Back when video gaming was in its infancy, shoot ‘em ups were all the rage. From Space Invaders to Galaga, they dominated the market and gobbled up everyone’s pennies at the arcades. In recent times, however, they’ve fallen away and first person shooters and role playing games have become more prominent and getting your hands on a decent shmup has become rather challenging. Those that have arrived have been far more of a bullet-hell experience, which, if you’ve read my Undertale review, you’ll know that I’m not a big fan on.
Blacksea Odyssey, an indie title developed by a team of the same name, is a bit more of a throwback to the older type of shoot ‘em ups, with some newer themes thrown in to appeal to a wider audience. Still in early access, the game is an interesting take on the genre. Where many are space-based, this one is actually sea based, with your foes being various creatures you’d find underwater. It’s a decent concept and feels really refreshing, as playing endless spacey shooters can get tiresome after a little while. It chucks in some RPG and loot-based elements as well, giving a few extra strings to its bow.
Most of the older types of shoot ‘em ups automatically scrolled to ensure constant progression, but in Blacksea, you’re able to dictate where you roam, and with procedurally generated environments, that can be incredibly fun to explore. Not knowing what lurks around every corner adds a little tension, especially after you’ve made the mistake of running headfirst into a group of powerful enemies! It does add a lot of replayability knowing that you’ll be able to try an entirely different level each time you play a new level.
Having a variety of moves can make a game all the more enjoyable to play, and while you’re not given too many attacks, you do have two different ways to deal damage to the enemy straight off the bat. The first one is just your standard firing of bullets, but the second attack is much more interesting – a harpoon attack that latches on to the enemy and, once enough damage has been done, allows players to rip off the limb of the opponent. It’s brutal, bloody and phenomenally fun to do, especially if you’ve been hanging on to an enemy for a prolonged period.
One issue I found with the procedurally generated levels, is that it is possible to be wandering around for a fairly significant period of time before actually bumping into anyone. I appreciate it’s still early access and there isn’t all that much to the game yet – most players being able to complete the game in well under an hour – but padding the game out with a lack of enemies is a pretty crap way to go about things, and definitely not one I’m a fan of. I’d much rather sit and grind than wonder if I’m even doing the right thing.
The length of the game is definitely another issue that may irk players. As I stated, it’s over pretty quickly, and while there are promises of a full roster of characters, upgrades to your arsenal and additional levels, they currently sit in a tantalising “TBA” state ingame. It is really nice to see the roadmap for the game, and what I can expect over the coming months, but it’s not exactly fun when 90% of the game or so is not available.
I seem to be saying this a lot with early access games – but Blacksea Odyssey shows a lot of potential. The downside is that it doesn’t currently have a whole lot to lure players in to buy it – at least, not in its current state. I can’t wait for when more gets added to the game, and I’m always keeping an eye out for more updates to download through my Steam client, but until the game is more fleshed out, it’s just not worth it right now. There are some very promising features, an excellent combat system and really well integrated RPG themes, but it’s just so shallow that it won’t take long to see it all. One to definitely keep an eye on for all shmup lovers, though!