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Star Ocean: The Divine Force review – boldly going where many JRPGs have gone before

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Star Ocean: The Divine Force screenshot
Star Ocean: The Divine Force – does this appear like Star Trek to you? (pic: Square Enix)

Square Enix’s long-running sci-fi sequence will get a brand new entry with a chic new fight system however is it sufficient to enchantment to newcomers?

Square Enix is likely one of the greatest Japanese publishers within the enterprise but it surely’s very obscure precisely what their plans and motivations are in the mean time. Unlike Ubisoft, they haven’t but taken the trace about how unpopular NFTs are and their promoting off of most of their Western IPs and builders stands at odds with their said want to enchantment extra to Western players. If they assume they’re going to get anyplace with video games like Star Ocean, although, they’ve bought one other factor coming.

It is tough to discern, from their sometimes imprecise feedback on the topic, but it surely appears Square Enix’s plan is to proceed to make Japanese type video games however with extra Westernised presentation, as exemplified by Forspoken and Final Fantasy 16. That method has not been utilized to this newest Star Ocean entry although, which is so purposefully old style a lot of its enchantment centres round nostalgia for PlayStation 2 period Japanese role-players.

Star Ocean has been round for longer than that – since 1996 on the SNES – but it surely’s by no means been fashionable outdoors its house nation and whether it is identified for something within the West it’s for the truth that it was supposedly influenced by Star Trek, together with by way of the visuals. That’s what the creators say anyway, even supposing it seems and feels completely nothing like all model Star Trek.

Rather than the Star Trek angle, Star Ocean’s finest declare to fame is that it was one of many first profitable motion role-players to come back out of Japan, eschewing the traditional turn-based battles in favour of real-time fight. In that sense it was actually forward of its time, however in fact turn-based fight is uncommon these days, in order that promoting level is now not so distinctive. Although, to be truthful, the fight is the perfect a part of this new recreation.

The Divine Force is the sixth entry within the sequence (the final one was 2016’s Integrity And Faithlessness), though there’s little connection between any of the sequels, in order that shouldn’t put you off something. The plot revolves round a service provider spaceship crashlanding on the medieval type planet of Aster IV, where protagonist Ray agrees to assist out the native princess in return for her finding his lacking crewmates. You’re given the selection to observe both character, which provides replayability as neither character is current for each mission.

As is its custom, and regardless of the sci-fi angle, Star Ocean normally manages to search out an excuse to bask in widespread role-playing tropes, together with using magic, so the entire medieval angle appears eye-rolling unoriginal at first. The plot ends nicely, and on a a lot grander scale than initially appears possible, however before that it’s a jumbled mess of seemingly unconnected encounters and missions, a lot of which looks as if padding in hindsight.

The two leads are fairly endearing, although, and the script makes good use of the truth that half the solid are scientifically illiterate and the opposite half stay and work in outer area.

Since Star Ocean has by no means managed to leverage its experience with real-time battle it’s the Tales gross sales that’s now higher identified for the function. As such, the battles in The Divine Force are particularly harking back to the techniques from video games like Tales Of Graces and Tales Of Xillia. That implies that as soon as a struggle breaks out you’re capable of manoeuvre round at will, utilizing no matter fight talents you’ve assigned to the three major face buttons.

Rather than Bayonetta type combos you possibly can arrange the order for strikes for use forward of time, whereas being cautious to not be caught out while you use the motion meter bars essential to activate them. It’s a intelligent, versatile system that lets the fight really feel like an motion recreation, whereas inserting an emphasis on ways and ahead planning meaning you don’t want a lot in the way in which of arcade abilities to do nicely.

This method continues with using your robotic DUMA, who lets you sprint in the direction of an enemy and, for those who’re fortunate, outflank them and rating a particular ‘blindside’ assault. DUMA can even act as a protect, decreasing the injury the whole occasion takes, and has quite a lot of different makes use of distinctive to every character – in addition to doubling as a jetpack when outdoors of battle.

Star Ocean: The Divine Force screenshot
Star Ocean: The Divine Force – JRPG in area (pic: Square Enix)

The battle system is nice, and will have been the premise for an important recreation, however sadly virtually every little thing else in The Divine Force is under par. For a begin it has one of the crucial boring open world environments we’ve ever seen, which isn’t solely visually uninteresting however virtually solely missing in fascinating areas to discover or appropriate rewards for doing so.

There is the occasional semi-attractive vista however the visuals normally are poor, with some actually terrible character design that makes everybody appear like they’re badly articulated motion figures – to such a level that their uncanny valley faces may be fairly unsettling.

Apart from some good 2D artwork virtually every little thing else within the recreation is offputtingly ugly, together with the menus and an indecipherably small font. The Divine Force is clearly not an enormous price range recreation however few of its issues have something to do with that. The fight is stable, and so is a few of the character work, however every little thing else feels so dialled in and generic it turn out to be a chore to get by way of lengthy before its 35+ hour runtime involves a detailed.

To be trustworthy, it’s a shock Star Ocean has lasted this lengthy, however whereas that is an enchancment on the final recreation it’s barely sufficient to maintain present followers engaged, not to mention appeal to any new ones.

Star Ocean: The Divine Force review abstract

In Short: An enchancment on the final Star Ocean recreation however Square Enix’s veteran sci-fi franchise nonetheless feels caught up to now, fairly than exploring new frontiers.

Pros: The battle system is nice and so is the multi-use DUMA robotic. The two leads are fairly likeable and a few of the dialogue is enjoyable.

Cons: Bland setting and horrible open world that’s no enjoyable in any respect to discover. Aimless plot, ugly artwork design, and a few actually unhealthy menus. No large new concepts and a normal sense of wasted potential.

Score: 5/10

Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and PC
Price: £59.99
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: tri-Ace
Release Date: twenty seventh October 2022
Age Rating: 12

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