Fact: I know very little about the world of One Piece. Despite this problem, I absolutely adore One Piece: World Seeker, an open-world action RPG that drops you into the middle of the One Piece universe without so much as an introduction. And I’m okay with that, as World Seeker offers up so much fun that you don’t really need to know anything about the franchise beforehand. Sure, familiarity will probably help you understand the bizarre relationships among the Straw Hat Pirates, but the game provides just enough information to get you from Point A to Point B without any serious game-breaking confusion. Of course, World Seeker was no doubt developed for fans of the series, and people who know the ins and outs of One Piece will likely enjoy it the most. That said, the game still manages to stand on its own strange little feet, allowing newcomers to explore this wacky universe without sacrificing gameplay in the process.
World Seeker kicks off inside an intimidating locale known as the Sky Prison, but you won’t spend too long in that area. After a bit of helpful exposition, our hero Monkey D. Luffy — a dramatic, bug-eyed butt-kicker who takes on countless foes in shorts and an open shirt — falls from this floating penitentiary and onto an island nation ruled by the Navy, where he soon meets up with a desperate young lady named Jeanne. The Navy has taken complete control of the island, transforming it from a delightful tropical paradise into an Orwellian nightmare, a place where the rich stay rich, the poor remain poor, and those in charge oversee every aspect of the citizen’s lives. This occupation, of course, inevitably lead to the creation of an anti-Navy faction that seeks to give their oppressive leaders the proverbial boot. Jeanne and her like-minded cohorts, it seems, spend a lot of time trying to make this long-standing dream a reality.
Enter Straw Hat Luffy, who embarks on a perilous mission to locate the missing members of his crew and, seemingly, assist anyone who happens to have a problem. And once everyone safely returns to their boat, the Thousand Sunny, they agree to help Jeanne defeat the Warden and the Navy, both of whom never hesitate to give Luffy and his fellow Straw Hat crew members a very difficult time. Along the way, Luffy and the gang face several interesting plot twists, a few big reveals, and enough genuine intrigue to give the story some weight. It may look like a game that doesn’t have a tale worthy of two paragraphs, but World Seeker surprised me with its ability to weave an engrossing narrative.
Although that sounds impossibly heavy, One Piece: World Seeker balances that drama with an abundance of colorful locations, several goofy characters (including one who doesn’t hesitate to ask for panties), and an open world that’s as beautiful as it is dangerous. Again, understanding the specifics of the One Piece universe will definitely help fill in backstories and what-not, but you don’t need to be a One Piece scholar to enjoy World Seeker. A tricky feat, for sure, as other developers have tried and failed to games based on animes and mangas accessible to people who just want to run around and beat up bandits, pirates, and other nefarious evildoers. If nothing else, World Seeker has inspired me to check out the source material, which says a lot since I’m definitely not the world’s biggest anime/manga fan.
Minutes after you started a new game, you take control of Luffy and his many unique ass-kicking abilities. Throughout the game, you’ll encounter small mobs of dangerous villains, all of whom want to shoot, stab, or maim you in some way. And, for the most part, these fellas do a fine job of creating a potentially deadly atmosphere, especially during the early parts of the game. Thankfully, Luffy has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, including the ability to extend his arms across great distances, allowing you to pummel multiple enemies after an unexpected bum rush. Completing quests and tons of side quests will grant you points you can spend on numerous powers and abilities, increased health, and other means of turning Luffy into an unstoppable powerhouse. After a while, however, combat can feel a little overpowered, but these powers come in handy when you’re up against several crack-shot snipers or a supercharged boss.
Luffy’s rubbery arms also come in handy when exploring the different areas sprinkled around World Seeker’s map. Steel Town provides the most opportunities to use Luffy’s unique mode of transportation, though it comes in handy everywhere. See that ledge above you? Our hero can stretch his arms to grab it and pull you up. However, don’t go into One Piece expecting Spider-Man or Just Cause 4 levels of traversal; World Seeker’s take on “web-slinging” doesn’t provide that kind of unrestrained freedom, but you won’t have any trouble reaching new heights using Luffy’s abilities. And despite its inherent limitations, the mechanic provides an almost limitless amount of fun; the amount of time I spent gleefully leaping from one ledge to the next might seem hideously excessive to most people.
In addition to the abundance of story quests you’ll encounter, One Piece: World Seeker dumps a ton of side quests in your lap — and I mean a ton of side quests — and I did my best to consume each and every one of them. It didn’t matter if the quest involved simply grabbing a few ingredients located somewhere on the map — I gladly devoured anything with a blue exclamation point. Some of these missions provided a little insight into members of the Straw Hat crew, which helped quite a bit considering I don’t know anything about them. However, with a few notable exceptions, these side quests mostly ask you to fetch items and ingredients in exchange for recipes and gear, so they’re worth your time if you don’t mind their repetitive nature. I’m a side quester, so I loved them all.
Although the game offers a fairly large map to explore however you like, World Seeker doesn’t offer many reasons to do so, outside of collecting ingredients and opening chests. For the most part, the world feels pretty empty, populated only by bandits, Navy combatants, and other foes. Even the towns don’t have much life outside of a few wandering NPCs and a handful of characters that offer one or two lines of dialogue. A damn shame, really, as One Piece’s world looks fantastic and practically begs for you to explore every hillside, mountain range, and cityscape. Unless you happen to love collecting respawning ingredients or running through fields without anything else on your mind, World Seeker’s attractive island doesn’t give you many reasons to do so outside of missions. In fact, I spent most of the time fast traveling between locations because I couldn’t find anything interesting to do between destinations, which sucks.
My time with One Piece: World Seeker ranks among the best I’ve had in a game this year. Despite my overall ignorance about the source material, I had no problem developing an affinity for the Straw Hat crew and the characters they encounter over the course of the campaign. Since I’m not familiar with the manga or anime, I don’t know how this game will resonate with long-time and diehard fans, who could take one look at World Seeker and discover a plethora of problems that wouldn’t register on my radar. However, as a standalone game, it provides just enough context to allow newcomers to enjoy Luffy’s shenanigans without feeling totally disconnected from the story. And while the open world doesn’t give you a lot to do besides embarking on a never-ending hunt for ingredients, it still acts as a colorful playground for countless skirmishes. It’s a shame, then, that One Piece: World Seeker arrives during such a busy release schedule, as it deserves far more attention than it may ultimately receive. If you need a lightweight open-world brawler in-between the larger AAA titles, World Seeker has you covered.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game. A review copy was provided to us by Bandai Namco Entertainment America.
Even if you don't know anything about the manga or anime, One Piece: World Seeker will dazzle your mind with its colorful world and satisfy your need to bash some skulls with its addictive combat. In other words, it's a great time.