Sea Horizon, a roguelike adventure RPG developed by 45 Studio in partnership with Softstar and published by eastasiasoft, arrives first for Nintendo Switch on October 20th. To make sure players get started on the right foot, we're offering a beginner's guide to some of the game's basic concepts that might not be plainly obvious to those unfamiliar with the sub-genre.
Part of the allure to Sea Horizon is the randomized nature of its world. No playthrough is quite the same, but with handcrafted events placed within that randomized structure, the world becomes equal parts unpredictable and carefully wrought. It feels like a genuine adventure. Of course, this makes it difficult to provide a step-by-step walkthrough even for the game's early chapters, but we can provide some useful tips and offer insight into the systems at play.
To this end, we've listed 10 things that every adventurer should know as they embark on their perilous quest...
1) KNOW YOUR ROLE
Sea Horizon features a wide variety of playable characters to unlock, each with their own storylines, abilities and unique motivations, but you won't get to choose them right away, at least not in the main campaign. Instead, every player will begin their story with Dylan, a rather standard adventurer who's a decent survivalist and claims proficiency with a sword and shield. He's a good all-rounder, but he's not especially talented in any one discipline. In order to keep him alive, you'll need to pick your battles wisely and gradually level him up with quality gear. Concentrate on melee and defense for the best results. Not every character will play like Dylan, though, and for each that you unlock, you'll need to adapt your playstyle to match their class and characteristics. Fortunately, the game has also been updated with a new exploration mode that lets players try out different characters even if they haven't been unlocked in the main campaign yet, which serves as a nice way to get a feel for the world and its overall scope.
2) FEED THE HUNGER
Perhaps the most important stat in Sea Horizon, at least as vital as health points, is your character's hunger. The hunger gauge dictates how far an adventurer can travel and how much action they can endure before they need food and rest. If the hunger gauge runs out, then it's game over. Your character collapses and starves, unable to carry on the quest. Fortunately, there are many hotspots on the map that can help stave off hunger, recover some of the gauge or reduce its effects for a limited time. Camps and merchants are typically sure bets, though the latter will also cost a pretty penny for their services.
3) THE PATH TO VICTORY IS NOT A STRAIGHT LINE
When first stepping foot into the world of Sea Horizon, a hex grid map will begin to take shape, revealing your character's starting location, a few nearby landmarks and perhaps a ship near the shoreline. It's important to resist the urge to charge straight for the goal. Sure, the straightest path possible would certainly take a lesser toll on your character's hunger, but it also means you will miss opportunities to recover that hunger or replenish health, let alone leveling up with better gear needed to face the terrors that might lie in wait at the end. If you hope to make it all the way across the map, you'll need to accept some diversions, trust that you'll find a way to pad your hunger or health gauges and come out of those diversions stronger than you entered.
4) STEP INTO THE LIGHT
One of the first landmarks you're likely to notice on Sea Horizon's hex grid map is a glowing white tower. These can offer blessings that reduce the effects of hunger or buff other stats that can help you survive early in your adventure. Take the time to visit these spires and receive the blessing. As long as they're not too far out of the way, the result is almost always worth the effort.
5) BEWARE THE OPEN SEAS
Considering the fact that rocky terrain and forests slow your character's travel and increase hunger, it might be tempting to hop on a ship and sail as far as it can carry you around the Shattered Archipelago. But rations are sparse on the open sea, and sailing too far without some shore leave will quickly take its toll on your hunger gauge. Ships are best used to quickly move from island to island, unlocking their secrets and earning some buffs before heading to the next.
6) TAKE RISKS, REAP REWARDS
Similarly, there are other hotspots randomly placed around the map that can yield incremental improvements to your gear, line your pockets with gold and more. These opportunities do come with their own risks, of course. Investigating a wrecked ship might seem like a great idea, and it's true that it could be hiding a mighty stash of pirate's booty. But there's also a chance that the wreck was the work of pirates and they're lying in wait for whoever comes along to investigate. You'll need to weigh risk against reward in these cases. If you've got most of your health left and you've already snagged a couple gear upgrades, it's probably worth the risk to check it out, but if you're already in dire straits, it might be better to ignore it and head for an outpost instead.
7) STACK THE DECK IN YOUR FAVOR
Like an old-school tabletop role-playing game, actions in Sea Horizon are at least partially governed by cards and dice rolls, at least in combat. You'll start off with only a few cards at your disposal, but as you emerge victorious from each fight, you'll have a chance to pick new cards to add to the shuffled deck. These gradually get more and more powerful, so fighting frequently can also greatly improve your combat prowess for bigger battles down the road, but you'll need to balance combat frequency with opportunities to recover health, either using items or visiting encampments.
8) CRAWL THOSE DUNGEONS
Dungeons don't seem too inviting in Sea Horizon. To an amateur adventurer, they might look like a waste of hunger and resources, likely filled with enemy hordes more powerful than those in the overworld. Part of that might be true, but if you reach these dungeons having taken the previous tips in mind, then you've likely built up enough resources to survive any difficulty spike that they present. Dungeons often house the most precious and powerful gear, so looting their depths could mean all the difference when facing the map's final challenges. In this way, you should think of each dungeon and major event as a stepping stone to a better end.
9) DEATH IS ITS OWN REWARD
If you're familiar with the roguelike genre or other such games that claim to be "tough but fair", then you also know that death isn't really the end. Not only is each failed playthrough a learning experience, but upon death your survivalism is also evaluated and you're offered a multitude of buffs that can help you prevail in the following attempt. You're supposed to die a few times here and there, so don't let it get you down when it happens. While each playthrough is randomized, many of the handcrafted events remain familiar, just out-of-order. Use what you've learned to take a new approach or avoid danger whenever possible, and along with the buffs you choose at respawn, you can definitely emerge victorious as long as you keep at it. The game has also been recently updated with an option to retry upon death. This won't always save your skin if you've clearly bitten off more than you can chew at your character's current level and equipment, but it can help if a few missteps in combat have led to your unexpected demise.
10) BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
While it's not immediately evident, your actions and choices have the power to change the story for each character you play. There are multiple endings to discover, leading to dozens of possible outcomes across the tales of Sea Horizon. Will you explore them all?
This is only the beginning! We hope you will write your own legend in Sea Horizon when it sets sail for Nintendo Switch on October 20th!