Star Ocean: The Divine Force Isn’t Terrible, And That’s Good Enough

Star Ocean: Divine Power isn’t terrible, and that’s good enough

I live only a 15 minute drive from the house where I grew up. My parents moved when I was in college, at which point the physical embodiment of all the memories from my formative years were given to strangers to revisit in my dreams. The few times I’ve been back to that street have brought back memories, but they don’t match the yards that now seem smaller and the houses that don’t look as freshly painted and maintained. Playing Star Ocean: Divine Power it can be similarly appalling: a monument to a former comfort that occasionally delights, but whose cracked foundation and peeling paint remind you that it’s no longer your home.

Once upon a time, Star ocean was a solid JRPG series that offered fans a meaty alternative Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Allows players to embark on a Dungeons & Dragons style campaign within a larger one Star Trek– an inspired universe. It punched above its weight with frenetic combat, deep crafting systems, and tons of side content. Depending on who you tried to recruit along the way, there were several endings and compromises. Star Ocean: The Second Story it was good on the original PlayStation. The next PS2 game was even better. It’s been downhill ever since. Until now.

Screenshot: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / Kotaku

Star Ocean: Divine Power, the sixth game in the series and the first on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, is a clear improvement over the last game. 2016 Integrity and infidelity it was bland, incomplete, and had a third-person camera that made you want to puke. A low bar to be sure, but Divine power he can do more than just avoid the pitfalls of his predecessor. It also offers an innovative overhaul of the combat system that is refined yet compelling, with some of the most beautiful environments the series has ever achieved. I played it on PS5 in graphics mode, and while it’s nowhere near the best-looking JRPG on the console, the lush fields, detailed architecture, and colorful interstellar sky added an extra spark to the otherwise barebones quest lines filled with boring levels of backtracking.

It means Divine power is it a good game No. I’ve been home for about six hours and haven’t seen anything yet that would make me recommend it to anyone outside of the rapidly shrinking group of die-hards. Star ocean fans. For all the improvements and modern sensibilities, the game is nowhere near as focused, polished or refined as Xenoblade Chronicles 3or even last year’s Tales of Aise. For all its surprising advantages, Divine power it’s just not in the same league.

Gif: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / KotakuGif: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / Kotaku

The English voice acting is passable and occasionally endearing in its quirkiness, but it mostly seems suffocated, partly due to a script that feels trapped, for better and definitely for worse, in some kind of wacky PS2-era JRPG. Raymond, the captain of a merchant ship, lands on a medieval planet where he encounters a princess named Laeticia, who is trying to stave off an invasion of her kingdom by a neighboring empire. Despite dire threats looming in the background, much of the early game is about getting caught up in mundane parish matters as Raymond tries to regroup with his crewmates, muttering things like, “Who the hell are the people on that rock with growing horns? out of their heads?” It’s pretty boring stuff.

Divine Force's menu interface is particularly difficult to read.  (Screenshot: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / Kotaku)Divine Force’s menu interface is particularly difficult to read. (Screenshot: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / Kotaku)

The game comes alive more between these contrived story beats and laborious tasks. Conversations with NPCs are rarely interesting, but they do occasionally open up side missions that unlock special items for use in the game’s crafting systems. While almost none of this is hinted at, the more esoteric side of the game is there for players willing to go off the beaten path and try to piece together what the game is trying to tell you.

Gif: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / KotakuGif: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / Kotaku

Exploration and combat are augmented by a mechanical companion called DUMAS, which allows you to fly short distances or lunge at enemies and stun them. Stamina count, meanwhile, regulates how often and quickly you can unleash combos in fights. There’s also a roll dodge that you can time to perfectly dodge an incoming attack and counter with a powerful follow-up. While aiming can be a nightmare and it’s often impossible to tell if something off-screen is going to hit you, it makes combat feel more natural and responsive than past games.

The transition between exploration and combat is also smooth and helps keep Divine Force moving, so even if something leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it won’t last long. This means that the environments you explore, while sometimes vast and pretty to look at, are pretty much empty aside from a few treasure chests and trails of crystals that you can collect to upgrade. DUMAS enemies always appear in the same groups at the same location, whether it’s your first or fifth visit to the location. And despite the addition of short flights and the ability to glide, the platforming was too imprecise for me to ever want to try to reach hard-to-reach treasure chests.

Screenshot: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / KotakuScreenshot: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / Kotaku

So why am I still playing? Divine power? Because I’m one of those fans who was Star ocean-piled long ago, excitedly pouring through strategy guides trying to decide which character to recruit and how to not miss them. I’m hardly the first to comment on how much the latest game is like playing an HD tribute The second story and Until the end of time. The sound effects are still the same. You eat blueberries to heal, yet you can’t carry more than 20 at a time. And much of the early game, at the very least, revolves around running errands for kings and mages in an increasingly nonsensical series of nested subplots. It was nice, but none of it is as good as I remember.

Developer Tri-Ace is in a huge financial hole and fans are worried about it Divine power this may be the show’s last chance to prove it still deserves to exist. Some are even buying multiple copies of the game to try and keep the dream alive. But initial sales figures are not reassuring. At least in Japan, the game’s launch is nearing the second worst in series history. It’s hard to fault anyone, both because of the game’s flaws and the inherent limitations and niche appeal of the decades-old formula, but also because there are plenty of other JRPGs to choose from. I’m disappointed with that Divine power not the triumphant return fans have been begging for, but I’m not surprised. I’m just glad it’s not that bad and I have to watch it one more time before it all falls apart.

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