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Blacksea Odyssey

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Shoot-'Em-Up
Publisher: Mastertronic
Developer: Team Blacksea Odyssey
Release Date: June 1, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Blacksea Odyssey'

by Brian Dumlao on March 15, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Enter the Blacksea Odyssey, a top-down shoot-'em-up. In a game that's brimming with colossal creatures, players explore dangerous spacescapes as they hunt with a harpoon and rune-infused spears.

Blacksea Odyssey is a very loose interpretation of Moby Dick in space, since to the participants are nautical entities and have weapons that are referred to as harpoons and spears. Once a decade, a tournament is held in deep space, and the best hunters in the universe compete. Instead of fighting one another, they fight other creatures in space and amass treasure along the way. All of this is done so they get the right to hunt down the Titan of the Stars, a creature that's so massive and terrifying that it is thought to be a legend.

Presented as a top-down, twin-stick shooter, Blacksea Odyssey is more of a roguelike due to its characteristics. You start by choosing a character with set stats and an assortment of weapons. For now, this means that the Old Man is your only choice, and he has a harpoon that restores a little bit of your health between rounds. From there, you select a bounty for your round, with the highlighted creature varying in stats and reward money. Keep in mind that while a lower-paying bounty may be easier to kill, it might also mean that other competitors get a chance at higher bounties and can take a higher placement on the leaderboard by the next round. Once all of that is selected, you're off to hunt your prey.

There's a risk/reward system in play whenever you enter an area. Realistically, you only need to hunt down the main creature to leave the area. However, you get benefits for going after other creatures as well. Most of that comes in the form of gold, which is then used between rounds in the store to buy temporary and permanent upgrades to your weapons and craft. However, some of the creatures may also drop keys that can open various treasure chests throughout the area. Since the loot in the chests is often more powerful than what you'll find in the shops, it's more enticing to risk your life for better advantages later on.

One thing you'll immediately notice is that the game is tough. Though enemies are only alerted to your presence when you enter their zones, they immediately swarm at you once you get there. It takes several shots for the weakest of enemies to go down, and with so many on top of you at one time, it's difficult to get out of a battle without incurring much damage. The bosses are even more difficult since their bodies are mostly covered in armor and other enemies help them out. As such, getting past the first round can be a challenge in and of itself, even if you go after the weakest boss.

If there is one thing that makes Blacksea Odyssey appealing, it would be the harpoon. Using it on any creature damages them if you use it as your first shot. Once you weaken a limb or other body part with enough spear shots, you'll see that part blink. After you hit a blinking part of a creature with your harpoon, you can rip it out of them to either heavily damage the creature or outright kill it. You can still kill any creature by throwing as many spears as possible at their vulnerable spots, and the harpoon isn't the easiest thing to use since it needs to be charged up. Still, being able to pull off that move is a thrill that you'll want to try and replicate at every opportunity.

The game is currently accessible as an Early Access title, and it definitely shows. For some reason, in the default options for sound, the sound effects are off. Visually, there are some collision detection issues, so you'll see spears sticking to the outside of a creature. When you use a controller, the game can suddenly lose the cursor, which is essential since controller support isn't fully implemented yet. Then there are things like balancing, which is essential for any roguelike to feel a tad fair to the player. Luckily, updates seem to go out weekly, with the developers going so far as to put themselves on Twitch to show their progress.

At the moment, Blacksea Odyssey shows promise. The premise is interesting, and the roguelike elements seem to match well with the twin-stick shooting. It may be buggy at the moment, but the harpoon mechanic is enough of a reason to stick with it, if you don't mind playing stuff this early and in this state. In the meantime, keep an eye out on Blacksea Odyssey's progress as it nears its summer 2016 release date.

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