You know that you’ve met a true JRPG nerd when their eyes light up at the mention of Star Ocean. This series has been around since 1996 and was the first series where I saw people upset about literal vs. localized translation, but that’s all in the past. I’ve always been concerned that each Star Ocean entry will be the last. However, Square Enix isn’t going to give up yet with the release of Star Ocean: The Divine Force.
Star Ocean: The Divine Force retains much of what Star Ocean fans love about the series. A science fiction adventure full of heroics with a large-scale war looming in the background. My time with the game picked up after Raymond Lawerence crashed on a planet and joined up with Princess Laeticia to try and find his friend. The characters wear their tropes on their sleeves as it’s evident what roles they each play in the party. Unfortunately, I found it a bit underwhelming as the dialogue between the cast didn’t flow well. However, these early moments require a lot of needed exposition that I didn’t get to see.
However, exploration was a big part of my time with the demo, and there’s a lot to see for those who take the time to adventure off the beaten path. Raymond’s movement is fast out on the field, making traversal easy. Another layer of movement is the DUMA device that accompanies the party. This allows Raymond to fly and dash across the field to reach new areas or avoid encounters.
Encounters are similar to games such as Xenoblade, where you can approach a creature and attack it or simply run by it. Using the DUMA allows you to dash into enemies and clear out the large group of foes that can surround you. Sadly, the boss I fought was a rather uninspired golem-like enemy that I didn’t find too exciting to fight against. However, the enemies on the field have a bit more depth as each area I explored contained various enemy types with unique attack patterns.
The combat system has a lot to offer, but I sadly couldn’t experience any of it at a high level. Players can build out combos and customize each character with attacks unlocked from the skill tree. Looking at each of the skills, there’s a lot to unpack for the party members making me only assume that the combat is going to become epic later in the game. These first encounters were fast, and combat was responsive, but it was challenging to read enemy attacks or avoid damage. Granted, I only played for around 30 minutes.
I don’t know if I was fully ready for a new Star Ocean to release this year. The announcement caught me off guard, but Star Ocean: The Divine Force is fully packed with an adventure I am looking forward to discovering. Its focus on exploration and fast combat breaths new life into the JRPG series, but the science fiction heroic narrative is exactly what I want. It may seem like comfort food for old-school JRPG nerds, but Star Ocean: The Divine Force should stay on your radar no matter how invested in the series you are.
Star Ocean: The Divine Force is coming to PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Series X on September 20, 2022.
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