Sea of Stars (Xbox One) Review

By Albert Lichi 08.09.2023

Review for Sea of Stars on Xbox One

The Messenger was celebrated for its precise and demanding action platforming gameplay. Sabotage Studio is embarking on a significantly different journey with Sea of Stars , delving into the expansive and immersive genre of RPGs. This bold transition raises a fundamental question: can a studio acclaimed for its excellence in one genre successfully transfer the essence of another beloved genre to their new project? Taking cues from Chrono Trigger and some inspiration from Mario RPG, can Sabotage Studios transition from platformer excellence to building a massive world and story? Find out in this Sea of Stars review!

Zale and Valere stand as Solstice Warriors, their lives meticulously orchestrated by a master whose every action is in anticipation of a dire prophecy that could seal the fate of entire worlds. Since childhood, they have been groomed to embrace their destinies, preserving an ancient tradition and thwarting a malevolent presence that has persisted for generations. The malevolent alchemist known as The Fleshmancer is the source of the evil creatures plaguing the world, and only the Solstice Warriors wield the celestial magic of the sun and moon, enabling them to vanquish these heinous abominations. Initially their quest appears straightforward, but as revelations unfold and new adversaries emerge, the plot's intricacies deepen.

With unexpected alliances and plot twists aplenty, Sea of Stars keeps RPG enthusiasts engaged and on edge. Even the most sinister villains in the narrative are crafted with multiple layers, portraying a canvas of depth that reveals the nuanced interplay between light and darkness. Zale and Valere find themselves not only pitted against The Fleshmancer but also entangled with enigmatic hooded conspirators, who seek to usurp the natural order by unleashing hellish mobs of fiends. The magic of the Solstice Warriors alone will not suffice, requiring the aid of newfound friends who they encounter along their journey.

Screenshot for Sea of Stars on Xbox One

Sea of Stars exceptional strengths lie in the meticulous construction of its world and the nuanced development of its characters. Throughout the game, the plot maintains a thrilling tempo, efficiently conveying its messages with clever and sharp-witted dialogue. What is truly surprising is the occasional emergence of humour in unexpected situations, demonstrating boldness in breaking the fourth wall and playfully acknowledging well-known RPG conventions.

The ensemble cast of characters shines brightly, each imbued with a diverse emotions and humanity. Even minor characters briefly encountered in towns leave a remarkable and lasting impression, thanks to the attention given to their development. While Sea of Stars maintains an overall lighthearted tone, it also skilfully recognizes the significance of introducing genuine high stakes. This willingness to embrace moments of authentic drama when the narrative demands adds further depth to the storytelling.

However, despite the richness of the dialogue, it is quite astonishing how the two main protagonists come across as rather bland and uninteresting. In stark contrast, the other party members and NPCs burst with vibrant personalities. Zale and Valere, unfortunately, fall short and can be described as empty vessels who are indistinguishable from each other. Their flat conversations leaves much to be desired, and it is safe to say that if they were silent protagonists, it would not had made a difference.

Screenshot for Sea of Stars on Xbox One

In the enchanting islands and archipelagos a captivating journey is embarked upon, traversing imaginative landscapes teeming with details. Sea of Stars promises a dynamic gaming experience that seamlessly blends puzzle platforming with turn-based combat which prioritises strategy over grinding. Relying on the appropriate enemy weaknesses leads to cancelling powerful attacks and gaining the upper hand.

The developers have meticulously balanced the combat system to prevent foes being easily overpowered by special attacks. Characters have limited MP and a single special attack can deplete a significant portion of it. Timely hits and blocks, however, can replenish MP, resulting in battles filled with a tense back-and-forth experience. The introduction of a combo meter adds an ingenious layer of strategy to the gameplay, discouraging over-reliance on team attacks. Each successful block or timed hit fills the gauge, and when it reaches full capacity, a powerful team attack can be unleashed at one of three different levels.

Battles against basic enemies demand tactical thinking, as players must pre-emptively counter enemy special attacks by exploiting weaknesses. Each character possesses distinct attributes, and the ability to freely switch between them during battle further enriches the already tight and elegant combat system.

Screenshot for Sea of Stars on Xbox One

When not in battle expect to explore densely packed maps, unearth hidden chests, and gather cooking ingredients. Sea of Stars stands out with its unparalleled level designs. Environments brim with dimension and scale, encouraging exploration like never before. There is palpable depth and volume to each map despite being rendered as 2D pixel art. Nearly every ledge becomes a climbable surface, enabling heroes to effortlessly leap over gaps, ascend jagged cliffs, navigate narrow passages, and even swim through flooded settings. The development team invested meticulous effort in grounding the world in a tangible sense of reality.

Visually Sea of Stars is a masterpiece, boasting vibrant pixel art complemented by expressive character designs. What truly sets it apart is the innovative lighting system, a rarity in most pixel art-based games. The lighting interacts dynamically with sprites, firmly anchoring each element within the scene. As the sun sets, casting long shadows from the characters, it paints a picturesque tableau that enhances immersion.

The use of highly contrasting colours and well-defined silhouettes imparts a unique atmosphere to every locale and character. The inclusion of numerous instances of unique animation frames serves as a testament to the extraordinary artistic prowess of the Sabotage Studio team who, true to their commitment to excellence, left no aspect of presentation unexamined. Recognizing the importance of a stellar RPG soundtrack, they not only pay homage to legends like Yasunori Mitsuda but also enlisted him to compose several pieces for the game. As expected, the Sea of Stars' soundtrack is nothing short of exceptional. Many compositions carry his trademark emotional and nostalgic tones, evoking a profound sense of reflection on the passage of time and wistful melodies.

Screenshot for Sea of Stars on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Sea of Stars may not be a legitimate Chrono Trigger 2, but it does feel like it a lot of the time. This is largely due to the music, visuals and the break-neck pace that keeps the story from ever getting dull. The protagonists will not endear gamers, but the setting, side characters, and atmosphere will. It seamlessly weaves in homages while showcasing greater originality than initially apparent. It stands as an artistic triumph, excelling in both visuals and audio, with its engrossing turn-based combat embodying impeccable design.

Developer

Sabotage Studio

Publisher

Sabotage Studio

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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