Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas
When a young man wakes up only to find his father missing he embarks on a quest to discover what happened. His only clues are a mysterious necklace and his father’s old notebook, but as he sails the Uncharted Seas he discovers that the whole Kingdom of Arcadia is under threat. Everyone fears a giant sea monster called Oceanhorn and it would appear that a confrontation with this legendary beast is all but certain if he wants to know what fate befell his father.
When you own multiple consoles it is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone will be familiar with all franchises, especially the console exclusive ones. I mention this because Oceanhorn bears more than a passing resemblance to the Zelda franchise, which is unlikely to ever appear outside of a Nintendo console. Players already familiar with the Zelda titles will probably experience a sense of déjà vu when they dive into this colorful adventure as the developers are clearly big fans of Link and his escapades, but newcomers are in for a treat.
It is worth pointing out that Oceanhorn was initially an iOS title that was released a few years back, but the developers clearly put a lot of effort into this PC port. In fact, in addition to a host of visual enhancements the developers also paid attention to player feedback after the PC launch and has since released two updates addressing concerns. Anyone worried that this is just a quick and dirty port that has been dumped on PC for some extra cash can rest assured that it is not the case.
As I mentioned earlier, anyone familiar with the Zelda titles will feel right at home with Oceanhorn as it is an action role-playing title that is viewed from an isometric overhead perspective. The fearless hero of the tale is a man of few words and spends his time sailing between islands while gathering clues from the locals or exploring dungeons. Your main quest is to collect some sacred emblems and save the kingdom, but along the way you can also engage in all kinds of other activities. Most of your time will be spent fighting monsters and solving puzzles in the dungeons, but you can also take a break for some relaxing fishing or take pot shots at sea monsters while sailing around on the ocean.
New locations in the game are opened up by talking to NPCs or reading messages in bottles, but sometimes you will need specific items or abilities in order to fully explore these locations. For example, the inhabitants of Gillfolk’s Drop won’t let you into their kingdom unless you bring honey, which can only be found by rescuing a merchant on another island. You’ll also gain access to new items, such as bombs for blowing up blocked passages and arrows for shooting targets that opens doors. Although the overall difficulty level of the game is quite gentle you still have to pay attention as it is easy to miss a clue and end up sailing around looking for the items you need to proceed. Thankfully the game keeps track of all conversations in a log, so you can check back if you suspect you missed something.
In addition to his skills with the sword and shield your character will also eventually learn a couple of magic spells, but these are used mostly for the puzzles. He can also pick up objects such as crates, barrels, jars and rocks which can then be hurled at enemies or placed on pressure plates to open doors. Most of the puzzles in the game involves pushing crates into the correct positions or gaining access to keys needed for locked doors, which isn’t very original or even that challenging, but still entertaining. Don’t worry if you mess up either as there is always a reset button located nearby. As your character gains experience and levels up you are given rewards, such as increasing the sailing speed of your boat or being granted the ability to carry more bombs at once. Each island you visit also has its own specific set of challenges, which if completed grants you more experience points and coins.
The exploration element of Oceanhorn is definitely a lot of fun and I had a blast checking out the various islands while searching for treasures. The game has a mini-map which his very useful for tracking down items of interest and the different locations are diverse enough to ensure that they remain interesting. Visually the game looks very nice and you can tweak the settings from low and medium all the way up to high and even ultra. Individual settings such as reflections, soft shadows, anti-aliasing and real-time ambient occlusion can also be toggled on or off. Considering the mobile roots of the game I was very impressed with the visuals and the extra mile that the developers went to make the game look good on PC. The bright, colorful visuals give the game a lighthearted feel and adds to the enjoyment of the experience. The weather effects you’ll encounter, such as pouring rain also helps to make the gameworld feel more alive and vibrant. The character designs are quite good although once again the Zelda influences are hard to miss.
One of the unexpected highlights of the game is the soundtrack which features some great tunes. Typically mobile game soundtracks are nothing to write home about, but Oceanhorn has a plethora of great songs to listen to while you play. The sound effects are also good and the speech, while sparse, is of a high standard. The game can be played using either a controller or keyboard and mouse. I found the former to be the most comfortable, but using a keyboard and mouse isn’t too bad either. Combat takes place in real-time, but bashing enemies with your sword is rather simple as you can’t perform any combos or special attacks. You can however block projectiles using your shield or lob items at enemies from a distance. I did enjoy the boss battles a lot though as some of them shows a lot of imagination and requires you to analyze them to discover their weaknesses. Further hammering home the fact that it is not just a straight up port is the inclusion of Steam Achievements, leaderboards, trading cards and Steam Cloud support.
Oceanhorn is not only an immensely enjoyable title, but also packs enough content to keep you busy for a while. Don’t expect a typical mobile experience that can be completed in an hour or two, this game can easily keep you engaging for up to 20 hours if you aim to discover everything. The fishing mini-game alone can suck up a lot of your time if you are not careful! If you have played every single Zelda title on the market you might not find Oceanhorn as engaging as a lot of what it has to offer has already been done before. However, the developers definitely set their sights very high and came very close to the material that inspired them. If you have a hankering for a great action role-paying game, with vibrant visuals and charming characters, but don’t have access to any consoles, this is as close as you are going to get to the Zelda franchise on PC.
- OS: Windows 7
- Processor: 1.7 GHz Dual Core or faster
- Memory: 1 GB RAM
- Graphics: DirectX 10 compatible, 256 MB VRAM
- DirectX: Version 10
- Hard Drive: 700 MB available space
- Sound Card: DirectX 10 compatible
- Additional Notes: Even slower systems may run the game.
- OS: Windows 8
- Processor: 2.2 GHz Dual Core or faster
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: DirectX 10 compatible, 512 MB VRAM
- DirectX: Version 10
- Hard Drive: 800 MB available space
- Sound Card: DirectX 10 compatible
- Additional Notes: Even slower systems run the game.