If you enjoy playing old-school role-playing games, you need to give Sea of Stars a try. It is heavily influenced by some older Final Fantasy games, Illusion of Gaia, Super Mario RPG, Chrono Trigger, and more. Sea of Stars features two main protagonists, Valere and Zale. At the start of your journey, you will select which of the two will be the main person you control. This decision has no consequence; you can change it if you want later on, so go ahead and pick whoever you wish to. For those who have played many older titles, this game has a powerful sense of nostalgia. It is a love letter to the games mentioned above and shows throughout the adventure.
Sea of Stars Is a Loving Homage to Old-School JRPGs
Valere and Zale are Solstice Warriors, and the tutorial has you going through their formative years at Zenith Academy. This is where you learn the basics of the game and how it all ties together. You also get your first taste of the story through some dialogue and foreshadowing. Throughout your training, you will learn how to combine your powers of the sun and moon to perform Eclipse Magic, which is instrumental in your upcoming battles.
The combat for Sea of Stars is reminiscent of Chrono Trigger. It is active turn-based combat where you can control the damage you inflict within the framework of selecting your action in a menu. For example, you can choose to do a basic attack. However, if you time the attack appropriately, you will inflict more damage than usual. You also have your standard magic attacks that can cause some severe damage. The way the magic system works here is that you gain magic points in the course of battle. So, if you want to perform an attack that costs nine magic points but you only have five, you will earn those four extra points after a few turns of regular attacks. Your magic points can build up fairly quickly, so once you understand how this system works, you can adequately plan the moves you want to make in battle. Then there are the combos where you can team up with another person in your party to perform a special action to cause even more damage. Eventually, you build up a meter that will allow you to unleash your ultimate move, which has its own small cut scene to build up the anticipation before devastating the opposition. You eventually get to a point where you acquire extra party members as well. At that point, you can swap out party members if their health declines. Overall, it is a fluid system that will keep you engaged throughout your journey.
Sea of Stars has its share of narrative twists and turns as you learn more about your destiny and what it will take to fulfill it. You gain friends as you try to complete the different prophecies. Each party member will bring something new and become a critical part of your mission. Some themes you will encounter include the power of friendship, the burden of performing your duty, trying to save those you love, and more. By the end, you will have a varied cast of characters from different walks of life and different stories to tell.
The world in Sea of Stars has quite a bit of variety and allows you to approach it in a few different ways. You eventually get to the point where you can sail around to other locations. Before that, you walk around an overworld map to different places. This is where you can build a campfire to cook some food for battle, visit with party members, listen to campfire stories, and save your game. There are lakes you can go to where you can fish to get more supplies for cooking and even a trophy for catching every species in the game. There are towns you will visit, caves you need to explore, forests you need to find your way through, and some ancient puzzles you will need to solve. It has some decent variety for a game of this size and will keep you busy for a little while if you are a completionist and want to try and do everything.
A Combination of Old and New Mechanics Keeps Sea of Stars Feeling Fresh
In true RPG fashion, you will have to find treasure chests containing different gear types. Once acquired, you will need to equip it to help your character grow stronger. You learn other skills as you get farther into the game and will find additional items that will become useful to you. Sea of Stars also handles difficulty in a rather exciting way. There are relics that you will find throughout the game. One such relic is the “Amulet of Storytelling,” which will give your party the maximum amount of health points, and you will heal automatically after every battle. Suppose you want the combat in the game to be more accessible. You should turn this on in that case, but it is entirely optional. Another one is the “Guardian Aura,” which will reduce the damage you take by 30%. There are a lot of relics in the game, and it is entirely optional whether or not you want to use them. If you are a trophy hunter, you will be happy to hear that using these relics does not affect your ability to unlock trophies.
As I was going through the game, one thing I appreciated from this RPG was that I didn't have to do any grinding to level up. The game is wonderfully paced in this regard, and I didn't feel wholly outmatched in battle. If you have played role-playing games in the past, you are familiar with how vital level grinding can be. Still, it is optional here, which helps the game flow more naturally.
I didn't have many issues with this adventure as I went through it. I struggled with fishing early on because my fishing line would snap almost immediately when trying to reel in certain fish. When I leveled up to better equipment, that was no longer an issue, but it was initially frustrating. There is also one annoying enemy in the beginning that can spawn other enemies. So, for example, there might be a group of three enemies on the screen. I would eliminate one of them, but then another would create two more, so now there were four enemies on the screen. These enemies were hard to deal with early on, so it became almost a never-ending cycle, and it got to the point where I just avoided these areas. Fortunately, this was only in the first area, and I had no problem with any other enemy in the game. There were also some times when I needed help figuring out what to do next. I eventually figured it out, but some less experienced gamers will have difficulty with how obtuse it is in different parts of the game.
Sea of Stars is a love letter to classic role-playing games, and it is a huge success in that regard. Despite the few issues mentioned above, I have had a lot of fun going through this adventure. The combat is fun and flows naturally without worrying about level grinding. The story is interesting, with some twists and turns. The world itself is intriguing. I recommend this to anyone who is a fan of the source material and those who might not have played a role-playing game before. Sea of Stars is a great way to jump into the genre if this is your first role-playing game.
Rating: 9/10 SPECS
Brandon Hofer is a California-based writer who covers the entertainment industry. More specifically, Brandon has covered the gaming industry since 2006, attending and covering the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) every year. Brandon has also attended the Games Developer Conference, Penny Arcade Expo, and various events put on by publishers and developers. Brandon has worked with numerous studios, including Xbox Game Studios, PlayStation, Nintendo, Ubisoft, THQ, Activision, Electronic Arts, and more. Over the years, working with those studios has also allowed Brandon to work with iconic franchises such as the NFL, WWE, and the UFC. Thanks to that experience, Brandon also covers what goes on in the world of sports entertainment, primarily WWE. Brandon's work has appeared on MSN, Muck Rack, Flipboard, GameCrate, Wealth of Geeks, and more.