“‘We are all islands on a wide sea,’ the philosopher said. Perhaps it’s true. Yet I cannot help but remember an older saying, scratched on a cave wall somewhere by a long-forgotten prophet: in the end, the sea will claim everything. We are like islands. Does it mean we are connected? Do we share a common origin? Or just the common fate of sinking?” With these words begins an amazing journey through the region known as The Fortunate Isles, in Jonas and Verena Kyratzes’s The Sea Will Claim Everything, the newest addition to their Lands of Dream universe of stories and games.
The Sea Will Claim Everything is a difficult gaming experience to encapsulate into a simple mold. I suppose, just to pick a place to start from, it’s a simplified version of a traditional point-and-click adventure, though I use the term ‘simple’ quite loosely. It might be placed in this category as it features many of the tropes that have traditionally defined the adventure genre: item collecting, engaging in dialog with NPCs, some light inventory management and puzzle solving.
Environments are presented as static images, making it seem overly simple on a purely superficial level. However, it’s its narrative that almost elevates it out of the adventure realm and into a kind of semi-satirical, political propaganda piece of social commentary. If that description serves to muddle the waters for you a bit as to what to expect from this game, then I think I’ve done an adequate job of classifying it. Perhaps I can serve to clarify it a little in the coming paragraphs.
Let’s take it bit by bit. The story starts out simple, if definitely odd. Having been summoned to the Isle of the Moon by an enigmatic being known as The Mysterious-Druid (“The”, for short), you awaken to find yourself in The’s subterranean ocean-side dwelling, Underhome, which is simultaneously a multi-story cave complete with elevator, as well as a living creature of some sort. The instructs you how to interact with his world through the use of your ‘Window’ – your computer’s screen. (It’s at this point that it’s worth mentioning that, not only does The Sea Will Claim Everything break down the fourth wall, but rather that the fourth wall doesn’t exist in any way, shape, or form; you are yourself, the player, and will be addressed and treated as such – a stranger, a traveler from distant lands, new to the region of The Fortunate Isles.)
The plot slowly unfolds little by little, at first only involving Underhome and its residents, which include The, a cross-dressing AI named EDDIE, and a few talking creatures like Waikato the talking fish, and Melchior the talking parrot. Apparently, prior to your arrival, some unsavory types – governmental enforcers – have recently made their presence known in Underhome, smashing up the place and announcing its imminent foreclosure and the government’s intent to seize possession of the property.
Soon enough, you’re stepping out of Underhome and exploring the whole of the Isle of the Moon, eventually gaining access via ship to the whole of the island kingdom. Everywhere you travel, tales of woe from the local townsfolk point toward a deep-set political conspiracy. What started as a light-hearted and humorous tale quickly becomes a philosophical metaphor, addressing such issues as gender identity, governmental control over the populace, oppression, tax reform, separation of church and state, and interracial relationships. Pretty ambitious for a “simple point-and-click adventure”, no?
The highlight of the game, from start to finish, is the insightful and oftentimes witty writing. Make no mistake: The Sea Will Claim Everything is a game that requires you to read. A lot. Whether you’re going through dialog trees with townsfolk (most of which have quests they send you on, so interacting with them isn’t really an option) or examining the amply detailed descriptions of your environment, the bulk of this game almost constitutes a text-based adventure. In fact, towards the end there’s an entire section that pays homage to Zork and other text-based classics, where the game goes text-only for a short while.
Stuffed with popular culture references to everything from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series (“Dod-a-chock”, anybody?) to Brian Blessed, there’s plenty to keep curious explorers on their toes each step of the way. My one complaint came in the form of a throwback to the GameCube horror classic, Eternal Darkness; a sudden game “crash” near the end of the game looked just a bit too authentic, and, though it was meant as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Silicon Knights’ title, it actually ended up costing me four to five hours of lost gametime, due to me actually restarting the game incorrectly and losing all my progress.
While it doesn’t have any “jaw-drop” moments or major action set-pieces, The Sea Will Claim Everything is more of a relaxing experience in a category of its own. A major element of this can be attributed to its amazing musical score by Chris Christodoulou; every track from the title screen to the city themes, styled after each region’s dominant culture (Nordic on the Isle of the Moon, Arabian on the Isle of the Stars, while the Isle of the Sun has a Greek overtone, complete with Medusa and a Cyclops living on the beach). The beautiful tunes lend the game the same sweeping and tranquil character of its namesake sea.
The Sea Will Claim Everything is a unique experience that’s hard to put into words. At the same time, it offers multiple layers of meaning, and offers up that sense of accomplishment when you feel you’ve dug through another plane of meaning. While the puzzles aren’t crushingly difficult, what challenge there is is kept intact, as the game doesn’t hold your hand like a host of other current titles do. Commendable for its depth and structure, and evoking a pleasant nostalgia graphics-wise, this is definitely one game anybody who has a love for old-school PC adventures should take a look at.