One Piece: World Seeker was originally announced in 2017 as the next big step for the One Piece video game franchise.
It would have an open world, with players controlling series protagonist Luffy on a large, fully explorable island for the first time ever – an ambitious undertaking and dramatic change to say the least. Yet in September, Bandai Namco would announce that the game was delayed until 2019 so that World Seeker could be further polished. Having played a short 15-minute demo at Tokyo Game Show 2018, it’s clear that this was a smart decision.
The game is developed by Gambarion, who has a long history of developing One Piece titles, including One Piece Grand Battle! and most recently One Piece: Unlimited World RED. It’s due to that long history that Bandai Namco partnered with them for World Seeker, though this is the first time that the studio has worked on an open world game like this.
Set on Jewel Island, a location developed specifically for the game, World Seeker opens with Luffy escaping from a floating prison called Sky Island with the help of the Straw Hat crew. It’s here that the two major new characters are introduced, Jeanne and Isaac. Jeanne is the leader of the Anti-Navy faction on the island, one of the two major forces fighting for control. On the other side is Isaac, the warden of the aforementioned prison who uses a robotic suit to fight.
Through it all, I was impressed with how well World Seeker looked. The colours are striking, even more so than past One Piece games, and the characters pop in each and every scene they’re in. Isaac also has a strong design running through his appearance, with his medieval knight styled suit setting him apart from any of the villains in One Piece’s past. I would have liked to have seen more of him, but the trailer I viewed was short.
As strong as the trailers looked, I can’t say the same for the gameplay itself. Most of my time was centred on a short slice of gameplay which features Luffy scaling a mountain, defeating a few dozen enemies before confronting Akainu at the top. A simple objective, and one that demonstrated how Luffy would fight. For the most part, I faced one or two enemies at a time, either defeating ranged units with a handful of punches or executing a small combo on a melee unit with little fanfare. There’s also a stealth component to the mix, where Luffy hides in a barrel in order to sneak up on enemies and defeat them with a button prompt. The abilities themselves are varied, but I felt that they lacked power. At the very least, the Pacifista units that are summoned if you attract too much attention are a much more challenging, and much engaging, enemy to fight.
At the top of the mountain is Luffy’s longtime nemesis Akainu, who begin to fight without restraint after some banter. The fight showcases Luffy’s powerful special moves, which include Observation Haki, which lets him slow down time to dodge attacks, and his signature Gomu Gomu no Red Hawk that deals massive amounts of damage. The boss fight is much more interesting than the trip up the mountain, but it does bring to the forefront one of World Seekers biggest problems: The lack of a lock-on button. Instead, you are forced to position Luffy and move the camera with every attack, which is a chore. It’s one of the things that caused Bandai Namco to delay the game, and it’s a feature that is sorely needed.
Bandai Namco has said that World Seeker is geared towards longtime fans of the franchise. As someone who’s read every chapter of the manga and watched nearly every episode of the anime, World Seeker does have a special spark that, even in its unpolished state, makes it stand out from the usual batch of One Piece licensed games. 2019 is only a few months away, and I look forward to playing the hopefully improved full game when it launches on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC sometime that year.