Sabotage Studio, the development team behind 2018’s independent success, The Messenger, returns with their upcoming gaming release, Sea of Stars. Following two Children of the Solstice, Valere and Zale, who are looking for the Elder Mist to complete their training in becoming Solstice Warriors and help defend the world against the evil forces guided by The Fleshmancer.
As the developer looks to explore different genres and reinvent them with modern enhancements and revamped mechanics, Sea of Stars is a wonderful blueprint that builds atop what they started with The Messenger. Quite simply, this game is a beautiful ode to inspiring retro turn-based RPGs but with its unique spin that gives Sea of Stars its own Sabotage touch from beginning to end.
Sea Of Stars Review: Brief Overview
Sea of Stars is an upcoming turn-based retro RPG from Sabotage Studio, the team behind The Messenger, scheduled for release on 29th August 2023. This game follows the journey of two young adults who are Children of the Solstice embarking on a life-changing adventure outside their homeworld in pursuit of a villainous alchemist known as The Fleshmancer.
Along their adventures, they’ll encounter allies who will aid our heroes in completing their mission while they learn more about their abilities and acquire new skills that allow them to use their combined powers of the Sun and Moon. By the end of the day’s adventures, gather around the campfire and enjoy a meal, a thrilling story, and ample sleep under the nighttime skies, or explore your surroundings to find who roams these lands at night.
Sea Of Stars Review: Gameplay & Content
Developer Sabotage Studio aims to modernize RPGs by incorporating various mechanics for a fresh new take on this genre. Inspired by retro JRPGs, Sea of Stars blends interactive environments with a thrilling narrative and engaging turn-based combat mechanics that should be familiar to players who’ve played Dragon Quest, Fire Emblem, Octopath Traveller, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy.
Speaking of turn-based combat, this is pretty easy to get into from the get-go as you’ll face enemies with varying weaknesses to Physical Damage, Lunar and Solar Damage. Additionally, your fellow party members will join you in combat who can provide various skills, like healing, which can be useful in facing challenging enemies and can be outfitted with different weapons, armor, and Relics to enhance their combat prowess.
Exploring the environment is linear, but regardless, it helps you navigate the world and ensure you meet your next objective or arrive at the next location. Even without a minimap or quest tracker in play, this approach to completing your quests and exploration doesn’t hinder the gameplay immersion and instead provides players with a seamless experience.
The game’s traversal system is free from any restrictions, meaning players can walk, climb, jump, swim, fish, and lift themselves up without being held back. This deepens immersion, letting you interact with the environments, solving the many puzzles discovered, and, in turn, making exploration more engaging and fun.
There’s so much to do in this world, from finding puzzles, uncovering lore through collecting artifacts, fishing, and cooking, which plays a role in your heroes’ journey, and providing support when in combat. Additionally, you can take time out from adventuring and head out into the open waters to find treasure, visit a local tavern for a song and word, or engage in an in-game mini-game called Wheels for a retro gameplay experience with modern enhancements.
Sea Of Stars Review: Technical Issues & Criticisms
There aren’t many criticisms aimed at Sea of Stars, especially as I reached the halfway point of the game, which is rumored to be longer than The Messenger in scope and length (which took around 12-15 hours to complete). But a minor issue I experienced, which boils down to timing and skill issues, is blocking, which is a little tricky to achieve and perfect but didn’t discourage me from trying and trying again.
While the game has a World Map, which you can view after reaching the end of an area or zone, and minimaps are absent, players unfamiliar with turn-based RPGs will likely complain about the lack thereof. Having a minimap locked on-screen can break immersion and exploration, but a tiny compass could be a suggested compromise. However, I have no complaints regarding not having a minimap or compass.
Sea of Stars Review: The Final Verdict
As someone who played Octopath Traveler 2 this year and fell in love with Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Sea of Stars is yet another game that continues to prove how well turn-based RPGs have evolved over the last few years. Paying homage to similar games of yesteryear, like Chrono Trigger, it has plenty of amazing modern features that players will love and enjoy playing from start to end.
Its story has me captivated, especially on how well it builds the friendship between Valere, Zale, and Garl, the latter I have a soft spot for, which prepares for its shocking twists and emotional moments. While I intend to pick up The Messenger once I’ve completed the game, Sea of Stars is a gorgeous love letter to its predecessors, which avid fans of this genre should own, and it gets a brilliant 4.5/5 as the final verdict.
Reviewed on PC.
Sea of Stars launches on 29th August 2023 for PlayStation 4&5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam. A playable demo is available for these respective platforms through their dedicated digital storefronts.