Also On: PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
Publisher: Square Enix
tri-Ace has a long history of RPGs. Their first game, the original Star Ocean, was released back in 1996 on the SNES in Japan and their first American release was Star Ocean: the Second Story in 1998. The Divine Force is the first original Star Ocean game on consoles in six years, and the previous game, Integrity and Faithlessness, was poorly received. Seeing as tri-Ace has been known for taking chances with gameplay, we had high hopes that The Divine Force would fare better.
The Star Ocean games takes place in a universe somewhat like Star Trek, a futuristic universe where space travel has been around for a while. There is an interplanetary federation that was formed not too long after World War 3 on Earth and this federation?s main charter is peacekeeping, not exploring. They do have a ?prime directive? type rule where they cannot interact with civilizations that haven?t discovered space travel yet. For those of you who have played the games, you will know that in several of the games this rule is broken all the time.
There are two main characters in The Divine Force, Raymond, captain of a merchant ship the Ydas. They come under attack by the federation starship Astoria and are forced to abandon ship. When they do, the crew arrives on an underdeveloped world in the Aster system and almost as soon as he lands, he meets Laeticia, princess of the Kingdom of Aucerius along with her knight, Albaird. Both Laeticia and Raymond are the main protagonists of the game and at the beginning you choose who to start the game with. Your choice does affect the story, even up to and including an exclusive character you can recruit to your party.
After your party members are introduced planet side, Laeticia and Raymond start looking for Raymond?s other crew members. They first run across the cargo that he was carrying, a device called D.U.M.A. D.U.M.A. is always attached to whomever the player is in control of. All of her abilities can be upgraded by collecting crystals, and abilities she grants include things like, scanning the surrounding area, flying a short distance, and gliding. In battle, she gives you access to a shield, aggression meter and the ability to do blindsides which is a dashing attack that uses D.U.M.A.?s flying ability, and if successful, gives you more AP (action points) to fight with.
Speaking of fighting, battles take place on the main screen. Much like an action RPG, enemies are visible on the map and will engage you if they see you. Three buttons are dedicated to different combos for each character. As characters level up they learn new moves and those moves can be upgraded. Combos can be changed on each button, each move in the combo chain takes AP. When AP is depleted, players must wait in order to allow it to refill. Generally speaking, fights are fast and over quickly.
The overworld is a series of interconnected maps. While exploring D.U.M.A. will be a great tool, the ability to scan and fly short distances are huge boons. This does come at a cost, invisible walls. There is no reason anymore for any RPG to have invisible walls and some of the walls are just a short way up a hill and the hill looks like it could very easily be climbable, and others are just on the top of mountains. This is unacceptable in a world of big RPGs. Another ability of D.U.M.A.?s is to scan the area, and there are a couple of extremely annoying factors with scanning. First, you need to stop moving, secondly if your party is in the middle of an intra-group conversation, the scan won?t go off. You will need to wait until your party members stop talking. This is especially annoying considering that the player didn?t start the conversation in the first place.
Picking up items in the overworld is actually a pretty good system. No buttons need to be hit if you are just picking up an item, just run over them. If you pick up a healing item and your healing items are full, they will be used automatically to heal the party. There is a rather robust crafting system in The Divine Force so collecting items is a must.
Motoi Sakuraba returns for the soundtrack. He has been involved in many tri-Ace projects as well as some Bandai Namco projects such as the Dark Souls series, Valkyrie Profile and many of the Tales games. If you know these soundtracks you are already familiar with his work. Most of the music is very full and bright with almost too much going on with many of the tracks.
Graphically, the game looks okay and there is nothing here to blow your mind. Character animations are stiff in cutscenes. Texture quality is not very even either and some look like they could have been done on the PS3 and others on PS4. I see nothing here that benefits greatly from the graphical power of the PS5 or Xbox Series X.
Star Ocean: The Divine Force is an improvement from the previous game; Integrity and Faithlessness, but this is not a return to form to games like Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, or The Second Story. tri-Ace, to me, could do no wrong during the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 era. I would love to see tri-Ace return to greatness with a higher quality new Star Ocean title, but with this one I?ll have to settle for average.
Note: Square Enix provided us with a Star Ocean: The Divine Force PS5 code for review purposes.