STAR OCEAN has long been a series that has always intrigued me since its first release on Xbox 360 with Star Ocean: The Last Hope, as I’m a huge sci-fi and RPG fan, but back then I was a bit of an RPG newbie and didn’t quite understand it. Now with a lot more RPG experience behind me, I jumped at the chance to review Star Ocean: The Divine Force.
From the outset of the game, you are given a character selection between Raymond and Laeticia who serve as the game’s main characters. Ray who is a bit of a space maverick whom you meet at the outset of the game and Laeticia is the Princess of the Kingdom of Aucerius of the underdeveloped planet of Aster IV.
While throughout your time in the game you can choose to play whoever is in your party as you are able to switch at any time, the opening selection of characters will serve as a different perspective when the group disbands in many of the towns in the world you will visit.
Star Ocean: The Divine Force starts off with Raymond who is serving as the captain of a ship on a delivery run across the stars, when they are shot down but an unidentified enemy and are forced to abandon ship in their escape pods and find themselves alone and scattered on Aster IV, the main world the game takes place on.
It is here that Laticia and her companion Albaird find Ray alone and unconscious, when he awakes he is concerned for his missing crew and sets out to find them. It is here from the outset of the game that the main feeling out of ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ missions start out as it appears they are heading in the right direction but require some help on their mission. They are also very intrigued by the technology Ray possesses in the form of his shuttle and communication gadgets.
The voice acting in Star Ocean: The Divine Force is all really well done and I actually laughed out loud as it seems like a cross between Guardians of the Galaxy and Game of Thrones when these two worlds collide. On one side, you have Ray who is from an advanced world that travels across the stars, sounding a bit ‘dudish’ and Laticia who speaks very properly in a royal manner and Ray who often lets out a yell of “Sweet!” when he finds loot scattered across the world.
While on the topic of the world, I must say that the vistas of the world and its horizons look absolutely stunning, with many close moons in the skies, there are some really beautiful views to be taken in. It’s just a shame that these wide open areas you will be exploring don’t do as good a job.
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of collectables to be found and enemies to engage, it’s just very uninspired landscapes you will be exploring of which you can’t really notice any landmarks that will prompt you to know where you are. The best way to do this is by looking at your map as the waypoints are quite helpful, but sometimes require the map to know which path to follow. While varied, are nothing to write home about.
Across your travels, you will eventually find some of the cargo you were transporting called a D.U.M.A. This is a little robot creature of advanced technology that can be used for traversing the land as well as aiding you in combat. Once you find this, it adds a level of verticality to your exploration of the world, being able to get to higher grounds and mountains to collect D.U.M.A points which will allow you to upgrade its system to assist in combat.
Speaking of combat, the system that you start out with is rather simple.
Three of your controller face buttons all serve as a starting move, but as you level up during your gameplay, you will unlock more active moves and be able to create your own combos, which I thought was such a fantastic idea!
These are all simple three-press combos for each of the face buttons, except for X, that’s reserved for jumping. But it allows you to play the way you want to play, something I really enjoyed experimenting with as the game progressed and enemies became increasingly harder.
Rounding out the combat is the R1 button that operates as D.U.M.A, when using this it can assist you in surprising or blindsiding enemies to give you and your team the advantage at the start and during battle.
I do however need to mention that the menu can be quite daunting at the start as there are many things to upgrade, from your D.U.M.A, to weapons, armour and unfortunately all of your party members. Seeing as there is no auto upgrade option, you will be looking to make sure that all your characters up upgraded to the maximum if you want to stand a hope of surviving these dangerous areas.
Alongside this, I found it strange that when purchasing new armour from the many hub towns you will visit, they didn’t alter the character’s appearance, which I felt was a missed opportunity as all the armour looked unique and interesting yet the appearance of the weapon would change; in other words everyone will look the same through your 20-30 hour story.
The towns you visit in Star Ocean: The Divine Force all vary in size from small towns to grand kingdoms, all of them having a hotel where you can rest and replenish your health, as well as buying a meal to give your character buff’s for the upcoming battles in the open world and merchants to buy all the required health, armour and weapons.
In each town, there will come a time when you will disband and be able to roam the streets, talking to the citizens, taking on smaller side quests and unlocking private actions. These are little conversations that you can have with each of your party, it’s just unfortunate that there’s no way to tell who or when this will trigger, especially in the bigger towns and castles as you do have to travel around a bit to find all of your companions.
Star Ocean: The Divine Force starts off really slow for the first half of the game but then ramps up for the second half when the main war of the world starts out and continues with higher stakes than just simple quests.
I think I was hoping for a Mass Effect styled space opera but didn’t really get that from the game; It just felt and looked like a single player Final Fantasy MMO set in space.
I think I expected more from the makers of the Final Fantasy series. Don’t get me wrong, the second half of the game is fun and exciting to play when the stakes are raised – just make sure you have the patience to make it through the first half.