One Piece Odyssey commits a mortal RPG sin

Let’s make friends, not enemies.

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It doesn’t get much bigger than One Piece. The long-running pirate adventure series, which boasts more than 1000 manga chapters and anime episodes, has only gotten more popular in the years since its 1997 debut. So I was excited to play through One Piece Odyssey when I tried the promising demo at PAX West earlier this year. It seemed to have everything a fan would want in an RPG, including intuitive combat UI and an original story. But actually playing the game for more than a few hours revealed that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

One Piece Odyssey has a surprisingly robust turn-based combat system for a game that’s clearly aimed at fans of the anime and manga rather than RPG diehards. It features a “rock-paper-scissors” system that deals more damage if you lean into type advantages. The combat itself doesn’t get old. However, the wandering low-level enemies do. Grinding through the grunts – or running away from them so you don’t have to — quickly starts to feel like a chore that drags down the overall experience.

This wonky world features an encyclopedia of enemies from Kung-Fu Dugongs (kung fu seals) to human bandits, all of which charge at you if you appear in their line of sight. Most of these chumps can be knocked out with one or two multi-hit attacks, so long as you switch teammates to take advantage of their type differences. As the hours drag on, it grows tiring to have enemies pecking at your feet around every corner, especially with all the backtracking Odyssey requires. They even respawn.

Sometimes the game changes it up. At one point, Luffy’s teammates warn him not to step on the animal corpses in the desert, because the crackling bones might start a fight with one of the hovering bird monsters above them. You also have the option to directly approach a dragon-like monster to steal its treasure. Elsewhere, you’ll need to fight solo as the type-disadvantaged Usopp. These variations on the core gameplay loop are fun, but too few and far between over the course of dozens of hours.

The excessive number of pointless fights further bogs down the already sluggish pace of the game. Sure, the item drops can be used to cook healing and stat-boosting foods, but those start to feel less important once you rack up enough of them.

It didn’t help that battles are never particularly challenging, because I could knock out most enemies and bosses without even using healing items. None of my team members ever fell, either. It was only around the 15-hour mark, when I was fighting Crocodile, that I thought I might actually lose a fight.

For full disclosure, I’m only 20 hours into the game. In an interview with One More Game, Producer Katsuaki Tsuzuki said One Piece Odyssey should take about 30 hours to complete. So far, I’m gauging that it will actually take me 40 hours based on my progress. Between boss battles, the Straw Hats revisit past arcs from the anime and manga, though many of them have new twists. That means there’s still a lot of fresh content for One Piece fans to savor. Just brace yourself for a whole lot of tedious battles.

One Piece Odyssey will launch on January 13 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. This preview is based on the PlayStation 4 version.

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