Review: Blacksea Odyssey
I think many people would argue that the message of Moby Dick is that you should never let your quest for vengeance consume you, but I like to think one of its other messages is that killing large aquatic animals is really bad-ass. Blacksea Odyssey lets you do just that: it puts you in the shoes of a bounty hunter in a strange world who has to take on a number of very, very large creatures from the black depths armed with spears, harpoons, bombs, and a desire to kill anything that swims.
The game is a fairly barebones roguelike, and each level is one of your ‘bounties’. You swim about using sonar to locate and kill various underwater abominations, and you eventually run into the bounty (basically the boss in that level) and take him down in a lengthy battle. Blacksea’s monsters are pretty big, and their health bars are wider than the sea they inhabit, so it’ll take some doing to avoid their attacks and wear them down. Of course, you have one edge: your harpoon. The game’s central mechanic is a harpoon that you can use to hook various appendages – tongues, fins, limbs and even eyes at some point – and rip them right off a creature.
I actually didn’t know how to use this mechanic at first, and it ended up making the fights much longer and more arduous. I’d recommend a brief trip to the tutorial section to get acquainted with how fish dismemberment works in the game. The long and short of it is that you charge up your harpoon shot and hook the part of the creature that you want to remove. After wearing it down with spears, the part starts glowing red (and flashing text that reads ‘rip it’ in sadistic red letters) and you can hit the harpoon button (right mouse by default) to rip the part right off the bugger. Once I learned the ins and outs of harpooning, I jumped back into the briny deep and I started carefully dodging projectiles while charging up a harpoon shot that would be used to rid a hideous, violent sea creature of one of its bits. The game’s boss fights end up being fairly engrossing as a result, as you’ll find yourself focusing in order to land a harpoon shot and wearing the creature’s health down enough to rip a part of it right off.
Thanks to the game’s creative design, these monsters from the black sea have no shortage of stuff to tear off, and it’s up to you to figure out how to pull the creature apart piece by piece and get your sweet bounty. Later boss fights hinge on the harpoon mechanic, as the monsters will really just have one or two weak points that you can actually attack.
In typical dungeon-crawling fashion, the game has various powerups that help you move faster and hit harder. You can unlock chests to equip items or pick them up from shops in between bounties. These don’t end up changing the playstyle that much; they just give you some useful items and buffs (such as cooldown reduction). Your game changes around more when you get new characters and weapons, as these can help you figure out if you want to spray and pray or go for slower, more deliberate shots on target. One irritating thing about collecting powerups in the game is that you have to move directly into a powerup to collect it, otherwise it just stays there. Considering how much of this one typically does in a roguelike, it seems like they could have refined it a bit more.
On the whole, the game is pretty basic visually, with the exception of the very creative monster designs. Levels are pretty much bits of coral reef strewn about with monsters in various spots, and you have a sonar device that helps you find enemies and eventually locate the bounties. The game has pretty simple music, but it does help create an atmosphere. It’s pretty typical in-game music when you’re exploring the level, but once you find the bounty it turns more frenetic. Really, the bounties are the centerpiece of the game, as they’re the longer and more complex fights that you’ll end up getting into.
Ultimately, I found Blacksea Odyssey to be a fun, if simple roguelike with some very creative bosses and boss fights. If you enjoy challenging roguelikes, pick up a spear and start hunting.
Blacksea Odyssey was reviewed using a PC downloadable code of the game provided by Blacksea Odyssey Studio. The PC version was tested by Mazen Abdallah on a PC running Windows 7 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 8GB of RAM. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• Lots of variety in enemies
• Fun gameplay
• Creative boss fights
• Energetic soundtrack
• Levels are too simple
• Bosses can take a really long time to kill
• Visuals are pretty simple