Before starting this preview, I should probably admit that my experience with One Piece is pretty limited. Without hundreds of hours of free time available to watch over a thousand episodes of anime, my One Piece storyline knowledge is limited to what Omega Force managed to cram into the Musou games. I’m always excited to check out an RPG based on an anime though, and after recent success stories like Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot and Fairy Tail I was pretty pumped to jump into One Piece Odyssey.
The Straw Hat gang are (unsurprisingly) off on a pirate adventure, when they end up crash landing on the mysterious island of Waford. After gathering up the crew who washed ashore safely, they set off exploring and meet a couple of new characters who call this place home. Unfortunately one of these new soon-to-be friends thinks you all look a bit shifty, and uses her magical powers to take all of your fighting ability out of your bodies and sends it flying around the island in cubes. The only way for Luffy and the gang to power back up is to explore Waford, fight baddies and look for cubes, so off they pop.
Not all the cubes will fix you immediately though, some contain memories of past adventures you’ll need to jump into and play through. It seems like One Piece Odyssey is going to try and walk a fine line between retelling old stories and having a narrative that isn’t just the same old stuff for long time fans, and hopefully in the full game they pull it off.
Whether you’re in the past or present, you’ll need to grab all your favourite characters for a whole bunch of battles. Combat in One Piece Odyssey is turn based, with a party of four taking turns to attack the various bats, monkeys and squirrels that are planning on beating up the pirates intruding on their island. Each character also has a host of unique skills they can use, from AoE attacks to moves that heal the wounds of your allies. At its core the combat will definitely feel familiar for RPG fans, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining.
There is one big twist in the battles too. Each fight features the team dealing with enemies in different areas, and the bad guys will only attack you if you’re in the same grouping at them. At any time you can use an attack with enough range to move over to another group and help out your buds, and there are also special moves that shift foes about so you can take advantage of their positioning. In the opening few hours there was never a situation where I needed to worry about this mechanic too much, but as the game gets harder I’d imagine it becomes pretty crucial.
There are some other nice additions to the combat that make scraps more interesting. There’s the rock paper scissors system of attack types, where Power moves are effective against Speed type enemies, which beat Technique types, and so on. There are also Dramatic Scenes, which are moments in combat where you’ll be given an objective (like beating a particular enemy in two turns or saving a team member from dying in a dire situation) and if you accomplish it you’ll get a buff in battle and a shed load of bonus experience. It’s a clever way to make fights a little more interesting, and the rewards for completing these tasks are fantastic.
Not all of One Piece Odyssey is fighting though, you’ll spend plenty of time exploring the idyllic island of Waford too. I was really impressed by the different exploration abilties you can take advantage of while out in the field, especially the Gum Gum Rocket grapple which you can use to cross gaps with ease. Alongside jumping, wall smashing, and climbable vines, the environments in One Piece Odyssey have plenty of verticality and are a joy to explore.
If you don’t check every nook and cranny of the island you’ll miss out on cube shards, which you’ll need to level up your different combat skills. I didn’t get to do a whole lot of this in the preview build I played, but the few skills I upgraded were significantly more powerful, and I really liked the fact you could switch your shards into different powers at any time and weren’t locked into your build.
It’d be unfair to talk about One Piece Odyssey and not mention the visuals. I’ve never really been a fan of the One Piece character designs, but the environments are really impressive. The tropical setting lends itself to a lovely colourful aesthetic, and it makes exploring all the more enjoyable.
Although I only got to play a few hours of One Piece Odyssey, I’m really impressed with this anime inspired JRPG so far. The turn based combat has just enough interesting systems to wrap your head around, and the exploration of the island is really satisfying. If the rest of the game is as enjoyable as the first few hours, then One Piece Odyssey could be a great start to 2023 for anime fans.
One Piece Odyssey is coming to PC, PS4, PS5, and Xbox Series S|X on January 12th, 2023. Check out our 2023 release calendar.