Sea Of Stars Review – A Beautiful, Boundless Ocean

Sea Of Stars Review - A Beautiful, Boundless Ocean

After releasing the fantastic ‘The Messenger’ in 2018, Sabotage Studio inevitably knew that they had an enormous mountain to climb with whatever game they launched next. With a love of SNES-era classics like Chrono Trigger coursing through the blood of studio co-founder Thierry Boulanger and others, Sabotage had the ambitious goal of attempting to create a game that leveraged the strengths of the legendary JRPG, whilst pairing that with aspects of other classic titles, all with a trademarked Sabotage spin layered atop it. The product of this is Sea Of Stars, one of the finest role-playing games of all time. 

With an evil alchemist known as The Fleshmancer, responsible for countless monstrous beasts flooding the world, two children, Valere and Zale, Children Of The Solstice, are brought together, imbued by the powers of the sun and moon to counteract The Fleshmancer’s powerful influence upon the world. Eclipse magic is the only known thing that can thwart The Fleshmancer and so naturally those evil forces are thrust in your way at every turn looking to cut you down, but as well as enemies being drawn to you, so are the wonderful denizens of the world. Sea Of Stars takes you to some pretty wondrous locations, from the port town of Brisk, with it’s crack-up cast of pirates, through awe-inspiring mountainous regions, beautiful coastal shores, and much more as your quest collides with many wonderful characters whose own stories will make you laugh, cry, and everywhere in between. Sea Of Stars features dozens of endearing characters from all walks of life, each presenting their own colourful personalities, and these quest lines you pursue with most of these folks feel as relevant or resonant as the primary objective.

While far more linear than Chrono Trigger, and not featuring almost any of the grinding associated with games in that same genre, Sea of Stars still draws upon key pillars of that iconic 90s title, namely in its combat. Sea Of Stars features turn-based combat, with combatants that can shift around the battlefield as the need arises. Like Chrono Trigger, positioning has no impact over the way that turns play out, but it does make the encounter feel more lively. Beyond the standard attack, skill/magic, and item options, Valere and Zale, as well as other party members can pair up with combo attacks that can have a devastating impact on opposition enemies. A combo meter builds with each hit that you lay upon your targets, contained that singular encounter, and at times of your choosing you can elect to utilise a specific party member to launch your assault on an enemy. Different character pairings produce different combos allowing you to mix and match til your heart is content. 

Much like games such as Paper Mario which significantly popularised the mechanic, timing-based perks are also available in combat to those who correctly press the press the X button at the exact moment before striking (or being struck by) a target. Offensively, you can inflict additional damage, and regenerate MP, while defensively you can reduce damage sustained. Enemies will also drop Live Mana once struck by a well timed attack, a consumable resource that can be stacked up to three times to compound the damage you inflict by throwing the power of that Live Mana back at your enemy. Enemies also have the ability to launch special attacks at you, but as they prepare for that move, a series of weaknesses emerge and if your party can strike back forcefully and smartly, the special attack, along wiht your target, can be rendered vulnerable.

It is easy to conclude that with so many different systems all active during the throes of combat, that something has to buckle, but each mechanic works relatively independently of the others, and so with careful management, players can turn combat into something of a dance, with its own momentum, moves, and shifts in balance. 

The world itself is vast, and is widely differentiated, giving players the opportunity to acquire new, unique skills that will be of benefit when navigating the terrain. Early on players are introduced to the Mistral Bracelet, a tool that allows them to use the power of wind to shift blocks around. These small block puzzles conceal chests but also in some cases progression, and there are more powers deeper into the game that are begging to be uncovered. Players also have extremely important side activities at their immediate disposal like the ability to cast out a line and begin fishing. Sometimes it’s the smaller things in life that shine brightest, but even fishing, a mechanic that is usually a nice, but non-essential component, feeds into the game’s cooking mechanic which allows the party to take raw ingredients they collect and at a campfire, cook up a more potent recovery item. This is again another simple case of Sea Of Stars’ disparate systems intertwining in engaging, value-adding ways. And then, there’s Wheels, Sea Of Stars’ mini-game option that is a little confusing at first, but as the gears begin to turn following a few matches becomes something that you’ll actively hunt down in every inn as the game progresses further.

You cannot talk about Sea Of Stars without acknowledging it’s incredible beauty. The environments are incredibly varied, however it’s the pixel-art that really makes them strike a chord with the player. Combine an incredible art direction with stunning dynamic lighting, something that is often skipped over in pixel-art games, and toss in a splash of riveting, foot-tap-extracting 16-bit era tunes, and you’ve got a piece of masterful video game artistry that teases each of your senses.

Sea Of Stars is not necessarily original, however, it draws upon all of the right pieces of source material and mixes each ingredient that it takes in meaningful ways that add value to the final product, rather than in ways that diminish the impact of each component. Sabotage knows what fans love about JRPGs of the 16-bit era, but also what players are looking for from those same games today, and despite pushing the game clock well beyond 30 hours, I found myself constantly enthralled by what was around Sea Of Stars’ next corner. 

Sea Of Stars was reviewed on PS5 with a code kindly provided by Tinsley-PR

Have you seen our Merch Store?

Check out our Most Recent Video

Find us on Metacritic

Check out our Most Recent Posts