It was a warm February in Florida. Our three days of harsh mid-50 degree winter days long gone. To my left, half my kids were busy making sand castles. To my right, the older kids who were “too cool” for sand castles were just prancing around dabbing and flinging handfuls of sand at each other. A typical Sunday afternoon, but my mind was light years away.
I stared down at my vintage Atari Pitfall sandals, a dune of beige sand hiding my toes. Something’s missing, I thought to myself. I fidgeted, and when I fidget I tend to make others nervous.
My wife smiled, handed me a glistening beer, a sliced lime quarter placed in the neck.
“I don’t know babe, something’s off. I mean I’m here, I’m having a great time. But..” I looked down again, I’m pretty sure a hermit crab crawled into my shorts. I shrugged, ignoring the sharp pinpoint pain originating from my inner thigh.
“What is it?” tilting her head closer to me. Her inquisitive stare deconstructing my molecules.
“I just feel like … like I should be … out there,” I gestured towards the sky. We both turned and looked out at the calming waters. Soothing ocean waves crashed against the shore. Clouds marched into the far horizon. Tranquility permeated everything within sight of the shore. But I was not relaxed, something was calling to me. I haven’t felt this uneasy since the Macarena achieved worldwide popularity.
My wife took a swig from my beer, then gave me another once over, “You probably just need to harpoon something.”
“Right?” I shot forward, our eyes locking together, “Do you feel it too?”
“No. Not in the slightest. But you’ve been clutching your stupid harpoon gun all week long,” she calmly turned her head away, “You even take that thing to the bathroom. Whatever… do what you have to do.”
I nodded, thanked, and kissed her. I waved to the kiddies, and the old people scanning the shores with metal detectors, and to the planet Earth. I jumped on my jet ski, the special one, and speed towards the International Space Station, before turning hard to port and straight into the void.
Right then, my cellphone rang. At first there was silence. Then a hoarse mysterious voice came on and said, “Leo. It’s time.”
“Who is this? Are you the Blacksea guys?”
Again silence, I dodged a meteorite, a comet, and some random space piranhas. Cellular roaming charges were going to be a bitch out here, “Hello?”
“The tournament. It has begun. Get your bounties. It’s time!”
I grinned. I aimed my harpoon at the stars, it glinted and glimmered against the darkness of space. Before I hung up, I whispered back into the phone, “Oh [CENSORED] yeah!”
Today, Blacksea Odyssey releases on Steam’s Early Access. I am bewildered that world leaders have not come together to declare March 2nd, an international holiday as a result. No matter, after a long road which included a successful Kickstarter campaign, then voted onto Steam’s Greenlight program, this potential candidate for best indie release of 2016 is out on Steam’s Early Access. For those scouring through games hunting for that indie gem, that game that thinks outside the box, well this is it.
When I had the privilege of playing the Alpha a couple of months ago, it was hard not to be excited for this game’s potential. To be quite honest, I’m surprised how much I missed spearing things between the Alpha and today’s release. Also, I’m not the only one that feels this way about it. Blacksea Odyssey has picked up a following over this past year. They are either drawn by the game’s potential, or maybe intrigued by the developers actively designing this Unity based game on Twitch.tv, or both.
Blacksea Odyssey is a very unique genre mash. It is a top down shooter, with clear influences from sources like Shadow of the Colossus and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. There is a strong focus on epic boss battles mixed with rousing rogue-lite elements: including perma-death, procedural levels, and random item acquisition. You take control of an old man, who looks much like the Greek god Poseidon, named Old Man. There’s a galactic tournament underway, and all the best space hunters have gathered to compete for bounties. Old Man is the tournament’s only human participant — this thematic aspect in a strange way reminds me of the 1989 film Arena. While contestants do not face off directly against each other, the one who slays the most impressive space bosses will accumulate the highest bounty score, thus will advance to the ultimate stage of the tournament.
For those scouring through games hunting for that indie gem, that game that thinks outside the box, well this is it.
Combat is clever, and feels as satisfying as ripping apart giant alien monstrosities should. Your basic attack is hurling spears at enemies. Most enemies have select vulnerable spots where these projectiles will attach and cause damage. Spears damage enemy body parts over time. Once weakened your secondary attack, the awe inspiring space harpoon, will do the most devastating damage to that part — by ripping it from the creature’s carcass. Creatures are not willing to sit idly by and allow the elderly in space to impale them with giant hooks and spears. Instead, elaborate dances take place as opponents maneuver into the best positions exchanging killing blows. Runes give either your ship enhancements or boost your basic attack abilities. Gold, runes, and bonus abilities can be discovered in chests, or dropped by the creatures you hunt.
There have been a few new changes to the game since the Alpha. One such, is the ability to change your basic attack spear. This changes its appearance and effects in game. In order to earn unlock new spears, you’ll have to complete certain objectives through the game’s tournament. For example, equip four poison runes will unlock a special spear. It will also coincide with a Steam achievement, as double the incentive. There is also another game environment, filled with swaying space leaves and hallucinatory space mushrooms. More boss types are also available, along with Elite as well as Enchanted bosses and mid-range defenders. These new types have much more health, deal more damage, but drop the finest loot and runes available.
There’s a reason why you scrounge around indie aisles, and this is it. This is different, it’s bizarre, but when thrown together it’s intense and so much fun. Your insides will ache when you end up starting your next run with only 30 health, and no runes. While on your next play-through, you’ll be exhilarated as your runes are fully stacked and you are decimating a building sized behemoth with a well placed harpoon between its eyes.
There’s enough here to spark an avid interest. However, I am still curious how it will all tie together as a complete rogue-lite that encourages multiple replays. There has been a lot of content hinted at in screenshots and during most of the publicly exhibited development videos. They’ve also listened to player feedback, and diligently work to ensure those expectations can be met. The main menu screen proudly states, that there will be a game update every seven days during this Early Access stage.
There is ample room to not only report bugs (like getting stuck in the geometry), but also request features (like full controller support, and 2560×1600 resolutions please), but also throw out interesting game ideas (I want to fight space King Kong, MechaGodzilla, and a 92 story Cthulhu) — with full knowledge that they are listening to you and could squeeze these items in on a weekly basis. An innovative mixture of action, rogue-like aspects, and ripping out vital limbs and organs with a harpoon; all for a nice low price point. Simply put, Blacksea Odyssey is a must play.STEAM