Review: Star Ocean: The Divine Force (PS5) - Space Age JRPG Barely Takes Flight

Review: Star Ocean: The Divine Force (PS5) – Space Age JRPG Barely Takes Flight

After forty-five hours, a few smiles and a frown or two, we walked away from Star Ocean: The Divine Force with a shrug. It’s a mid-tier Japanese RPG that never, ever threatens to be promoted to top tier status or sink so low as to be sandwiched between Hyperdimension Neptunia and Unlimited Saga. Mid-table mediocrity. JRPG’s Crystal Palace.

Considering the tumultuous history of the Star Ocean franchise, The Divine Force is just okay probably a step in the right direction. And while this game wouldn’t make our best of 2022 list unless we do 100 games each this year, some of the improvements made here, and some of the systems put in place, mean that it’s conceivable that the next Star Ocean -games really can be good. It might even be great.

But we are here and now. The year of our Lord is 2022 and we have a job to do. We crammed over forty hours into this game in five days just to get to this point and now that we’re here: well, it’s okay. What is there to say? There are no interesting discussion points or sharp criticisms we can make. No jokes. No good jokes anyway. If it was really bad we could at least make snide comments, but as it is we can just shrug our shoulders and get on with it.

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Star Ocean: The Divine Force lets you choose one of two characters to play as during your journey through space and stuff. There’s Raymond who’s sort of an animated Han Solo with one of the worst haircuts we’ve ever seen in a video game, and then there’s Laeticia, a blue-haired princess of the realm who fights on the front lines in high heels.

We played as Raymond because we couldn’t take our eyes off his weird golden space mullet, but for the hour or two we tried as Laeticia it’s basically the same game, just when the party splits up occasionally throughout the adventure you see what she did instead of him. You also have high heels. So your choice is between looking amazing and looking like an idiot. And we chose idiots for some reason. What were we thinking?

Raymond is the captain of a spaceship. It’s like Star Trek, sort of. There’s even an android that taps a console like the one in Star Trek, but instead of being designed by Gene Roddenberry, this one was apparently designed by Russ Meyer. If you’re too young for the Russ Meyer reference, he was an auteur who made camp, trashy films in the sixties and seventies about scantily clad, top-heavy ladies. We’re just saying the android is a sexbot, okay?

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Anyway, Raymond crash lands on a planet before the space flight and quickly meets up with Laeticia and her squire and they soon realize that they both need help getting somewhere and that working together will benefit both parties. Raymond wants to find other survivors of the crash and then get off the backwater rock he’s landed on, and Laeticia tries to stop a war that breaks out between her kingdom and a rival empire.

Along the way, our two heroes meet and bond with a cast of mostly tropical characters, such as an angry old man and the obligatory annoying crazy girl, and they discover that there is an ominous connection between their two quests and the very fate of the universe. We all know where this is going, right? You’ve played a JRPG before. And if you haven’t, this shouldn’t be the one you start with. Persona 5 is right there waiting for you.

The story starts slowly but it gets more interesting in the back. It’s not very deep or thought provoking but it does at least raise a couple of philosophical and ethical questions about things, like artificial intelligence and the dangers of an advanced civilization meeting an underdeveloped one, even if it doesn’t explore them thoroughly. Less food for thought, then, and more of a Tic-Tac for thought.

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Cutscenes have some amazingly questionable animations in them and no attempt has been made to lip-sync the characters with the voice acting. Cutscenes are also plentiful towards the end of the game as everything is revealed, and there’s one part of the game in particular where it seems like you’re doing nothing but going from room to room so that the person telling the story can tell it with another interior for about two hours.

Combat is fast and flexible. It’s fun sometimes too. You play as a character in real time while your three party members are controlled by AI. You can set combos for your party to use in battle by choosing which attacks to do in which order, and as you level up you’ll unlock more attacks. You can also add items to heal or buff into your combos, and later support actions as well.

If you spend some time experimenting with how to line up your team, you’ll find that you can turn them into a well-oiled machine, healing injured party members or reviving the unconscious without much supervision from you. This allows you to concentrate on the DUMA system which is one of the best things about the game.

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DUMA is an AI flooty ball thing that helps you in combat and it elevates what would otherwise be mostly bland encounters. With a press of R1, you can zip to an enemy, or you can choose to slide around their back and attack from behind. Sometimes back attacks will stun an enemy and leave them open to massive damage. You can even use DUMA outside of battle to help you traverse the world, climb high ledges, or fly over ravines. Thanks, STUPID


Star Ocean: The Divine Force is like a comfortable pair of JRPG slippers. If you’re in the mood for a Japanese RPG and you’ve played all the good ones, you can rest assured that this is a good one. It is okay. It’s comfort food. You know that feeling when you just wish Netflix would make another season Mindhunter and so you end up watching Criminal Minds? That. Only in space.

#Review #Star #Ocean #Divine #Force #PS5 #Space #Age #JRPG #Barely #Takes #Flight

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