Sea of Solitude was first announced by Berlin-based studio Joi-Mei Games back in 2015, it was picked up my EA as part of their originals program. It’s an adventure-based third-person game that follows Kay, on a journey of loneliness and sadness as she confronts her mental health issues head-on.
This story-driven game is based around Kay who is completely consumed by her sadness, which has turned her into a red-eyed monster, travelling around a submerged version of Berlin, you discover she is surrounded by monsters that look just like her. Some are dangerous, some docile.
A lot of the game is played from the safety of the boat and the partially-submerged buildings of Berlin, which stops the game from becoming stagnant. There are times when you are forced into the water where the dangerous monster lurks and it is genuinely so scary and tense, but you also get the sense of overcoming fear when you are forced to do this. Aside from this, the game isn’t really that much of a challenge, there was one moment that was genuinely so frustratingly annoying and it didn’t really match the rest of the gameplay, but looking at it in the context of the story it did make more sense.
The story was a very personal exploration of mental health issues and I can’t commend the developers enough for this, it is such a brave thing to do. However, there were times when the dialogue felt a little bit clunky and heavy-handed and there was too much inner dialogue. I think this would have been perfectly fine if it was written better, but it felt at times that Kay was talking just for the sake of it.
The way you work through these issues is very interesting using multiple visual metaphors that work so well and this is why I think the amount of inner dialogue was a little unnecessary because the visuals worked so well to get the message across.
The visuals themselves are stunning, the entire game has a wonderful dream-like feel, helped by the cel-shaded style of animation and the amazing use of light. The light would change the tone of the game, when it was bright, you would feel completely safe, but as soon as it went, the game actually felt sinister and at times, scary. You almost feel as if you are drowning in darkness at one point in the game, only to find the slightest glimmer of light that guides you to safety.
Sea of Solitude was a gorgeous journey through a very personal struggle, at times it’s relatable, but sometimes the dialogue has a clunky quality that detracts from the rawness; yet the stunning visuals and the overall message about dealing with mental health issues outshines this.