Star Ocean: The Divine Force Review
Star Ocean: The Divine Force is the latest installment of the Star Ocean action RPG franchise. The series is built around the premise of bringing high-tech science fiction on a collision course with low-tech fantasy. This title leans into that clash of genres just as hard as its predecessors. When it works, it’s wonderful. However, what doesn’t work impacted my ability to enjoy the game at all.
Star Ocean: The Divine Force follows two protagonists, spaceship captain Raymond Lawrence and Princess Laeticia Aucerius. After Ray’s ship is shot down, his escape pod crashes on Laeticia’s planet, which seems to be in a medieval period. Laeticia promises to help him reunite with his surviving crew in exchange for his help with her own quest. Her goal, to save her kingdom from the Vey’l Empire, seems daunting enough on its own. But the Federation battleship Astoria isn’t done with Ray yet, and both of them may be in over their heads.
In short, it’s a game about a first contact scenario that isn’t as bad as it could be… but definitely isn’t going as well as the people involved might hope. Especially when both sides are embroiled in their own disputes. Oh, and there’s something watching from the shadows, preparing to drag both our heroes into a struggle of cosmic proportions. Needless to say, I had a ton of fun with the game’s story and characters.
Want Some Action With That?
Star Ocean: The Divine Force is an action JRPG, so I spent more time running around whacking things with a sword than I did crunching numbers. I’m not complaining about this–I love whacking things with swords. I do absolutely adore the way D.U.M.A. impacts the flow of battle. Yes, give me the ability to dive bomb any enemies from above or the side. I would absolutely love a free shield with that. More action games should let you start encounters by flinging yourself at your target at alarming speeds. I just wish the platforming sections of the game went as smoothly. Even with the ability to fly, I never felt like I was aiming properly. It didn’t help that finding collectibles was a chore, even with the minimap and radar functions.
Every party member is playable and they all play very differently. Some characters even have gimmicks like not being able to use attacks in combos. Combined with a treasure trove of unlockable skills and buffs, you can really customize your approach to combat. Speaking of which, combos are incredibly important. Once you get a good feel for them, even the dodgy camera won’t be too much of an obstacle. But if you aren’t inclined to spend your battles running from foes and button-mashing, this may not be the game for you.
You can also choose to prioritize image quality or framerate quality. Picking image quality gave me some stunning vistas to gaze at from a distance. That said, I’d probably recommend framerate quality. The cutscenes are nothing to write home about. Or maybe PC just isn’t the ideal platform for this game.
Star Ocean: The Divine Force Has a Truly Awful Camera
The camera seemed to have a mind of its own, and that mind was always more interested in the nearest wall than anything else. Virtually every fight left me confused and wondering where all the foes had gone at least once. Sometimes it happened closer to three times. This never prevented me from clearing an encounter–except when it led to me accidentally flying halfway across the map and fleeing by accident. Outside of combat, I found myself having trouble with mechanics, too. By which I mean, I literally missed out how to access several mechanics despite the presence of tutorials. They clearly weren’t necessary to continue playing, but I was still frustrated.
I was also frustrated by the way the game handles AP. You’re constantly required to disengage from combat rather than build up higher and higher combos. While this does bring more of a give-and-take rhythm to battle, I’m not sure why that rhythm exists. The need to stop hitting things with swords to run around and build up AP made it hard for me to lose myself in battle. It feels like the developers wanted to make sure combat didn’t get too intense for some reason. Intense combat is a hallmark of good action JRPGs, so this was a very strange design choice.
Speaking of design, I absolutely love how the environments are structured. You can climb, fly, and glide to some of the highest visible points. It’s amazing. However, finding your way around on ground level is very difficult. I relied almost exclusively on the minimap and collectibles to find my way around, and when the collectibles ran out I was in trouble. Most landmarks simply didn’t stick out in my brain enough for me to navigate by them. That’s a bit of a problem in a semi-open-world game.
Cutting Corners on Design
Here’s one thing I did love about this game’s design. I love how the writers went the extra mile to ensure that Laeticia and the other more fantastical characters sound like they belong in a high fantasy game. Meanwhile, Ray and the rest of the sci-fi cast speak more colloquially and casually. This enhances the feel of two worlds colliding. Everything else, I can only praise with an asterisk attached. First things first: this game is massive. It takes up about 40 gigs, so you’d better be ready to make some room on your computer. Just turning it on for the first time took forever because it had to compile the shader. It took about a full hour for me. Despite that, it’s still not very nice to look at.
Star Ocean: The Divine Force is a very pretty game from a distance. When you’re standing on top of a roof or a cliff looking out at the game world, it’s gorgeous. The sky, with its alien stars and moons, is especially stunning. Unfortunately, looking at the environments up close makes them lose their magic. They lose the slightly surreal stylized effect up close and the game becomes just another grungy action JRPG.
If you’re going to make a semi-open world JRPG, you need to have a very strong vision for that world. I think the developers had an incredibly strong vision for what the game would look like from above. They just didn’t make it as immersive and enchanting from ground level. At least the character designs always look nice.
I would only recommend this game to forgiving action JRPG fans and series veterans. This sucks because I adore the story and the flight mechanics. Unfortunately, the game’s iffy presentation ruins a lot.
***PC code provided by the publisher***
- Nice character designs
- Good audio
- Beautiful from above
- Love the flight mechanics
- Solid story
- Camera hates you
- You can miss game mechanics?
- Graphics are not great
- ARPG that makes you leave the action
- Questionable world design