Review: Sea of Stars Captivates with Nostalgic Charm and Engaging Gameplay
A Game That Stands Out
We’ve all had those moments while watching a game show presentation when something unexpected catches our attention, amidst the seemingly endless stream of trailers. For me, that moment came when I first saw the trailer for Sea of Stars. Created as a distant prequel to the retro-style action platformer, The Messenger, Sea of Stars immediately captivated me with its colorful 2D pixel graphics and classic RPG inspiration. With its recent release, I can confidently say that Sea of Stars lives up to the anticipation and delivers a truly special gaming experience.
The Story of Heroes and Darkness
In Sea of Stars, players are introduced to a world plagued by an evil alchemist known as the Fleshmancer and his monstrous minions, the Dwellers. The only hope lies in the Solstice Warriors, children born on the summer or winter solstice, who possess the ability to wield solar and lunar magic. The game follows the journey of two new Solstice Warriors, Zale and Valere, as they set out with their talented chef friend, Garl, to defeat a powerful Dweller. Along the way, they encounter a cast of endearing characters, each with their own contributions to the adventure. From the mysterious assassin, Seraï, to the lovable Garl, the characters bring depth and surprises to the story.
While Sea of Stars follows a classic good versus evil setup, it introduces interesting nuances that occasionally take the story in unexpected directions. Although the ending may feel a little abrupt, and some plot threads may remain unresolved, I found myself satisfied with the adventure and the world I had explored. The lore of Sea of Stars’ universe is further enriched by the storytelling talents of a traveling historian named Teaks, who shares relevant and haunting tales at various points in the game. This clever method of world-building adds depth without overwhelming the main story.
A Stunning Visual and Auditory Treat
From start to finish, Sea of Stars enchants players with its stunning visuals. The combination of dynamic lighting, real-time reflections, and detailed 2D environments creates a feast for the eyes. The hand-drawn animations and charming pixel art portraits add an endearing touch to the characters and their world. The game’s “retro but modern” design philosophy is seamlessly integrated into its turn-based battles. The Locks system, where enemies charging special moves display locks to break, adds an element of strategy and prioritization to combat. Timed hits and blocks further enhance the engagement and offer opportunities for additional damage.
One of the standout features of Sea of Stars is its exceptional soundtrack. Composed by Eric Brown, the music is incredibly catchy and perfectly encapsulates the game’s nostalgic charm. With contributions from the renowned Yasunori Mitsuda, the soundtrack seamlessly shifts between synths and adds unique elements depending on the time of day, creating a truly immersive audio experience. The addition of band versions of the game’s music by a group of pirates adds a delightful touch and highlights the game’s commitment to delivering a memorable auditory journey.
A Unique Blend of Genres
Sea of Stars seamlessly combines elements of traditional RPGs with platforming and Metroidvania gameplay. This blend allows for more freedom in exploration, varied locales, hidden secrets, and clever puzzles. The ability to change the time of day adds an additional layer of gameplay, offering fresh possibilities and unlocking new paths. The game’s brisk pace and clever writing keep the adventure engaging, while live mana, combos, and ultimates inject strategy and action into the turn-based battles.
However, there are a few minor issues with visibility and UI that occasionally create challenges during combat. Backtracking may also be required at times, which can feel like a chore. Additionally, the cooking system, while a neat addition, may feel limiting due to inventory constraints. These issues do not heavily impact the overall experience, but they are worth being aware of.
Sea of Stars successfully lives up to its initial promise, delivering a nostalgic experience inspired by classic RPGs while establishing itself as an instant classic. The gorgeous visuals, engaging turn-based combat, interesting world, endearing characters, and catchy soundtrack make for an enchanting and memorable gaming experience. Whether you are seeking a trip down memory lane or simply craving a great RPG in its own right, Sea of Stars is a must-play.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided to RPGFan by the publisher. The author’s opinion and score were not influenced by this relationship.
Caitlin Argyros is a writer for RPGFan and a passionate gamer. When not immersing herself in virtual worlds, she can be found petting cats and dogs or saving the people of Eorzea in FFXIV.
<< photo by Jorge Alcalá >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.
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