The Sea Will Claim Everything
There’s nothing wrong with a slow game, where the experience of playing is the point regardless of whether there is an actual end goal. Games like Journey and Flower are all about wallowing in movement and graphics like some pig in a mudhole filled with petals (and flying kitty people). Both those games are incredibly visual pieces. Far more challenging is a relaxed point and click adventure. Puzzle games frequently appear relaxing with the lack of fight scenes or quick-time events, but they are the least relaxing style of gaming, filled with frustration.
Has Jonas Kyratzes achieved a relaxing point and click with The Sea Will Claim Everything? Not really. What he has created is more like a visual novel game. He’s rather upfront about it, warning the player that taking a relaxed pace is the best option; attempting a speed run will drive the player mad. This shouldn’t be a problem. The light, relaxing music by Helen Trevillion and Chris Christodoulou and calming, picture book visuals by Verena Kyratzes would achieve this player slowdown perfectly if not for the story and gameplay.
Before getting into the story, let’s be clear. There’s nothing wrong with a game having a message, just as there’s nothing wrong with a game not having a message. The problem is when a writer goes full-on soapbox. Take for example seizing or repossessing a house. It’s how both The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (land seizure) and SWCE (repossession) begin. In Hitchhiker, Dent’s house is seized and Dent tries to prevent it. There aren’t pages on how terrible and wrong it is, that the government is corrupt, and so on. It’s an event. It happens, and the reader is trusted to be able to think “That’s not right.”
In SWCE, the repossession of The the technodruid’s generations old, living home, The Underhome, forms the backbone of the story. So it makes sense that more time is devoted to it; however the tone and amount of text used can easily lose the player’s sympathy. Conversations get clicked through as quickly as possible without a single word being read, because it’s simply not interesting enough from the reader’s perspective
House repossession is a multi-sided problem; it can’t be condensed to “If you repossess a house, you are evil” as comes across here. It’s a stance seen on Kyratzes’ own blog and appears to be based on his own family’s experiences. While understandable he would be passionate about the subject and hold strong views, a bit more restraint and balance would have strengthened his stance more than walls of text.
The other factor preventing SWCE from being a dip in and relax game is the lack of any real gameplay. There is only one actual puzzle; everything else is fetch quests where items are found by just clicking on everything. Everything. It’s incredibly boring having to go through every screen in an area clicking absolutely every item in case the item fields are off. At least there’s a fairly comprehensive task list to help figure out what still needs doing.
If those areas were corrected, then this would a great little game exploring a relevant and rarely considered story. The archipelago the player travels about is home to a variety characters, who are for the most part interesting. (The Underhome’s cross-dressing A.I. comes across as an outdated, rather crude attempt at humour. Har har, isn’t cross-dressing funny.)
The Sea Will Claim Everything is worth a look. Kyratzes has a great eye for detail (every flower and mushroom has a story) and under-explored topics. If he can continue developing as a writer, then supporting Kyratzes could lead to a future of thought-provoking… let’s call them interactive stories.