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Sea Of Stars – Review

A few of my friends and colleagues made me aware of Sea of Stars a few months back, claiming it a homage to old-school RPGs like Chrono Trigger and one friend even claiming it’s the reason they bought their Switch, so I was naturally intrigued. When the demo dropped I was straight on it and instantly fell in love. Now with the full release out I was eager to dive into it.

Coming from Sabotage games, Sea of Stars is set in the same universe as the studio’s previous game The Messenger but to be honest I didn’t feel like I was missing out having not played it. We begin with a mysterious character known as the Archivist, who is telling the story of our heroes Zale and Valerie embarking on their first mission, having trained all their lives to be Solstice warriors. When you begin the game you are asked to pick one of these to be your main character, but it also stresses that you can change at any time and that it doesn’t affect the overall narrative. So the choice boils down if you want to be a boy or a girl which is a nice choice but overall meaningless.

We follow Valerie and Zale and go through a brief combat tutorial until we reach our first camp whereupon we are taken back 10yrs to their childhood. So already we have a flashback told within a third person narration which can lend to some confusion. Valerie and Zale were “born” in the same year and both during the respective sun and moon solstice. This means they have latent solar and lunar magic abilities and are destined to become Solstice warriors. Legend tells of a big bad known as the Fleshmancer who was banished aeons ago but left his creations Dwellers. If a dweller is left for too long it would become a world eater but the Dweller is only vulnerable during an eclipse. Solstice warriors hunt down potential Dwellers and must team together to destroy them when the time is right.

During the flashback, we are introduced to Brugraves and Erlina the current Solstice warriors and Moraine the headmaster and leader. Valerie and Zale are eager to start their training and with their childhood friend, Garl they venture into the forbidden cave (I know, right). Garl is permanently scarred from this encounter and it’s only through the intervention of the headmaster that they survived at all. To protect them from themselves and the fact they did display some ability beyond their age they are removed from the village and are isolated in the floating school to train for ten years.

Cutting back to the present day we learn that a dweller has been located on a neighbouring island and an eclipse is imminent. Valerie and Zale must seek the guidance of the will of wisps, complete their training and team up with the rest of the Solstice Warriors to face down the Dweller of Fear.

That was the first half hour. The narrative is strong with this one with the opening being just the tip of the iceberg, so expect a twisting journey full of emotion and deep, deep feels. 

We meet back up with Garl, now calling himself a Warrior Cook, Seraï a mysterious teleporting ninja and the pirates of Captain Klee’shaë just to name a few. Every one of these characters was well written and I found myself getting attached to each one. Weirdly it was Valerie and Zale coming off the weakest as they seemed naive and unquestioning about their duty but stepping back a moment, that’s how they would act if they had been isolated from a young age.

Graphically this game shines! We have some wonderful sprite work that’s full of animation and detail. When characters talk there are gorgeous portraits and the backgrounds are full of little details which bring the world to life. There are also subtle 3D elements as well as a lighting engine that’s able to cast real-time shadows on the background as your characters emit a light source. One particular moment was when I was going through a swamp and the mist would break when I went through it.

There are also some banging tracks in here as well. Some gave me an Undertale vibe, others were stuck in my head for days like the main battle theme.

The gameplay is mostly played in an isometric field for exploration with levels or zones transitioned via an overworld map. Random encounters are not a thing, instead, enemies are always visible on the screen, and you can choose to avoid them or engage with an attack. Upon combat, we stay on the same screen but everyone moves into position and it becomes turn-based. Your attacks are either physical or magic-based. Magic uses up mana but physical attacks regen mana so you get this yo-yo effect of constantly shifting your attacks. Upon landing a regular hit orbs drop from your enemy which you can choose to absorb to power up your next move. 

Enemies also telegraph their more advanced moves and display a delay metre with various elements and a countdown. If you manage to tick off all these boxes before the countdown you stop the attack and delay the enemy. You can learn combo attacks which combine two party members’ elements and even some ultimate attacks later on. Upon landing any hit or defending, a timed button press can increase attack damage or reduce incoming damage. All this gives combat a nice variety and avoids being tedious.

It has a system very much like the latest Final Fantasy where you can find artefacts which, when activated change gameplay elements. Things like damage received, refill health after battle and more give a great range of customisation and enable all skill groups to enjoy the game as they see fit

Exploration is a treat with environmental puzzles that are a nice balance of challenging but not infuriating, and as your journey progresses you gain manoeuvrability upgrades like a grappling hook which in turn unlock more paths. There are optional quests and collectables, including a side quest which involves building a new town, which was great.

Duke Aventry speaks to the party about his fate

In my 25 hours, I had a fantastic time with Sea Of Stars, it reminded me of classics like Chrono Trigger, Golden Sun and Super Mario RPG with a gripping story, plenty of side content and enjoyable writing. As it’s included in Games Pass and PS+ currently you may find you have access to this already and I wholeheartedly recommend giving it a go.

9/10 star rating

Publisher:  Sabotage Studio

Developer: Sabotage Studio

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Microsoft Windows





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