After six years, Star Ocean returns with a new installment that mixes the classic with new mechanics.
Title: Star Ocean: The Divine Force
Developer: Tri-Ace / Square Enix
Number of Players: 1
Platforms: Playstation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC
Genre: Action JRPG
In 1996 the people of Tri Ace created a title for Super Nintendo where they mixed the Japanese role in real time with science fiction that gave rise to a saga that includes more than 5 main installments, which reach the current generation, and numerous Spin Off, now forming part of the Square Enix family.
After receiving a remastering of the first installment a couple of years ago and 6 years having passed since the previous main title, which also left the public somewhat cold, Tri Ace launches Star Ocean: The Divine Force, a game that seeks to improve the sensations of the player of both JRPG and the franchise, mixing the best that the franchise knows how to do with new mechanics that update its gameplay.
The Divine Force offers us two different campaigns that, despite sharing a good part of their development, do have unique moments and exclusive characters, which encourages the replayability of the title, which also has several endings for our two protagonists. These will be Raymond, the captain of the merchant ship Ydas, and Laeticia, the princess and warrior of a kingdom on an underdeveloped planet. Both of them will cross destinations while investigating a mysterious disease that is ravaging the planet, meeting other characters along the way who will have their reasons for traveling this planet with us.
And it is that in this installment of Star Ocean a more “fantastic” approach is opted for, since a large part of the plot takes place in this place that lives in a kind of medieval mixed with some technological and magical touches, but that will remind us in at all times to the most classic JRPG. Of course, this is Star Ocean, and we will have doses of futuristic technology, science fiction and space travel, although we already warned you that it will not be as free in that sense as you may think, focusing the plot on Aster IV, its people and its culture, as well as palace intrigues and the war between the two main factions.
The change of pace of the story seems somewhat forced, not because of the story itself, which is responsible for linking the goings-on of the villains of Aster IV with space exploration, but more so because the narrative seems very clearly divided into three parts. and these do not connect in the cleanest way possible, leaving a somewhat strange result for a story that will last us about 30 hours or more if we decide to carry out secondary tasks or play a mini board game with figures that represent the entire history of the franchise, as we remember, this title is launched for the 25th anniversary of the saga and that will be filled with many references to other installments of the saga, but don’t worry, the story is told perfectly without having played any other title previously, although the fans will also have their dose of references both of characters and for the moment in which the adventure takes place within the chronology.
Playable Star Ocean is committed to a continuous approach but expanding everything and adding some other mechanics in search of freshness and to recover the public with a very agile combat system. To begin with, as in any self-respecting JRPG, we will travel with our group, which will expand and each one will be completely controllable and will fulfill a different function at a playable level, from sword strikes, ranged attacks, “magic” and all kinds of techniques.
Our group will advance through extensive areas, which, although they do not constitute an open world, are large enough to want to explore them, either to level up by fighting the different monsters that inhabit them or to collect objects or crystals to improve our DUMA
And we mention the DUMA because it is one of the capital elements for The Divine Force. This “robot”, to call it something, that will join at the beginning of the adventure, will have various functions, both offensive and defensive, and will be able to learn different abilities and improve them by collecting crystals that will be scattered throughout the scenarios.
The function of our companion will mainly be, by way of comparison so that you get an idea, that of a propeller. With the press of a button we can accelerate or ascend, which gives the scenarios a great verticality, being able, for example, unlike other exponents of the genre, in this title we can explore the towns and cities not only for their streets if not up to the roofs and to great heights, where secrets will always await us in the form of chests or the aforementioned improvement crystals.
This “robot” will be an essential part of the fighting. This time we will see the enemies swarming around the stage, being able to engage in combat with them directly as we approach, thus being able to catch them by surprise. These combats take place in real time and will allow us to combe in different ways, since we ourselves will be able to assign different attacks to each button and to the specific combo, being able to link the attacks in the way that best suits us.
Of course this is an Action RPG and not a Hack and Slash, so we won’t be able to perform combos in super deep or infinite ways, since we are constrained to an AP bar that will force us to retreat and recover it to continue attacking, so that sometimes we will have to think carefully about our strategy or switch between the characters, something that can be done at any time with a single click.
The AI behaves in a reliable way although it tends to fail more in the confrontations against the different bosses, by not dodging the attacks correctly or going wild, so do not be surprised if you have to constantly revive your allies because they die in different ways absurd, especially in the higher difficulties.
Graphically, Star Ocean: The Divine Force gives one of lime and another of sand, and the fact is that the settings are generally of great beauty. Going through large meadows, forests or snowy environments puts us in contact with nature more directly than other Star Ocean thanks to current technical capabilities. On the other hand, the characters, created by the veteran “Akiman” are very varied and with very interesting designs, although they are not always transferred perfectly to the graphics engine, sometimes creating animations that are somewhat orthopedic or lack expressiveness, which generates a contradictory feeling on some occasions in which the character moves in a hyper-realistic way with motion capture but at the same time practically does not move his mouth or eyes.
On the other hand, performance leaves a lot to be desired. While the game is aiming for a stable 60 fps for much of the adventure, there are some points where the game plummets, becoming too noticeable and annoying. And do not think that it is when the screen is filled with effects or elements, sometimes it happens in specific areas at all times, as if they were less polished than others, which are sometimes even larger and do not cause any problem.
The soundtrack does not disappoint, being the work of Motoi Sakuraba, a veteran of the saga but who we have also been able to hear in major franchises such as Tales of, Golden Sun and even Dark Souls. Although this is perhaps not the most inspired work of his or the one that will be remembered the most of his career, it still has very epic melodies, powerful for combat and beautiful for exploration, so we cannot put too much fault with it. this aspect.
On the other hand, we have voices in English and Japanese (we have played the latter, with quite remarkable results and recognizable actors from other RPGs) but unfortunately the game only comes to us with texts in English (texts of a minuscule size on the other hand, the most exaggerated thing I’ve seen in time, it wouldn’t cost anything to add a size selector), so it will be impossible to follow the plot if you don’t master Shakespeare’s language given the large amount of dialogues and texts that you will find.
Star Ocean: The Divine Force is a step forward in the franchise, especially compared to the previous installment. Fans of the franchise are in luck, as The Divine Force offers a solid story, lots of exploration, and many hours of content between the two campaigns, all the endings, or the difficult endgame content. On the other hand, it can be a gateway for the franchise since it is a completely independent story that connects with the others but at the level of winks and references.
Unfortunately, the game does not shine as brightly as it should due to a technical section that lacks two layers of polish and a narrative that is somewhat artificial in its development but that nevertheless will make us feel very fond of all the characters in this peculiar group, giving us incredible moments that will remain in the history of the franchise.
Author: Victor Gonzalez Valle
Region Playstation editor since October 2014. Fan of JRPGs, horror and almost any kind of genre. He writes about Anime, manga and books as well as video games. I love learning even the smallest details about games, companies and developments. I love to write!