The Star Ocean series might not be Square Enix’s most famous, but it is one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed over the years. The blend of sci-fi and fantasy has always been interesting to me, whilst I’ve also always preferred action-based battling to turn-based. Star Ocean: The Divine Force is the newest entry in the series following the release of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness in 2016, and whilst that game didn’t win over too many fans with its often-repetitive gameplay, this is a lot more intuitive and fun.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Star Ocean: The Divine Force sees players taking on the role of either Raymond Lawrence, a spaceship captain that traverses the galaxy delivering goods, or Laeticia Aucerius, the princess of the planet Aster IV (which Raymond finds himself stranded upon). Both end up crossing paths so their stories do interweave with one another, though moments that see them parting throughout the game will give players a different perspective based upon who they chose at the beginning. With a tale focusing on the trials and tribulations that Aster IV faces as well as the wider scale of problems from the stars above them, there’s plenty to dive into throughout the story to ensure it never slows down. Experienced Star Ocean players will recognise that it follows the blueprint of the series with its blend of fantasy and sci-fi action, but why fix what isn’t broken? With an array of colourful characters to join you along the way and the series’ typical Private Actions to flesh out relationships with them, there’s a lot on offer to flesh out the entertaining narrative.
With its action-RPG focus, players will find themselves exploring the open landscapes and battling enemies in real-time, with the frantic combat standing out as a high point. Players are continually unlocking new skills to utilise in combat to keep on top of their opponents, whilst stringing together actions to perform Chain Combos or utilising Action Skills ensures pressure can be kept upon them in a satisfying way. You can get away with button mashing attacks at times, but players will find the most success when they co-ordinate actions, use those that enemies are vulnerable to, and competently control distance throughout. Combat will feel familiar to returning Star Ocean players or those who have played similar action-RPGs, but offers plenty of flexibility and action-focused finesse to remain fresh and fun throughout.
Players also have a robotic unit known as DUMA join them on the battlefield, which brings with it a variety of skills that prove useful. For example, it lets players perform Blindsides, which causes enemies to freeze when getting out of sight or sneaking upon them in battle, whilst characters can also synchronise attacks with DUMA to perform more powerful abilities. Players can unlock new skills for DUMA too, with some helping them out in battle and others out in the field. Heck, DUMA can even be used when exploring, with it allowing players to launch themselves across the map or hit those hard-to-reach areas. It’s a lot more than a one trick pony and adds an extra element of excitement to every aspect of Star Ocean: The Divine Force’s design.
“Combat will feel familiar to returning Star Ocean players or those who have played similar action-RPGs, but offers plenty of flexibility and action-focused finesse to remain fresh and fun throughout.”
Combat and exploration are undoubtedly the highlight of Star Ocean: The Divine Force, which is a good job given it’s a meaty game. It took me over forty hours to beat, with the vast majority of that time spent exploring the world and beating up baddies. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get a little repetitive towards the backend, especially when I put together a powerful team and was beating enemies with ease, but it always felt good and there are some creative boss encounters that challenge players to approach things differently. It’s probably worth mentioning that it isn’t a difficult game, though the occasional tricky battle ensures it doesn’t feel like a cake walk.
There’s no ignoring that ally AI is a real mixed bag though. There were times when my teammates would be really useful in a battle, whilst other times I had no idea what they were trying to do. It isn’t game-breaking by any means, but it can make some encounters feel unnecessarily troublesome and drag battles out much longer than they needed to be.
In fairness, Star Ocean: The Divine Force tries to spice things up by introducing a few additional mechanics, with things like crafting and even a table-top game (known as Es’Owa) showing up throughout the adventure. If I’m being honest, I found the crafting a bit annoying – it didn’t feel very streamlined, whilst the focus on completing fetch quests to unlock recipes was dull. On the other hand, I was very fond of Es’Owa, with the game actually utilising pieces based upon characters found across the Star Ocean series. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t as refined as the likes of Fort Condor found in the Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade or the card games of Final Fantasy VIII and IX, but it’s a still an addictive little side endeavour that brings some extra personality to the experience.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Whilst Star Ocean: The Divine Force gets all of its key mechanics right, it doesn’t always deliver so well across the wider experience. Side quests were rarely interesting and were made up of repetitive tasks for example, whilst the world itself didn’t always feel all that remarkable to uncover. Don’t get me wrong, there were some interesting sights to be found and some could feel epic to explore, but they were few and far between given the scale of the world. The visuals are a real mixed bag too, especially with some of the characters that look… well… odd. Add to that a few performance hiccups here and there and players will definitely find that the game doesn’t quite hold up as well as other titles released on the PlayStation 5.
Despite this, I still had a good time with the game and found myself hooked in until the very end. It does all the basics well, especially with the excellent combat and cool story, whilst the wonderful soundtrack was a joy to listen to and stood out as a surprise highlight of the adventure. It has its missteps, but it certainly hits more than it misses.
Star Ocean: The Divine Force Review
Star Ocean: The Divine Force won’t be the best RPG you ever play, but it is an entertaining one that gets all of the basics right. It offers an intriguing narrative, enthralling combat, cool mechanics that flesh out the world… there’s plenty to be found across the meaty adventures to ensure players will be hooked into the action. And sure, it does falter with side quest design, some occasional performance issues, and some sketchy AI, but these issues don’t stop the game from being fun to play.
It’s a definite step in the right direction for the series after the so-so previous release, whilst the new mechanics show that the series isn’t afraid to do something different. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the series or an RPG newbie looking for something new to play, there’s a good time to be had with Star Ocean: The Divine Force… just maybe don’t go in with Final Fantasy levels of expectations.
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC