Explore the high seas of deep space in a brand new roguelike twin-stick shooter where you play as a monster-slaying bounty hunter.
Blacksea Odyssey is a hybrid of a couple of the most popular indie game genres: twin-stick shooter and roguelike. It also blends in just a hint of a boss rush / monster hunting mechanic that results in a fun but flawed experience. Before you start a run, you select the character and hunting spear you'd like to use. At the beginning, only one character and spear is available but as you play, you'll have the ability to unlock three new characters and more than a dozen additional spears. After character selection, you're given the option to accept one of a few different bounties that are each focused on a massive and powerful space monster that you must hunt down and kill. Once you select your prey, it's time to head off into space and prepare for battle.
Each bounty features about four areas on the map that are filled with smaller enemies. You can choose to fight them in the hope of collecting gold and item drops or you can head straight for the boss monster using your sonar. There are four biomes in total and as you progress, you'll enter the more difficult desert and abyss biomes that feature relentless and unforgiving creatures.
Blacksea Odyssey's controls are decent but the boost can be a little janky at times. You use the right trigger to launch spears at enemies while dodging their attacks and most enemies have multiple limbs or weak spots. After you've done enough damage to them, you can rip them off with your harpoon by holding the L2 button. This is a fun mechanic that makes each battle fresh as you learn whether or not it's worth your effort to try and detach limbs from enemies and bosses. If you're powerful and lucky enough to take down your bounty, you are returned to the bounty selection screen where you can select a new bounty. You can also swing over to the shop and purchase a random selection of items and runes as well as sell any items and runes that you may not want.
Runes play a significant role in Blacksea Odyssey; perhaps too much so. Besides unlocking a few different characters and spears with distinct (but not always better) abilities, the only way to become stronger is by collecting runes. They range from completely worthless to extremely powerful so your success on each run is highly dependent on a random number generator that determines which runes are dropped by enemies and which ones are available to purchase in the store. Because it's a roguelike, of course one single death removes all the runes from your inventory as you start over from the beginning of the game.
A recurring theme here at Video Chums is our criticism of games using roguelike elements like permadeath when they don't necessarily fit the game's model and Blacksea Odyssey is a poster child for that sentiment. I couldn't stop thinking how awesome the game would be if it rewarded you with incremental upgrades as you progressed and conquered new monsters for the first time instead of relying on randomly dropped runes for leveling up your character. There could have even been a weapon crafting system that used the harpoon to rip off monster body parts to craft strong and better permanent weapons with. I would have preferred a grindy but enjoyable game where I felt every run was at least contributing to my progression a bit instead of relying on random loot drops.
However, it's not my job to judge Blacksea Odyssey based on what it could have been. I still fault it for using a roguelike structure that I feel detracts from its strengths like the core gameplay and massive creatures. The creature design is great and I loved running into new bosses, even when they overwhelmed me in seconds. My only regret is that I won't be able to fight them all because I hit a wall at the abyss and I'm just not good or lucky enough to get the right runes to make my way through to the end of the campaign.
Anyway, Blacksea Odyssey is a little buggy at times although a launch patch did help iron out some of the issues. That being said, I still had a glitch happen after the patch where I wasn't allowed to throw spears, rendering me completely dead on arrival. There's also an annoying glitch where you use a boost when you come out of the pause menu if you press X; something that cost me at least one fight against a boss as I unexpectedly zoomed right into his spiked body.
Like many roguelikes, Blacksea Odyssey expects you to be in it for the long haul as you play run after run with minimal to no permanent reward while waiting for that perfect run that blesses you with powerful runes and a favorable boss selection. The addictive core loop held my attention for quite a while thanks to great bosses and fun gameplay but the wall I hit near the latter third of the campaign was just too much for me to justify doing the same thing over and over again just to repeatedly and inevitably fail.
Blacksea Odyssey is a rather challenging game for me to score because it's filled with both wonderful highs and demoralizing lows. Despite my criticisms, I can still safely say that my overall experience with it was mostly positive.
- + Powerful upgrade runes feel amazing when you get them
- + Addictive "just one more run" gameplay
- + Great enemy design, especially bosses
- - Being able to succeed is far too dependent on random rune drops
- - Finicky boost controls
- - A few annoying bugs and glitches