Sea of Stars review for PS5, Xbox Series X, Switch, PC

Platform: PS5
Also On: PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, PC
Publisher: Sabotage Studio
Developer: Sabotage Studio
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Sea of Stars puts you in control of one of two “Solstice Warriors”, legendary heroes who are the only ones capable of taking on a recurring evil threat, raised from childhood to take on the role and venture out once ready to combat their foes. There’s a bit more going on under the hood in relation to how this story plays out, which might come as no surprise if you’ve played The Messenger, but on the surface the adventure and camaraderie between the two main heroes and their friend/companion is really well done, and the story bits you get from each town, dungeon, and occasional new hero helps flesh out the world even more, keeping you invested in the tale along the way. I loved that the writing and dialogue wasn’t overly verbose or complicated, yet still well written, and I had little trouble feeling engaged throughout the adventure, constantly wanting to press ahead to see what was next. 

To go along with that, the combat system in Sea of Stars helps with that engagement tremendously. Enemies are encountered when exploring the various areas and dungeons accessible from an overworld map. You can run up to or allow yourself to be hit by an enemy to engage in combat, which is turn based like many classic RPG’s, but also employs an extra damage / block mechanic similar to old GBA Mario & Luigi games, or the Paper Mario series from Nintendo. 

Additionally, each Solstice Warrior has their own magical affinity, like the moon or sun, and other companions introduced along the way will employ other elements. These are important to make note of because occasionally enemies will use special attacks, signified by a series of icons appearing over their head that correspond with these elements. If you’re able to hit an enemy with all of the displayed elements before their turn commences, you’ll stop the special attack and delay that enemy’s turn, giving you some strategy to employ even in basic battles. This helps keep the combat system feeling fresh throughout, and enemy encounters are paced really well, so you never feel bored or compelled to try and skip out of fights. Boss battles just amplify this concept further, making it important to make use of it if you intend to scrape by in the tougher fights. 

Combat is also further emphasized by the live mana concept. If you hit an enemy with a basic attack, you’ll not only replenish a bit of your character’s mana, but the enemy hit will also drop some glowing balls of mana. On your next attack you can then absorb that dropped mana to make your attack stronger, or you can wait a little bit and let it build up, up to 3x, in order to unleash a powerful version of whatever attack you choose. Finally, characters can also unleash combo attacks, which require you to build up a combo meter by successfully attacking, defending, or just taking enemy blows throughout a battle. The meter resets for each fight, so you’re meant to use the meter liberally throughout the game, and it’s useful in a variety of situations. 

In addition to the excellent combat system, Sea of Stars has some fantastic pacing throughout. Towns are worth exploring as they often hide treasures here and there, there’s a number of abilities gifted throughout the game to improve movement and traversal, a whole host of small puzzles to solve that aren’t particularly tough but help break up the standard exploration, and each main dungeon/boss area tends to employ unique mechanics making each new location look and feel exciting. 

I’ve really been impressed with Sea of Stars overall. I think it delivers the total package when it comes to retro-infused RPG’s, and it feels pretty unique in a field that’s full of like-minded games. It also helps tremendously that a lot of folks will be able to try the game out for free via Game Pass or PlayStation Plus, but I’d honestly recommend it regardless, it’s well worth checking out. 

Note: Sabotage Studios provided us with a Sea of Stars PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: A