Reality television shows have been all the rage for the past decade, but few staples of the genre are quite as real as Discovery Channel's long-running program Deadliest Catch. Deadliest Catch premiered in early 2005 and has been on air to this day. It chronicles the adventures of crabbers that work in the Bering Sea -- the Arctic body of water hugging Alaska's coast. Sound unexciting? Believe it or not, it isn't.
The competition between captains and crews to catch the most crab in a season is riveting, and things are only made more dramatic by the high-stakes nature of the job. After all, the money to be made in this industry is mind-boggling, as are the inherent dangers of the job. Indeed, crabbing in the Bering Sea is considered one of the most dangerous professions anywhere in the world.
Such a popular franchise is rife with licensing opportunities, so it's no surprise that there would be a Deadliest Catch video game. In fact, this isn't even the first Deadliest Catch game. When Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm came out back in 2008, I gave it a 6.4
. Even though Alaskan Storm and Sea of Chaos come from completely different developers, the two games share a number of similarities. Some of these elements work in both titles, and some of them don't.
Driven primarily by mini-games, Sea of Chaos is certainly a stronger game than Alaskan Storm, but both titles suffer from the same flaw: monotony. The series' new developer, DoubleTap Games, has attempted to move away from some of the minutiae that bogged down the previous game. While this is admirable, that minutiae has been replaced with more minutiae of a different -- albeit more entertaining -- kind. But rest assured, Sea of Chaos is very much about its licensed subject matter. This is a game that covers the art of crabbing in the Arctic to a tee. The real question is: will this be entertaining to you?
Deadliest Catch: Sea of Chaos offers surprisingly little in terms of options. The crux of the game is the Campaign Mode, where gamers take on computer opponents in various scenarios, some fictional, and others pulled directly from the show. So, while there's a tutorial campaign and a couple of beginner campaigns that require you to make more money than the other AI-controlled vessels, there are also campaigns that revolve entirely around events from various seasons of the show. Campaigns get more rigorous and time-consuming as you complete them.
While this is a nice approach, it's the content inside the campaigns that can be grueling to gamers. Mini-games rule the day here. While these mini-games are fun and novel in their own right, they can be frustratingly repetitive the more you play the game because each mini-game doesn't deviate from its typical form. With the exception of mild affects from the weather, and the skill (or lack thereof) employed by the character completing a certain task, these mini-games simply don't change too much. So for instance, when you're off-loading crab to be sold at port, you'll always be throwing them in an arc towards a moving basket with a hook hanging precariously in front of it. This never changes.
Sea of Chaos' lackluster graphics and audio don't help the inevitable feeling of monotony at all, nor do the incessant load times. With that said, it's hard to think of a more enjoyable or rewarding way to go about mimicking crabbing in video game form, so all things considered, the mini-game approach is the proper one. It's just a little drab.
Once you take to the sea, you have to put your crews' varying skills to the test. This is a welcome, role-playing aspect to the game, because crew members can actually gain experience that will make them stronger at certain tasks. The game's five primary tasks -- setting pots, retrieving pots, sorting your catch, repairing damage and offloading crab -- will all play prominent roles in your overall success or failure in Sea of Chaos, and using characters that are stronger than others in certain roles will end up earning you more money. You'll need to be careful not to tire out your characters, however, who must be rested. If they become too tired, they'll actually be worse at their given tasks, which makes them a bona fide liability while trying to earn as much cash as possible.
Clearly, Deadliest Catch: Sea of Chaos is a novel game. Other than the previous game in the series, there's really nothing like it out there on the market. Its mix of adventure, RPG, and action gaming is unique, though it can be burdensome to play if you're not enamored by the subject matter, as you'll be doing the same stuff over and over again.
A lack of modes also hurts this effort, though there is a Tournament Mode that allows gamers to play with others locally, which will give Sea of Chaos some replay value if you live with or know other Deadliest Catch fans. But the game woefully lacks an online mode, and it also lacks variety in terms of actual gameplay. Ultimately, Sea of Chaos is a mixed bag.
©2010-12-15, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved