When I first launched the new demo for Sea of stars, the upcoming indie RPG that draws inspiration from classics like Chrono trigger, I wasn’t hooked after my first fight. Its combat system confused me at first, with shifting weaknesses and a mana pool that somehow felt like it was only an inch deep. It was only after reading extensively about the combat that I came to appreciate its quirks, like its signature “lock” system. If only it were a more emotionally gripping story, I’d be convinced it’s worth playing from start to finish.
Sabotage Studio’s latest project serves as a prequel to their other game, The messenger. Our heroes, Zale and Valere, are the only ones capable of using Eclipse Magic, a special power capable of defeating the Fleshmancer’s monsters. It’s up to the two protagonists to stop their enemy with their combined powers – something that sabotage emphasizes in the demo featuring the aforementioned combat.
C combo breaker!
sea of stars blends just the right amount of traditional and modern gameplay into its combat. Players can directly choose whether a character will attack, cast a spell, or use an item during their turn. Each character has a mana bar that refills as they use their basic attacks, as well as abilities that they can cast if they have enough MP. Ideally, the player should exploit type weaknesses. Attacks charge up a combo meter, allowing characters to use dual attacks that sometimes hit more weaknesses than characters can alone.
That’s where sea of stars‘ “Lock” function is added. Locks are the rows of blocks that sometimes appear over an enemy before they unleash a special attack. The blocks have symbols for the four types of attacks, including sun and moon magic. Hitting the enemy with the listed attack types will weaken their attack or break the attack entirely if you break all locks. It’s much easier to break the locks with skills and combo attacks. However, breaking locks is intended as a bonus and is not required to complete the game.
Some attacks, like Valere’s Moonerang, also require timed button presses to increase damage. These prompts make the player an active participant in the battle with real-time button presses, even after choosing which move to use. Figuring out how to break locks from contextual hints is a bit of a chore, so I’d advise you read the How to Play section from the sea of stars Title screen when you want to play the demo. For those who want to focus on the story, there’s also an accessibility option that increases HP and regenerates health after battles.
The demo’s combat and puzzle pieces suggest a game with a solid mechanical skeleton. However, I can’t help but feel like there’s a lack of personality because of what I’ve played.
Looking for more
Demos are not fully indicative of a final game. They just give players a taste of what to expect in 30 to 60 minutes. sea of stars focuses on gameplay in its demo but doesn’t offer that much insight into its story or characters. Zale and Valere don’t seem to have much of a difference in their personalities, to the point where I wouldn’t be able to tell their dialogues apart if they weren’t labeled. Her friend Garl, meanwhile, clearly appears as a carefree type, without, however, differing greatly from similar archetypes.
Of course, the game has a clear personality in the form of humor. You can see it in some of the NPC lines including the poor guy at the bar who needed a big coffee for his finale. I didn’t feel emotionally attached to anything because there weren’t any assignments that I could immediately commit to. The gameplay is clean, but a little too sterile without the juicier parts of the story.
If you’re an RPG fan, it’s worth digging into the Nintendo Switch demo to see how it all plays out for yourself. It should take around an hour of your time, even with some light hiking – maybe longer if you want to talk to every single NPC and wipe out a few times. If you’re stopping by, don’t miss the Coral Cascades region just outside of town. It makes you listen Chrono trigger Composer Yasunori Mitsuda’s first guest track in the game.
sea of stars will be released on August 29, 2023 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch. The demo is currently only available for Nintendo Switch, but Sabotage has confirmed it will be coming to Steam at a later date.
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