I've always come across the name Star Ocean damn bewitching. Try for a moment to think about it too, try just for a few moments to imagine this ocean of stars with your eyes closed, an expanse of water studded with bright points of light that we are used to seeing in the sky. An amalgam between what we see above, unreachable and mysterious, and what is on our planet instead, perhaps easier to touch but always full of mystery. Don't you also feel something that attracts you, almost in a magical way, coming from this peculiar combination of terms? I certainly did and it is precisely for this reason, as well as for having been positively impressed by the title during my London hands-on, that I couldn't wait to immerse myself in Star Ocean The Divine Force, the latest title of the famous saga released these days for PS4, PS5, Xbox and PC. And, after several hours of gameplay, I'm finally ready to take you on this adventure with Raymond and Laeticia.
Two worlds in contact
As well as the title of the franchise, Raymond and Laeticia are also two characters at the antipodes, with a completely different economic and cultural background. Raymond, in fact, is a young spaceship commander, forced to land hastily following an enemy assault on Aster IV, while Laeticia is none other than the princess of one of the main kingdoms on the planet. If Raymond is therefore comfortable with themes such as space travel, automatons, interplanetary communication systems and so on, Laeticia has spent her entire existence in a realm characterized by classic fantasy styles, with just a few small steampunk influences to make everything a hair more futuristic. In short, what happens in the first minutes of the game between Raymond and Laeticia is not just a simple meeting between the two protagonists of Star Ocean The Divine Force, but a real clash of worlds, with this leitmotif that will also continue during the following hours of play.
The two will therefore find each other soon, indeed very soon, a join forces, trying to pursue their own goals. In fact, Raymond needs to find the other crew members scattered around Aester IV, such as the automaton Elena, while Laeticia is traveling with her assistant friend Albaird to try to save her kingdom. During the course of the game, this particular gang will be joined, as per jRPG tradition, by numerous new characters and, above all, DUMA, a sentient robot sphere with an uncertain nature that hides more than one mystery.
A plot that therefore begins without pressing the foot too much on the accelerator, but which is gradually enriched with new threats, themes and enemies, managing to entertain the player for several dozen hours. Finally, to make everything more interesting is the fact that, right at the beginning of the game, it is possible to choose, in addition to the difficulty, also whether to follow the plot more from Raymond's side or from Laeticia's side. Occasionally during Star Ocean The Divine Force it happens to the two characters to separate for more or less short periods of time and it is precisely in such cases that our choice will take effect, leading us to experience the narrative only from the point of view of the character chosen by us. A nice choice and all in all well implemented, which gives more than one reason to replay the title once the end credits are reached.
Star Ocean The Divine Force: frenetic but reasoned
As per the tradition of the saga, Star Ocean The Divine Force is a jRPG with strong action influences, which permeate the gameplay to the core. A game system that never leans towards either side, on the contrary managing to amalgamate both the soul of a Japanese role-playing game and that more of an action title together in a wise and virtuous way. Something that is absolutely not obvious, especially considering how many titles fail in this balancing act, and which without too many problems turns out to be one of the most successful aspects of the title. A gameplay therefore equipped with the right rhythm, frenetic but not trivial, easy to learn but complex to master and, above all, full of potential. A little gem, in short, which will be able to give a lot of satisfaction to those who have the patience and desire to learn all its various branches and facets.
The numerous clashes that dot the entire The Divine Force allow you to engage the various enemies with fast and adrenaline-pumping assaults, without however renouncing the tactics and strategy that rightly must be present in such a title. Although the gameplay is essentially action, given that we will be able to move freely in the battlefield, ring combos, dodge, attack and pincer and so on, to reject the ghost of button smashing and to make everything more reasoned is the fact that each of the various characters at our disposal comes with a given number of skill points or AP whatever you want to say, exhausted which will not be able to try their hand at slashing and various spells until they recharge. A mechanic that is then linked to other dynamics, such as attacks that require more than one AP or a greater quantity of skill points in case we sneak up on the opponent and so on. An excellent addition, which will certainly please lovers of old-fashioned Japanese role-playing games and which will allow them to manage even the most agitated situations with greater clarity, is the pause mode, which will allow us to stop the game at any time and evaluate what to do, for example by setting a different attack pattern for our allies or to use some particular object.
Attacks and combos nest within them as well an intriguing tactical vein. Through a dedicated menu, in fact, we will be able to set on each of the three offensive buttons - for PlayStation square, triangle and circle - which type of techniques and attacks to use. Each of the various members of the team, in fact, has its own skill tree, within which it is possible to find and unlock various skills and attack techniques, with which to then go precisely to customize the offensive patterns. On each of the three keys it is possible to set a combo, which will be activated by repeatedly pressing those buttons, and an attack to be selected by holding down the selected command instead. Considering the amount of different attacks and different playable characters, what emerges is a particularly wide and varied range of choices, capable of making the clashes more varied and dynamic.
To take a next step to everything is then the aforementioned D.U.M.A. with the nice spherical robot that will prove to be much more useful during the fights. Thanks to it, in fact, we could hurl ourselves ferociously against our opponents, causing serious damage and launching surprise attacks. DUMA also allows you to target opponents' weak points otherwise difficult to reach, such as the head of some overgrown automaton and so on. Adding to all the possibility of instantly changing one's character, thus passing for example from one without AP to another with still offensive potential so as not to interrupt the flow, it is evident how the gameplay of Star Ocean The Divine Force has a very high potential, suitable both for those who want to look for even the smallest facet of it and for those who are looking for something quick and simple to learn.
However, not everything is unfortunately obviously perfect and there are a couple of points that would have needed more attention. The camera, above all, shows its side to more than one criticism, not living up to the frantic pace of the game. Unfortunately, even the possibility of setting the lock on a single opponent does not protect him from his uncertainties and inaccuracies. Even the artificial intelligence, both of enemies and of our allies, it could certainly also have been more developed.
In the company of DUMA
DUMA will also prove to be very useful not only for the purposes of the plot and during the fights, but also for the exploration of the various game areas of Star Ocean The Divine Force. Thanks to it we will indeed be able to arrive in otherwise unreachable places, such as the roofs of buildings or rock walls, with such dynamics that it therefore gives the possibility of wandering even vertically in the various scenarios. A freedom of movement encouraged by what is the level design, with the locations of The Divine Force that are more often than not built to exploit the potential of DUMA.
To partially clip the wings to the whole, however giving us a game system from this point of view all in all satisfactory, are some areas that are not exactly spatially vast and separated from each other by however short loadings. There are also anachronistic invisible walls, which prevent us from roaming freely in the game maps and neither a few bugs too many related to this mechanic, given that it has happened to us more than once to get stuck in some element of the scenario, forcing our character to suffer the infamous phenomenon of falling without end.
Apart from these inaccuracies and limitations, Tri-Ace's decision to adapt a movement and exploration system based on a high dynamism goes well with the controlled frenzy of the combat system, with the two phases resulting as a consequence well cohesive with each other.
Star Ocean The Divine Force: Technically not up to par
As we told you about a month ago in our preview, where Star Ocean The The Divine Force not fully convincing is certainly on the technical side. Net of the uploads, which at the time seemed too long even on PS5 but which are fortunately now almost instantaneous, in fact, we have not noticed any progress in terms of graphics compared to what we found during our London hands-on. The version of the title by Tri-Ace and Square Enix for the Sony flagship, in fact, does not convince on a technical level or played with the mode that prefers graphic goodness nor with the one that instead makes the framerate more stable.
Le title textures and polygonal models do not honor PS5, and let's not even assume Xbox Series X or PC, resulting anchored to quality standards of several years ago. This is also joined by landscapes and settings, although all in all inspired and pleasant on a stylistic and artistic level, often too bare and devoid of elements capable of making them stand out, maximizing what is the potential of the title. Considering how the various game areas are often far from large in terms of space and physically separated from each other, complete with loading, the technical rendering is even more emblematic, which would certainly have could and should have offered something better in this respect.
The character design can also be reviewed of the various characters, with in particular Raymond, the handsome blond that you can observe from time to time in the images accompanying this review, which is all too anonymous on a visual level. Not even the other characters excel much in this respect, but that of the space explorer is certainly the most emblematic case.
In any case, do not be discouraged by a technical performance below expectations: Star Ocean The Divine Force is, as you will have understood, a very valid title and which boasts a particularly captivating game system. If you know how to go further a discreet graphic aspect in short, you will find a more than interesting title, which will be able to entertain you for several dozen hours.