We've played the series' turn-based RPG for a few hours and we'll tell you how we feel about it.
I admit that when I started playing One Piece Odyssey I did so with a lot of reservations. The previous adventure I played featuring the Straw Hat gang (or the Mugiwaras, as they are also known) was One Piece: World Seeker. A game that while interesting in its approach to island exploration, was ultimately dissolved in seawater due to its mediocre story and focusing all its attention on the character of Luffy.
It's not that the captain of the gang is a bad character (personally I think he's one of the best) but the richness of the adventure in search of the One Piece, the legendary treasure, would not be possible without the other nine companions of the gang and without the road they continue to travel together. Luckily, Odyssey has learned its lessons and moves away from the action of World Seeker, to instead focus on turn-based combat and the story. Just what the fans have asked for.
One Piece Odyssey introduces us to an original adventure where Monkey D. Luffy and his friends explore a mysterious island called Waford. Due to their hasty arrival on the island, their ship, the Thousand Sunny, is severely damaged and shipwrecked on its shore. To make matters worse, shortly after arriving, the gang is struck by a mysterious ability that causes them to lose all their combat skills and abilities, making the group vulnerable to any threat, no matter how small.
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As soon as they arrive on the island, they meet two new characters (created by Oda-san for the adventure) named Adio and Lim. Both are suspicious of the Mugiwaras' pirate status, but it seems that at least some of this softens when they see their intentions. In fact, the start of the adventure through Waford is about recovering a small part of the gang's abilities, and to do so we have to form a team of four members who will be the headliners for exploration and combat.
One Piece Odyssey is a classic-style turn-based JRPG, which means there will be a lot of combat, though for the most part it will be fairly similar. We'll have four active gang members and each of them will have a different set of combat abilities depending on their training or the Devil Fruit power they possess.
Waford Island is a rich and detailed natural environment, with jungles, deserts, beaches and caves everywhere. You can tell that ILCA has raised the bar here in terms of the animations and cinematic scenes through which the game narrates the adventure. Similarly, the gang now progresses as a group and that means we can use their special abilities to reach places or objects that would otherwise be inaccessible. For example, Luffy can use his rubber powers to grab onto distant ledges and get around obstacles, but it will have to be Chopper who accesses new areas if the tunnel connecting them is too low or narrow. Zoro can slash open metal doors, and Sanji's ability to find ingredients and items can be vital if we need a list of specific items. The character design, the original voices from the anime and the same sense of humour. All of these elements are what make the title stand up, and from the first few hours I've been able to play, it looks like it won't disappoint.
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While the views are beautiful, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to visit, the movement of the main character feels a little slow and clunky. Sure, these walks are also where the dialogue between characters takes place, but when you're walking through a cave and jumping between obstacles it's pretty hopeless to wait for the same animation of climbing or bending down to pick up the countless objects and ingredients that appear shining on the ground like points of light. It's perhaps the weakest point of the game I've seen, as the rest of the limitations seem to be ironed out as part of the story progression in which we're reminded of the gang's previous adventures, such as the well-known Arabasta and Water 7 sagas.
I was able to try three different moments of the adventure (with characters at level 1, level 16 and level 40) and the combat became enriched at an exponential rate as the hours of the game went by. There is a base attack that serves to recharge the TP points that we can then spend on the next turn to perform skills. And as for these, they are very well animated, but you have to make sure that the opponents don't have any strengths or statuses that reduce the damage.
Odyssey is based on a rock-paper-scissors system but substitutes each one for Power, Speed or Technique. At the beginning, when you have few skills, combat can be a bit stressful, but as soon as you recover your lost skills the difficulty plummets. It's a very simple system so that it doesn't hinder the enjoyment of the story for any fan of Oda's work, regardless of whether they like the RPG genre or not. Still, anyone looking for the extra challenge can try to meet some victory conditions (such as preventing a party member from becoming weak or defeating an enemy in less than X turns).
All in all, there is every reason to look forward to One Piece on 13 January. It remains to be seen whether or not the combat and limited moves take their toll, but it looks like Luffy and his friends will embark on an adventure that lives up to their name this time around.