One Piece is a show I’m familiar enough with, without ever watching the show. I’m a fan of the animation, the unique characters, and Luffy’s transformations, but I never dove in due to the sheer number of episodes. We’ve gotten a ton of anime brawlers from Bandai Namco, so when the open world One Piece World Seeker was announced, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
One Piece World Seeker begins on Prison Island, ruled over by the prison’s warden, Isaac. When their adventure goes awry, the group becomes split up, and the first half of the game ends up being about Luffy looking for his crew. There are plenty of familiar faces throughout, which mostly end up being boss fights sprinkled in while taking down navy and pirates. While these moments of recognition between Luffy and enemies ends up providing some great comedic moments, the real heart of One Piece World Seeker lies in the relationship between the anti-navy Jeanne, a new character that has never appeared in the manga or show, and Luffy.
Missions end up being pretty standard open world fare. Defeating enemies, finding characters, and collecting items. The main missions have some meat on them, but the side missions are where One Piece World Seeker really falters. The side missions are comparable to filler episodes in any anime. They don’t reward much other than experience, and it’s still light on that. By the time I had finished 50+ side quests, I had spent most of that time just running back and forth. Fast travel quickly became my best friend early on, because I didn’t have many exploration skills or battle skills. The side missions here are pretty banal, and don’t really add much to the core game other than playtime.
One thing One Piece World Seeker really nails is its actualization of the world. Unlike Jump Force, where Spike Chunsoft took some real liberties with the aesthetics, World Seeker feels like I’ve stepped into an episode of the show. The world is vibrant and the characters are colorful. Most of the environments feel similar though, with a few exceptions like a deep mine to explore, or a sprawling city. The story missions provide some variation with unique locations that players will only visit once, but with such a big world, some extra variety would be nice. For an all-new story, developers could have taken some liberties with what they wanted to create, so exploring the same location eventually gets stale.
This becomes doubly frustrating when the terrible side missions require players to explore the same areas over and over to find a different item point in the countryside. However you feel about fetch quests, the other glaring issue with One Piece World Seeker stays true across all main missions of the campaign as well. Directions are always explicit about what needs done, but not always about how or where to go about it. The world is pretty big, and one side mission directed me to find a specific character, but the location radius took up three quarters of the map. With how much there is to explore in each area, even on the some of the smaller circles I eventually looked up the location of something after spending an hour looking for it.
Something that Jump Force did that I really liked was having Japanese voice overs with an English dub. It’s generally how I watch anime, and it makes a return here. There wasn’t a way for me to switch languages (I checked for the purposes of this review) at launch, but I’m not sure if it’s planned to be added later. Unfortunately, after hearing the same battle intro it’s easy to get annoyed. Additionally, there’s also plenty of reading that needs done that isn’t animated in game, which is something I still can’t get used to in 2019. Maybe I’m just spoiled, but it feels jarring to switch from animated cutscenes to reading plot points mid scene.
Throughout the entirety of One Piece World Seeker, combat remains pretty repetitive. Things open up a little bit once players unlock the armament haki ability, allowing them to switch from quick, light attacks, to slower heavy attacks. Progression and unlocks is the name of the game here, and getting further into the story means more abilities become available through a skill tree. It takes a while of battling mindless enemies to earn any meaningful upgrades, especially if you focus on the exploration skills first (and you should.)
It seems like an easy choice to upgrade attack skills first, but with the amount of exploration require in One Piece World Seeker, it would be the wrong call. Exploration abilities like Gum Gum Rocket make dashing around the world way easier and more interesting, even if the tasks players are undertaking aren’t very fun. It’s unimportant, but as a side note, why does it take 10+ seconds to open a treasure chest? Early on, players will spend more time holding triangle or Y to open a chest than collecting items off the ground. And why is quicker unlocking of chests an upgradable option. Seems like a waste of a skill tree point, instead of just reducing the unlock time and adding another ability.
Despite relatively repetitive gameplay, there’s a lot of fun to be had in One Piece World Seeker. Players invested in the story of the Straw Hat gang will find a bit more to love, with an all-new story to eat up, but I’m happy with the new direction anime games might be taking. We’ve seen plenty of brawlers, but very few open world adventure games in recent times. While World Seeker falters in some aspects, great exploration and realization of the world provide for an enjoyable time for One Piece and anime fans alike.
One Piece World Seeker is available now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on an Xbox One copy of the game provided by the publisher. Purchases are available here.