Deadliest Catch: Sea of Chaos is one of the most boring experiences I've had with a video game in quite some time. It's not that the game is particularly broken or doesn't work as intended; it's just that the gameplay is so bland, uninspired and repetitive that it kills any excitement that's found in the show on which it's based. I've watched a few seasons of "Deadliest Catch," and I definitely think it's a great show. Who would have thought a series based on fishermen hunting king crab every season could be filled with tense drama and action? The developers of this game apparently didn't get the memo because there's no action or drama in Sea of Chaos.
Sea of Chaos is little more than a collection of five minigames that you'll repeat over and over again throughout the course of the extremely long campaign. The repetitive nature of these minigame events is compounded by some really long load times that crop up as soon as you finish one section of an event. There's no option for an install, mandatory or otherwise, that would speed up the process. Getting through one campaign beyond the tutorial is an extreme chore, and I doubt that many players will put up with the shortcomings of this poorly designed title in order to see things through to the end.
In Sea of Chaos, Campaign is the main mode. You'll buy a boat, hire a crew and set pots (big wire baskets) in the ocean to retrieve large amounts of king or snow crab, depending on the season. Once these pots are set, you'll need to wait up to 48 hours to retrieve them, and then you'll want to sort out the good from the bad, load them up, and bring them back to dock to offload and get paid. The premise is about the same as the one featured in the show, but that's about it.
For one thing, there's no real interaction between the captain and crew. You're labeled as the captain, primarily because you'll be responsible for the way things run. You'll hire up to five different crew members, all of which are featured as real people found in the different seasons of the show. Each crew member comes with different stats, offering up strengths and weaknesses in areas like setting pots, retrieving pots, sorting, offloading, and so on. There are five markers for each skill, and the more you use a particular character for one skill, the more experience he'll earn, in turn giving him the ability to level up that skill.
However, there's no interaction between you and these characters outside of the menu screen. There's nothing in the way of dialogue, and the only thing you'll see is the occasional pop-up, wherein you might impart some knowledge to a crew member to allow them an early level up. They'll never get mad with your decision, quit, or send some praise your way. The lack of interesting interaction undermines much of the dramatic elements that make "Deadliest Catch" such a popular television show.
Once you've purchased a boat and hired crew, it's time to start on your mission, which involves performing the same five tasks over and over again to get the most money or come out on top of the rankings in comparison to AI-controlled captains within the same season. If you've watched the show, the Bering Sea is prone to violent storms, huge waves and freezing temperatures. None of that factors in here, though. The first thing you do is set pots at different pre-selected locations that are spread out across a map. You pick a marker, your ship automatically moves there, and then you start the first minigame event. You navigate your boat to different highlighted spots, where you need to drop a pot for a later pick-up.
The ship is difficult to steer with the Dual Shock controller, but this seems somewhat appropriate because the ship should be tough to control in real life. You have a meter at the bottom of the screen that shows which direction the rudder is pointing, so instead of just turning when you push left or right on the analog stick, you'll tap it left or right to give it more turn, but you need to manually center the boat afterward. It takes a bit to get used to, but it's not as difficult as it seems. The inclement weather is also not a factor; you'll never capsize or be in any immediate danger, so you can certainly take your time to do things right. The only downside to going slow is that you eat away in-game hours, and time is always money within the game.
Once the pots are set in a particular location, it's time to move on to the next spot and repeat the same step. While your ship can hold a number of pots, the max you can drop in one spot is 50, so you'll need to visit at least two or three locations to offload everything. Once that's done, you need to wait up to 48 hours to get the prime amount of crab. Retrieving pots earlier or later than this point can lead to disappointing results. This also leads to some in-game downtime, which can thankfully be sped up by using the rest option, which also gives your crew members time to regain their stamina.
Once the time has passed, you retrieve the pots, and that brings us the second minigame. You get a slightly overhead view of the side of your boat, where a crew member tosses a hook overboard to snag the pots at sea. The spot has been marked by colored buoys, but the challenge is that other buoys are also present, and you don't want to snag those because they belong to other captains. It would also slow down your progress. It's really just a matter of getting the timing down, and it's pretty tough to screw this up. It's also the only minigame where the weather kind of comes into play because the waves can occasionally obscure your buoy. Once you've finished this event, you go right into sorting.
Sorting is exactly what it sounds like, and you get a top-down first-person view of a sorting tray in which where your catch is dropped, and you need to sort out the large king crab from the barnacle-encrusted crab, fish and small crab that get mixed in. You do this by guiding a hand cursor over the crab you want to pick up, tapping a button, and using the analog stick to either toss it right to keep, or left to throw back. Once again, this is a pretty easy game, and it's really hard to mess up. If you realize there's a consistent lack of skill needed to complete these minigames, you're starting to catch on to what makes this game so frustratingly repetitive. The lack of challenge makes everything more boring, and this continues into the next minigame.
Once this is done, you repeat these steps at the other locations you've gone to, and once your hull is full of crab, you'll want to go back to the docks to offload. This is where you also collect your pay, which is then divided up among your crew members (paid according to their experience), and you also need to refill on gas and make any necessary repairs. Three different sections of the boat wear out after time, and you can restore them.
Once you're ready to offload, you come to the fourth minigame, which involves you tossing crab into a loading basket while trying to avoid a large hook that swings back and forth in front of the basket. Once you've figured out the timing, it's really another very easy minigame to complete, and you'll quickly make very few errors here, even if the skill level of your selected crew member isn't particularly high. Why is there a large hook swinging in front of the basket that I clearly need to use? It's a very arbitrary element that's placed there to add some challenge to the event, and it doesn't make a lick of sense in the context of the game.
That's pretty much everything offered by Sea of Chaos. There are five mini-game events, with the fifth one being a repair event where you chain together wires to make temporary repairs on your boat until you get back to dock for a full repair. It's another very simple game, and it doesn't add to the already lackluster excitement level. When I say this is all you'll do in Sea of Chaos, I'm not exaggerating. The different campaigns have different goals in order to win, but to achieve those goals, you'll go through the same five minigames over and over again, and as the campaigns advance, the minigames become longer and more drawn out, and that, in turn, exacerbates the overall feeling of boredom.
Although Deadliest Catch: Sea of Chaos offers support for the Sony Move controller, I highly urge you to not bother with it. Using the Move controller makes the events more difficult, but only because of the lack of precision. It feels like the support was tacked on as an afterthought because it's way more precise to use the Dual Shock for every event. Even if you're hard up for new Move-controlled games (in which case you should be perusing PSN), avoid the temptation to give this title a shot. Deadliest Catch: Sea of Chaos is beyond disappointing, and it's one of the most boring titles I've had the displeasure to play this year.
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