Sea of Solitude tells a personal story about dealing with depression, which is held back by being trapped within the limitations of a video game.
Sea of Solitude is an adventure game that tells a story about mental health issues through the medium of a video game world that is filled with shadows beneath the depths of a flooded city. The only way forward is by following the light of the dimmest of hopes. Sea of Solitude is an artistic game with a story to tell, but the game loses steam when it remembers that it's actually a video game.
Sea of Solitude stars a mysterious girl named Kay, who wakes up in a boat, floating in a nightmarish landscape that resembles a flooded city. Kay cannot remember anything about her past, nor does she know why she resembles a shadowy monster, so she sails into the flooded city in order to learn more about her identity. The player leads Kay as she explores the strange landscape, which is home to nightmarish sea monsters that will devour her if she steps into the water. The most fearsome aspect of the monsters is not their rows of sharp teeth or scarlet eyes, but the fact that they know more about Kay than she does. It's difficult to talk any more about the story of Sea of Solitude without spoilers, especially as the story and the manner in which it is told is the main selling point of the game.
Sea of Solitude opens up with a message from the director of the game, which informs the player that the story deals with issues relating to emotional wellness and mental health. The story of Sea of Solitude deals with some very real issues that people go through every day and the players should be aware of that going in. Sea of Solitude goes into some dark places and it's not the kind of journey that everyone can enjoy.
The most impressive aspect of Sea of Solitude is the visuals. The environments look gorgeous, with the water and the dilapidated buildings giving the player a feeling of existing in a large and imposing place. The environments that appear in later portions of the game (such as a frozen landscape and a massive building that has had pieces torn from it) are equally as impressive. The character models are also outstanding, with the numerous colossal monsters that Kay encounters in her journey stealing the show. The underwater creatures are genuinely unnerving and their horrifying design makes every brief incursion into the water all the more terrifying.
The voice acting in Sea of Solitude is also superb, with the ghostly apparitions and frightening monsters that appear in the world speaking dialogue that is excellently performed. The only potential exception to this is Kay herself, whose accent is reminiscent of the one used by Tommy Wiseau in The Room. The people who haven't seen The Room likely won't have an issue with Kay's voice, but once it has been heard it cannot be unheard.
The gameplay of Sea of Solitude involves Kay exploring the landscape, which usually involves firing a flare into the air that marks the location where she is supposed to travel to. The game has some interesting challenges and puzzle design for a good portion of the story, such as needing to traverse the city without staying in the water for too long (as there are monsters lurking nearby) or needing to lure shadowy children into circles of light in order to bypass them. The city landscape might seem as if it can be fully explored, but it's actually broken up into smaller sections that the player needs to visit in order, as they slowly uncover the details of Kay's past.
Sea of Solitude loses steam in regards to combining gameplay with story during the final portion of the game, as most of the video game elements fade away and the player must run between conversations and inner monologues. It's a shame that Sea of Solitude couldn't maintain its focus on combining gameplay and story together in an interesting way until the very end, but it still can successfully hook the player in and hold interest throughout most of the game.
Sea of Solitude is a very short experience and barely lasts over two hours, even though there are collectibles to find in the form of bottles with hidden messages and seagulls that need scaring off which can pad out the runtime for the completionists. There are a lot of gamers who want as much value for money out of their games as possible and almost twenty dollars is a lot for a game that is this short. It will be up to each player to determine whether the price of Sea of Solitude is worth it at launch and it's best recommended for people who appreciate games for their story over everything else.
Sea of Solitude offers a short and deeply personal journey for those who are willing to sail over some incredibly dark waters. Sea of Solitude definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea, but those who enjoy video games for their artistic value and their story will find a lot to love in this game.
Sea of Solitude is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A digital copy was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.