chore that inevitably leads to you taking damage no matter how well you play.
The combat does, however, get frustrating at times because of how stiff the control feels, and the lack of fluidity in your motions makes battling several enemies at once feel like a chore that inevitably leads to you taking damage no matter how well you play.
When it comes to taking the stealth approach, World Seeker seriously starts to feel broken. Enemies notice you far too quickly whenever you’re even remotely in their line of sight. Sure, that makes it more realistic, but when you’re simply trying to swing across the city and get hit by a stray bullet from some lowly soldier that you barely even see — sending you plummeting to the ground — realism isn’t going to produce any enjoyment.
It’s better to just ignore the stealth approach unless the mission requires it (which, when it does, may god help you) and attack your enemies from the get-go. Then, at least, you can accrue some modicum of pleasure from seeing Luffy smash an enemy with his amusingly over-the-top rubbery abilities.
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There’s also a skill tree for which you spend the points you get from missions to upgrade Luffy’s abilities, like basic speed and defense boosts, or new attacks that differ depending on which fighting stance you’re in. There are even some mesmerizing finishing moves like the “Gum Gum Elephant Gatling Gun” which makes Luffy enlarge both of his fists to the size of wrecking balls as he launches himself into the air and rains down a comical series of punches. Even if you’re not familiar with One Piece, that’s still an undeniably rad thing to see.
You can also create different items and equipment to boost Luffy’s stats, but I rarely found this to be well fleshed out as they hardly made much of a difference. Instead, it just feels like a contrived excuse to give some more value and uses for the items you collect aside from their use in progressing through the story and completing side quests.
That’s the core problem with World Seeker; on the surface, it has a ton of exciting features to entrench yourself in, but it’s almost as if the developers forgot to actually refine them. There’s a glaring lack of polish, too; whether it be the load times, endless wandering because the objectives in missions are not made clear, the annoying precision it takes just to open chests, and even with the music system requiring you to manually input which songs you want to play (seriously).
Making detailed and engaging open-world games certainly isn’t easy, but even the anime genre has seen successes before like with Naruto: Rise of a Ninja for the Xbox 360, which was released back in 2007. That was 12 years ago — with a different generation of hardware — and a game like that shouldn’t feel more complete than one made today.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.