Developed and Published By: Sabotage Studio Categories: RPG Release Date: 08.29.23 Price: $35
Players going into Sea of Stars blind would likely never be able to guess that it serves as a prequel to The Messenger. The gameplay and overall functionality are vastly different from its 2018 predecessor and it’s a welcome shift for many. The Messenger is an action-platformer while Sea of Stars is a full-blown RPG with few references to Sabotage Studio debut title.
It’s definitely a unique creative choice to completely flip the genre in the middle of a series as there’s always a chance that fans may not take to kindly to the changes. But in this instance, it worked out very well, maybe even more than the developers had been hoping for. This is made evident with the game blowing past sales expectations within just a few days of release.
Sea of Stars is a masterclass when it comes to retro-inspired RPG’s, feeling more like last year’s Chained Echoes or Chrono Trigger than most modern RPG’s. If that’s an itch you’ve been wanting to scratch for a while, then Sea of Stars could be the game for you.
Sea of Stars features your standard saving the world storyline that’s boosted by interesting characters, a well-designed world, and a solid amount of emotion. Some people may argue that it’s fairly shallow but the game picks up after a while. During the first few hours, I focused less on the story and more on how the world was crafted and I was really pleased with the result. The visuals aren’t anything to write home about but the way the world looks and feels is amazing.
Whenever I had to go from one island to another, I loved getting in the ship and traveling across the sea. This method of transportation has a serene feel to it and because there’s no threat of combat, travelling has its own charm. Eventually you’ll unlock the ability to fly, which will effectively render your ship useless but will really speed things up.
Each of the islands that you encounter has a solid balance between combat, puzzles, and exploration. The islands also do a great job at being full of life thanks to its usage of color and pretty environments. Yes, there were a few moments where I felt like my enjoyment of the world was slowed down by the puzzles, but I have nothing but praise for the world design and exploration aspects.
The puzzles were probably my least favorite aspect of Sea of Stars. For the most part they’re highly engaging and rewarding to complete but I’m not personally a big fan of puzzles in general because I’m more often than not too stupid to figure them out right away. Fortunately, they didn’t take away from the experience for me and people who like puzzles will enjoy these.
As you dig deeper into the game, the story begins to really take shape. The way the story and characters are written is fantastic and there’s a slew of emotional themes and dark moments. As a result, you can’t help but fall in love or become mesmerized by every character, even those that you shouldn’t.
For me, combat was my favorite aspect of Sea of Stars because of how engaging it was and because of the unique party management system. As you progress deeper into the game, more companions join your team but when you’re in battle, you’re only allowed to have three party members at once. This was not a welcome sight as I’m used to RPG’s that utilizes teams of 4-6 or more in the case of SRPG’s.
It honestly felt like I was going to focus on the three characters that I liked the most and push everyone else to the side for moments where they’re absolutely necessary. Fortunately, Sea of Stars employs a system where you can swap out team members in the middle of battle. This way you could play with your normal team but switch out between characters whenever they become needed.
This allows for you to take a strategic approach to each battle, made each battle much more engaging, and gave you an incentive for working with additional characters. The combat itself is also fast-paced and lots of fun, and the visuals for both enemies and attacks look stunning.
One thing that you should take into consideration is that Sea of Stars is on the shorter end when it comes to RPG’s. Most RPG’s of today will cost you dozens of hours, sometimes reaching 100, but you can beat Sea of Stars in around 25 hours. The game suffers from not having the amount of content that you’d expect but it’s 25 hours of quality content that you won’t regret sinking your time into. Your 25hour experience will be filled with engaging combat and puzzles, great writing and characters, a lively world, and some fantastic sound design.
If you played every retro RPG and are looking for more, Sea of Stars will scratch that itch and offer you some welcome nostalgia. If you don’t have any attachment to RPG’s of a bygone era, Sea of Stars is still a mesmerizing experience on its own. Sea of Stars is a masterpiece in its own right and a delightfully crafted game. I’m sure that those who played are already eager to see what Sabotage Studio does next.
Fun and engaging combat system.
Interesting characters, story, and world.
It’s a pretty short game for an RPG of this scale.
*Game Download Code graciously provided for the purpose of review