Oft Horizon: Seascape ($1.00) is a rare example of when ‘less is more’1 is applicable to my own personal videogame logic. Let me say up front: there’s not much to ‘do’ in this game, no goals or purpose driving it, no great evil to confront or enemies to fight. It’s more of a slightly-interactive tech demo, with very impressive ambient lighting and sounds. A fancy XBLIG screensaver, if you will.
Oh, but that’s only a partial truth. To be sure, Oft Horizon: Seascape is a marketing push. It’s subtle, but it’s there, meant to get more eyes on Oft Horizon: Precursor, a more traditional game experience about sailing the high seas, with trading, bartering, ship building, and combat. That latter title (released a few months earlier, and also by Gusuku Entertainment) I failed to get into, the game feeling slow-moving to start and the economy of it daunting.
Seascape ditches all of that videogame-y stuff and focuses instead on just being really pretty. It plops you (ahem, the camera) on a generated island in the middle of the sea, chimes and the sound of the wind whipping across said island. You can tinker with the weather, swapping in moody clouds, raging storms, or orchestrating the perfect sunrise, using the passage of time to move it forward or backward and forward again. Also, a poem by Kipling? And that’s it. You can zoom in and out to view your creation, but none of it means a thing in the usual definition of ‘playing a game’ and making any kind of tangible progress. There is none to be had.
Yet I like to think of Oft Horizon: Seascape as a viable piece of art anyway, a ‘game’ in the sense that it can be interacted with and evoke a reaction. Or you can just sit back and watch. Your mileage (and opinion) with that may vary, but you have to feel for a developer releasing a project this late into XBLIG’s life cycle, even if it’s one part of a bigger whole which is part of an eventually bigger whole2. It’s still a beautiful but shallow experience when compared to its sibling. That doesn’t mean I appreciate it any less.
- Note, this does not apply to pizza, esoteric but still hilarious memes, Destiny, cheeseburgers, vacation time, cute cat videos, videos of people failing at something, videos of cats failing at something, kpop, Taco Bell, and a whole lot of other things. ↩
- Seascape is a small taste of Precursor, and Precursor is a small taste of a fuller game to release on PC. ↩