One Piece: World Seeker
The notoriety of licensed games has always been on the cynical side, with some of the better games in that category usually earning descriptions of “surprisingly good” at best. These days, however, the reputation for licensed games is clawing its way out of the dismissive hole it has lived in for decades with games like Dragon Ball FighterZ showing that the right developer can really make a license sing. In that same vein, Bandai Namco is betting big on One Piece: World Seeker to surprise people once again.
Based on what I played, the game might be on the right track to do just that.
One Piece: World Seeker is one of those games that inserts “World” into the title to tell you that it’s an open world game. This specific build was blocked off so that the open world wasn't available to me, setting an expectation for a limited scope in this demo. What I didn’t expect, however, was exactly how much the game was aping Metal Gear Solid V of all games in its design.
The demo placed series protagonist Luffy at the base of a mountain while Nami informs him that the Marines are crawling all over the place, more than willing to take out the Strawhat crew if they get in the way of whatever the Marines are searching for. Luffy needs to get to the top of the mountain, so a few Marines are not going to stand his way, either.
The game really emphasizes that Luffy should either be picking enemies off from afar or sneaking up on them to take them out stealthily. A button prompt shows up when approaching an unaware marine, spurring Luffy to jump into the air and kick them in the back of the head. Drawing the attention of too many guards also brings out Pacifista, extremely tall laser-shooting robots that can blast Luffy right off the mountain. Sowing the seeds of chaos is not a preferred method of conflict resolution here.
The gameplay loop becomes shooting, stunning, and stealthing past enemies on the way to the summit, on the top of which sits the Marine commander Akainu. Luffy understandably has a bone to pick with the lava-powered Marine fleet admiral and the two square off. The boss fight functions surprisingly similarly to a Metal Gear Solid boss fight with some added melee capabilities, emphasizing Luffy’s ability to sock Akainu in the face with punches before following up with quick and basic combos.
Luffy has access to various types of haki, or energy, that afford him different skills. Observation haki, for example, lets Luffy focus by slowing down time to get previous headshots in while Akainu tries to obfuscate the shots with lava. Bandai Namco told us that eventually Luffy will be able to gain nearly every move he has from the source material as the game progresses.
The fight ends with the two clashing fists, also ending the demo with the same impact. While I definitely would have loved to run around the open world to see whether these similarities to the above-mentioned open world stealth game were merely superficial, the inspirations seem pretty clear already in what I’ve played. The controls could probably stand to be tightened up slightly, but I’m still looking forward to seeing what the full game has to offer.
One Piece: World Seeker is scheduled for release in 2018 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.