Sabotage Studios is a team from Quebec that loves making retro-inspired games. You might be familiar with one of their previous titles, The Messenger. Now, releasing for PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, and Steam comes Sea of Stars, a new Pixel Turn-based RPG. There is a Demo on both Steam and PlayStation.
There are many stories to share, let’s begin with yours.
I was browsing PlayStation free games when I stumbled across Sea of Stars. What caught my eye first was the Pixel art style and the dual characters. There aren’t many turn-based games I’ll play, but this looked promising, so I thought I’d give it a go.
The game opens up with the player meeting a mysterious individual known only as the Archivist. They ask you to join them in the retelling of a world in turmoil thanks to the entity called The Fleshmancer. The story begins with you picking who to control/ lead the party. A boy of the sun called Zale or a girl of the moon, Valere. It doesn’t matter which one you pick. It doesn’t affect the story in Sea of Stars apart from who leads the party.
We see Zale and Valere grow and train to become Solstice Warriors. After many years pass, Morain, their headmaster, tasks them both to venture out and find the Eldermist. Along the way, our heroes bump into an old childhood friend, Garl, who insists on journying with them.
Some details on the combat
Sea of Stars plays similarly to other turn-based games, such as the classic Final Fantasy games or Chrono Trigger. The combat stands out by letting players manually block enemy attacks to lower oncoming damage. You can increase the damage you deal by pressing the action button in time with your strike. This combat style works similarly to South Park: Stick of Truth or Mario & Luigi: Bowsers Inside Story.
Monsters sometimes begin to charge up a special move to throw at your party. These moves are displayed with boxes above their heads with symbols such as a Hammer (blunt), Sword (Slash), and Sun and Moon for the specific power. When using the correct attacks, the player will stun the creature for a couple of turns, leaving them open for the rest of the team.
Weapons & Magic
When using magic in Sea of Stars, the player may receive a helpful tip explaining how to increase a spell’s potency. For example, Zale can charge up a small sun and hurl it at a foe, dealing massive damage to it and nearby enemies. After using a spell, the character’s MP will drain. You can fill the MP by performing a normal attack on a monster. As combat goes on, you will slowly build up combos. Building combos gives you the edge in battle by offering more powerful attacks or better healing. Combos build up to tier 3 and don’t carry to other fights, so it’s best to use them then.
When hitting a monster with a basic attack, some small white orbs known as Live Mana will spawn. Live Mana gives characters a boost to spells and attacks. When weapons are boosted and perform basic attacks, they will hold some magical properties of the users. For example, Valere will imbue her weapon with lunar energy. I found this great when I needed to stop a special attack from a monster and needed that extra damage type.
Cooking, fishing and fun!
On your travels, you will spot small campsites to rest and cook. You can cook several meals which will heal you or restore some mana. Recipes are found throughout your journey so that you can cook even better dishes. Players will also find ingredients scattered around the map for said dishes, such as tomatoes, berries, and mushrooms. There are some areas reserved for fishing.
The fishing mini-game is easy to learn. All you must do is cast your rod and land the hook near a fish. The fish will instantly go for the bait. All the player has to do is keep it within the water current and reel it in. I really enjoy a good fishing mini-game, and this one is no different.
Sea Of Stars rocks pixel graphics and uses them well. The pixelated aspect gives a charming vibe, complimented by its palette of super vibrant colours. One very nostalgic-looking and bright area was a tropical beach featuring rocky pools, waterfalls, starfish and coral of various shapes and sizes in an array of bright reds, blues and pinks.
Everything is eye-catching, and I couldn’t stop looking at all the fine details found everywhere. No scene was boring or mundane; everything was great to look at without being overwhelming.
The lighting and shadowing are also stunning, helping guide the eye to where you should be looking. One most notable time this shines is when party members perform skills and combo attacks, giving each character a little spotlight. The accuracy in how light streams through spaces or softly glows and how shadows bend’ and drape dynamically is incredible.
The smoothness of the animations in the game took me by surprise; The way the wind gently swayed the trees and foliage was mesmerising to watch. The way enemies and characters moved and how the flames flickered was brilliant.
It’s the little details that matter
There are many other visual details I love besides the graphics. I enjoyed the overworlds, which players will find very reminiscent of games like Final Fantasy VII or RPGs from that era. When cooking at the campfire, I loved how a short slideshow played. It demonstrated the chosen dish being prepared and cooked. Some cutscenes were also animated, which kept things fresh.
During dialogue via text boxes, names of importance were also colour-coded, which made it easier to stay engaged and remember what was significant. Purple was for character names, while red was for enemy names.
While there is no spoken dialogue in-game, the music and sound effects are a treat. The music gives off fun, fantasy and familiarity all at once. Some elements of the music sound like those found in the Gameboy era. Pan flutes are very reminiscent of the sounds found in The Legend Of Zelda series’ music, and the banjo twangs in the fishing mini-game will remind Stardew Valley fans of Pelican Town’s theme.
Sea of Stars is a masterpiece in my eyes. The gameplay offers a nice challenge without being too hard. If players struggle, they’ve implemented relics to help make the game easier. The characters all have great chemistry, and I couldn’t hate a single one (Garl is my favourite). Combat is very engaging without asking too much of the player. I enjoy the animations for cutscenes to help emphasise what’s going on. When performing a spell or combo, the animations look smooth. I found the Ninja Seraï’s skill where she goes behind and attacks through a portal to both look amazing and cold. The soundtrack does well to set the mood.
I’m so happy I gave Sea of Stars a chance, and I hope others do as well. I haven’t finished the story yet, but I can’t wait to see it unravel even after twelve hours of gameplay.
Though I played this out of curiosity on PlayStation, I will definitely pick it up on Steam out of support. That’s why I’m giving it the Thumb Culture Platinum Award.