Sea of Stars review - characters crossing a rope bridge.

Sea of Stars review – a game of the year contender

Are you interested in an RPG that maintains all your favorite elements of the genre while also adding a unique twist to make it feel fresh and new? Our Sea of Stars review will showcase what makes this game stand out by focusing on the music, gameplay, story, combat, graphics, and quality-of-life, and tell you why Sea of Stars is a game-of-the-year contender.

Sea of Stars review - exploring the first port town before setting sail.

In Sea of Stars, you follow the story of two Solstice Warriors and their journey to cleanse the land of evil by defeating the last remaining Dweller. In terms of story, Sea of Stars is considered a prequel to The Messenger – Sabotage Studio’s previous game – but is designed as a standalone experience. Thus, you don’t need to play The Messenger before playing Sea of Stars.

The main aim of the game is to grow your party by finding more adventurers as you travel, level them up by defeating enemies, learn new skills, and explore the world for items, equipment, and materials. If you’ve played an RPG before, none of this will be new to you, but there are also unique twists on the formula.

From the get-go, the game makes one of its unique elements clear: interactive combat. While attacking and being attacked, you can press the action button at the right time to enhance your attacks and block some of the received damage. The timing is tricky to master and you’ll miss it often, especially at first. The best part is that it’s not essential. The game is designed in a way that you can beat everything without using this mechanic much if you’re not a fan of it. Alternatively, you can use Relics to automatically enhance your attacks.

However, interactive combat also affects skills and there’s no way to skip that. Certain skills, like Valere’s Moonerang, require continuously pressing the action button at the right time to keep using the skill. After each press, the Moonerang moves faster and you’ll need to press the button even faster. This can feel stressful occasionally, especially during boss fights when you want to deal as much damage as possible on every attack. Missing a button press will cut the skill short and make you feel inefficient since you just used a lot of MP to deal mediocre damage.

Sea of Stars review - taking care of Garl while he's unconcious.

What makes Sea of Stars stand out is the various quality-of-life additions. While you can only have three characters in your party, you can swap active characters at any point during combat without drawbacks. You won’t lose your turn or take extra damage while swapping; instead, it happens instantly. Also, all your party members level up at the same time, so you don’t have to farm monsters if you just got a new party member as they will be the same level as everyone else. On top of that, the game doesn’t require any grinding. If you’re exploring each area enough, you’ll always have enough levels to beat the next boss.

In terms of areas and enemies, every location and boss feels unique. Since there’s no grinding needed, you never feel like you stay in an area for too long. This is a refreshing change of pace over other RPGs that have you backtracking and fighting the same enemies for hours upon hours.

Another unique addition is that Sea of Stars doesn’t include a difficulty level. Instead, you can buy and find Relics while exploring the game which you can choose to equip or ignore. Each Relic has difficulty-changing effects like reducing damage taken by 20%, increasing your max HP, or being able to see the enemies’ HP during combat. Blue Relics will make your game easier, while red Relics will increase the difficulty further.

Another fun element is the inclusion of “Wheels”, a tabletop game that allows you to take a break from exploring the world and progressing the story.

Sea of Stars review - collaborating with pirates to set sail.

In terms of graphics, it’s a pixel-art game drawn beautifully. If you enjoy this visual style, Sea of Stars does it well by providing colorful characters and locations enhanced further via dynamic lighting. What makes the game stand out visually is the addition of cinematics throughout the story. These cinematics add a different level of depth to the game and the characters and manage to make the storyline more engaging. The performance was also smooth and we never encountered any frame drops.

One of the best aspects of Sea of Stars is that the music is top-notch and manages to perfectly capture the location and story setting on each occasion. Yasunori Mitsuda co-composed it, and his soundtrack in Chrono Trigger is often remembered as one of the best from the 90s. The music in Sea of Stars is slow-paced and gloomy while exploring a haunted island, fast-paced and engaging during boss fights, and fitting with the relaxed but crowded ambience when exploring local towns.

Sea of Stars review - solving the crystals puzzle.

Sea of Stars is a must-play for RPG fans, especially if you’ve enjoyed games like The Messenger, Octopath Traveler, and Chained Echoes. It maintains the elements of a classic RPG that have made the genre so popular while adding its own unique twists to make the combat stand out and feel more satisfying.

Sea of Stars is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S | X.

Sea of Stars: Sea of Stars is everything you love about classic RPGs but with unique twists that make it one of the best game's of 2023. Harry Mourtzanakis

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Harry Mourtzanakis

Harry has been a gaming fan ever since the days of Gameboy Advance and over the past 20 years, the one thing that has remained stable is his love for anything video game-related. Nowadays, you'll see him enjoying almost any type of game including FPS, survival, RPG, farming sims, and soulslike titles. Sometimes it’s all about action and intense fights, and others it’s better to relax in a cozy farmhouse. Combined with his Master's in Philosophy, Harry is able to share his passion for gaming through guides, reviews, and more.