After the success of 2018’s The Messenger, you might have expected its developer, Sabotage, to follow up with something similar.
Luckily for us, that’s seemingly not the way Sabotage does things. After creating a tough-as-nails metroidvania with a touch of its own magic, it’s not tackling the old-fashioned turn-based RPG template. Sea of Stars may be a prequel to The Messenger, but you seemingly don’t need any knowledge of Sabotage’s first game to enjoy it. And, channelling the spirit of titles such as Breath of Fire and Chrono Trigger, it’s set to provide a healthy dose of nostalgia, albeit with some modern touches.
Sea of Stars tell the story of two children. But of course, they’re not ordinary children. It turns out that they’re Children of the Solstice, able to combine their powers in order to perform powerful Eclipse Magic. And it just so happens that it’s going to be needed to stop the nefarious plans of an evil alchemist known as The Fleshmancer. Picked up by pirates in the early stages of the game, the pair will become accustomed to sailing the seas, and also meeting new faces on their travels. Some of the people they meet will even decide to accompany them on their journey.
Just to look at Sea of Stars is to fall in love with it. Like turn-based RPG classics of yesteryear, it has an isometric viewpoint and wonderful pixel-art visuals, though more detailed than you’ve ever seen before. And on top of that it has full-on dynamic lighting, adding more depth to the image. Throw in advanced traversal – you’ll be able to hoist yourself up on to ledges, climb, swim, and more – and you have a game that fills you with a sense of nostalgia while feeling much more modern.
There are yet more modern touches, too. While you’ll access locations via a world map, when exploring areas such as dungeons you’ll see your enemies roaming around – there are no random battles. Engage with an enemy and you’ll find that battles take place right there, where you stand. There’s no screen warping before being whisked away to an expansive barren battlefield. And as you’d expect, battles taking place in the actual environment you’re in adds another dimension to the action.
You’ll have control of up to three party members in any given combat situation, and you’ll need to make effective use of their skills to emerge victorious. You have your usual options such as whether to attack or use a skill, and you’ll need to read the battlefield to determine what’s your best option. You might find it beneficial to pick up an enemy and throw it close to another, for example, then allow your primary magic user to catch both of them with a powerful spell.
Sea of Stars‘ combat system is also bolstered by other features such as multi-character combos, interruptions and, what’s soon becoming a staple of the genre, timed button presses. Get your timing just right and you can inflict more damage with your attacks, as well as reduce incoming damage. Needless to say, Sabotage is doing all it can to create a combat system that feels deep, tactical and, more importantly, engaging. It certainly looks like it will be.
Exploring and engaging in combat aren’t the only things you’ll be doing in Sea of Stars though, obviously. When in dungeons there will be puzzles to solve, and elsewhere in the world there will be people to speak to, vendors, and side-activities to engage in. You’ll be able to do a spot of fishing, for example, and cook meals using the ingredients you’ve found on your adventure. Eating those meals will boost your stats for a short while, too. There’s going to be much to see and do in Sea of Stars‘ world, and we can’t wait to get lost in it.
There’s no definite release date for Sea of Stars yet, but it’s scheduled to release towards the end of the year. As for formats, it’s currently only confirmed for PC and Switch, but Sabotage has expressed that it would like to bring the title to other consoles, too. So, if you’re hankering for an old-school RPG to sink your teeth into, you’d be wise to keep Sea of Stars on your radar no matter what platforms you own. It may be a departure from The Messenger, but it looks like it has just as much charm. If not more.