Sea of Stars Review: A commendable attempt at crafting a classic RPG

Sea of Stars Review: A commendable attempt at crafting a classic RPG

In the vast ocean of role-playing games, Sea of Stars sets sail with ambitious intentions, aiming to weave together elements reminiscent of beloved classics such as Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, and Octopath Traveler. With a melange of influences as its compass, this title promises an odyssey through richly designed dungeons, intriguing characters, and an adventure brimming with nostalgia. As we weigh anchor and set forth, prepare to navigate the turbulent waters of Sea of Stars with us, as we determine whether this voyage leads to treasure troves of gaming delight or ends in the depths of disappointment. Now, without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... a Sea of Stars Review: A commendable attempt at crafting a classic RPG.

Battle System - 5

This battle system feels like a blend of Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, and Octopath Traveler, all while struggling to stand up to any of the three. The biggest offender here is the lack of exciting skills, as each of the five playable party members only gets four skills each. Even compared to the NES RPGs, this is rather sad. There are combo moves like Chrono Trigger, but they are minimal and are overly necessary to use at times. The game has action commands like Super Mario RPG, but it lacks the depth and satisfaction of executing attacks. Also, while I typically enjoy some excellent, difficult RPGs, in a game with very few skills, constantly using the same skills over and over to kill hearty enemies is just tedious and breaks the pace of the game. While the skills themselves start out being fun to use, they become super dull by the end in a way that an easy game like Mario RPG wouldn't. Another lacking feature was the lock breaking and Live Magic. These two features emulate the breaking and boosting of Octopath Traveler, but since you rarely have the means to break locks and breaking only weakens the enemy's next attack, it feels like a criminally underutilized feature. This is one of the few games I've played where the difficulty doesn't feel like a skill issue but, instead, a fundamental flaw with the game's balancing. The utter simplicity and lack of depth and strategy lead this game to have uninteresting (and essentially unavoidable) combat, as promising as it may seem in the game's opening hours. However, with fun action commands and exciting boss battles, I couldn't justify giving this game a score lower than 5.

Story - 2

While this game starts with intriguing hints of the Solstice Warriors, the Eclipse, and "magic without using magic," the story completely loses its momentum when it shifts its focus to Garl's random antics. Even playing the game recently, I can barely remember what was going on with the plot—which was disheartening. The story wasn't only weakly plotted, but the worldbuilding and motivation to continue were relatively weak. Unlike the original Final Fantasy or the Zelda series, which are narratively weak, they establish unforgettable settings and give the player a monumental sense of adventure. While the exploration itself is robust, the narrative drive to move forward is weirdly missing. While this game's story had potential, it ultimately missed the mark.

Characters - 2

What starts as a cute trio of friends who miss one another becomes something mediocre and often frustrating. The two leads have very little that sets them apart from one another, and Garl starts as a fun character but gets annoying as he constantly gets worshipped and praised like he's the true protagonist. A story can only be as good as its characters and, ultimately, the characters here are sometimes charming but never riveting. When the most clever and deep dialogue is fourth-wall breaking about JRPG tropes, that's when you know the characters are nothing special.

Customization System - 1

Sea Of Stars - A Guide To The Level Cap & Best Bonus Stats

This game basically doesn't have a customization system. When you level up, you can pick a bonus stat boost, but that's about all the player choice you get outside of equipment. One could consider Relics as progression, but with how the game presents them, they feel too much like cheat codes to consider them proper progression. The only other consideration for progression is learning new recipes to craft different items that help you heal in battle. While this is fun, it's not a replacement for RPG customization and exciting items. With minimal customization, this game's menu customization is just as weak as its battle system.

Art & Graphics - 10

Sea of Stars review — RPG that flaunts its retro roots even while  subverting them

I assure you that there are some things I love about this game—this is one of them. The artwork in this game is stunning; the character portraits are beautiful, and the animated cutscenes are stunning... if as much effort went into the gameplay and story as the graphics, this would certainly be a significantly better game in my mind. This is easily some of the best-looking pixel artwork I've ever seen, and I'd love to see more games in this style.

Music - 6

I know a ton of people adore this game's soundtrack, but I never found it mind-blowing. It was very good at conveying the energy and atmosphere of the game, but it never struck me as memorable. It's a good soundtrack during the game, or if you want to listen to some background noise on a rainy day curling up with a book, but otherwise, it's a mediocre soundtrack.

Sidequests - 5

A Guide to Playing (& Winning) Wheels In Sea of Stars

There aren't very many engaging sidequests in this game. The fishing is fun but not comparable to other games with much better fishing minigames. The cooking is neat but not very involved. And, outside of finding hidden combo moves here and there, that's about it. The only thing I really loved here was Wheels, which was an inventive game that was tons of fun to play. Unfortunately, that was also very underdeveloped, with only six playable characters there. Ultimately, the sidequests weren't too great here.

Locations - 10

This is my favorite part about this game—the dungeon design here is immaculate. The fact I wanted to skip battles and cutscenes to explore the dungeons goes to show how well-made these dungeons are (and how uninteresting most of the game is). The dungeons in this game feel like a perfect mix of Zelda, Golden Sun, and Lufia II, with the dungeon exploration always being my main incentive to continue playing the game. While the locations aren't necessarily iconic or exciting on the outside, the game's ability to create endlessly engaging dungeons was a commendable feat in a mostly mediocre game.

Quality of Life - 9

Sea of Stars: All Recipes (& How To Make Them)

With Relics allowing the player to tweak the game to their whim and plenty of save points and cooking ingredients, this game is as easy or hard as you'd like to make it. Travel is never frustrating, and, ultimately, this game's optimization was one of its strongest factors.

The Verdict

Fun Factor: 6
Overall Score: 56%
Letter Rating: C

Sea of Stars was a commendable effort to emulate many classic RPGs, but it fell flat in too many ways to be considered a masterpiece or even an above-average RPG. The dungeon-crawling and exploration in this game is a significant highlight, so for Zelda fans or Golden Sun fans who can get over the weak story and combat, I'd recommend this game highly. However, if you are looking for an indie masterpiece like Chained Echoes, this game will disappoint you.

Primary Version: Sea of Stars (PC)