The Divine Power Isn’t Horrible And That’s Sufficient

Deal Score0
Deal Score0

Key art for Star Ocean: The Divine Force shows both protagonists under the night sky.

Screenshot: Tri-Ace / Sq. Enix / Kotaku

I dwell solely a 15-minute drive from the home the place I grew up. My mother and father moved once I was in school, at which level the bodily embodiment of each reminiscence from my early life was turned over to strangers, solely to be revisited in my goals. On the few events I’ve gone again to that avenue the reminiscences come flooding again, however they’re a foul match for the yards that now appear smaller and the homes that don’t look fairly as freshly painted and saved up. Taking part in Star Ocean: The Divine Force will be equally jarring: a monument to previous comforts that sometimes delights, however whose cracked basis and flaking paint remind you that it’s not your own home anymore.

As soon as upon a time, Star Ocean was a stable JRPG sequence that supplied followers a meaty various to Remaining Fantasy and Dragon Quest. It lets gamers embark on a Dungeons & Dragons type marketing campaign inside a bigger Star Trek-inspired universe. It punched above its weight with frenetic fight, deep crafting programs, and an abundance of aspect content material. There have been a number of endings and roster tradeoffs relying on who you tried to recruit throughout your journey. Star Ocean: Second Story on the unique PlayStation was good. The following recreation on the PS2 was even better. It’s been downhill ever since. Till now.

Divine Force's environments can be quite pretty.

Screenshot: Tri-Ace / Sq. Enix / Kotaku

Star Ocean: The Divine Power, the sixth recreation within the sequence and the primary one on PS5 and Xbox Collection X/S, is a transparent enchancment over the past recreation. 2016’s Integrity and Faithlessness was unremarkable, incomplete, and had a third-person digicam that made you want to throw-up. A low bar to clear for certain, however Divine Power does extra than simply keep away from the pitfalls of its predecessor. It additionally presents an progressive overhaul of the fight system that’s finicky however compelling, with the prettiest environments the sequence has ever achieved. I’ve been enjoying on PS5 in graphics mode, and whereas nowhere close to one of the best wanting JRPG on the console, the luxurious fields, detailed structure, and colourful interstellar skies added an additional spark to in any other case barebones questlines full of a tedious degree of backtracking.

Does this imply Divine Power is an efficient recreation? No. I’m about six hours in, and thus far, I haven’t seen something that may make me suggest it to anybody who isn’t already among the many quickly shrinking group of diehard Star Ocean followers. For the entire recreation’s enhancements and fashionable sensibilities, it’s nowhere close to as centered, polished, or refined as Xenoblade Chronicles 3, and even final yr’s Tales of Arise. For all of its shocking virtues, Divine Power simply isn’t in the identical league.

Gif: Tri-Ace / Sq. Enix / Kotaku

The English voice performing is satisfactory and infrequently endearing in its eccentricity, however largely simply appears stilted, due partially to a script that feels trapped, for higher and undoubtedly for worse, in a form of PS2-era JRPG mad libs. Raymond, the captain of a service provider ship, crashlands on a medieval-era planet the place he runs right into a princess named Laeticia who’s attempting to stave off an invasion of her kingdom by a neighboring empire. Regardless of the menacing threats looming within the background, a lot of the early recreation is about getting blended up in mundane parochial affairs whereas Raymond tries to regroup along with his crewmates and mutters stuff like, “Who the hell are the individuals on this rock with horns growin’ outta their heads?” It’s fairly boring stuff.

A screenshot shows what Divine Force's menu interface looks like.

Divine Power’s menu interface is particularly arduous to learn.
Screenshot: Tri-Ace / Sq. Enix / Kotaku

The sport involves life extra in-between these contrived story beats and laborious fetch quests. Conversations with NPCs are not often attention-grabbing, however they sometimes open up aspect missions that unlock particular objects for profiting from the sport’s crafting programs. Whereas hardly any of that is signposted, the sport’s extra esoteric aspect is there for gamers prepared to go off the overwhelmed path and attempt to puzzle collectively what the sport is attempting to inform you to do.

Exploration and fight are augmented by a mechanical companion known as the D.U.M.A. that permits you to fly quick distances or sprint into enemies and stun them. A stamina depend, in the meantime, regulates how usually and quickly you’ll be able to unleash combos in fights. There’s additionally a roll-dodge that you would be able to time to completely evade an incoming assault and counter with a strong follow-up. Whereas concentrating on could be a nightmare, and it’s usually unattainable to know in case you’re about to be hit by one thing off display screen, it makes fight really feel extra pure and responsive than previous video games.

Gif: Tri-Ace / Sq. Enix / Kotaku

The transition between exploration and fight can also be seamless, and helps maintain Divine Power shifting alongside in order that even when one thing leaves a foul style in your mouth it doesn’t linger for lengthy. That stated, the environments you’re exploring, whereas sometimes huge and fairly to have a look at, are mainly empty aside from just a few treasure chests and bread crumb trails of crystals you’ll be able to acquire to improve the D.U.M.A. Enemies all the time seem in the identical teams on the similar spot, whether or not it’s your first time visiting the situation or your fifth. And regardless of the addition of quick bursts of flight and a gliding capacity, the platforming has been too imprecise for me to ever need to attempt to attain hard-to-get-to treasure chests.

Divine Force's characters watch the birds.

Screenshot: Tri-Ace / Sq. Enix / Kotaku

So why am I nonetheless enjoying Divine Power? As a result of I’m a type of followers who was Star Ocean-pilled way back, excitedly pouring by technique guides attempting to resolve which character I’d recruit and the way to not miss them. I’m hardly the primary individual to comment on simply how a lot the newest recreation appears like enjoying an HD tribute to Second Story and Until The Finish of Time. The sound results are all nonetheless the identical. You eat blueberries to heal and nonetheless can’t carry greater than 20 at a time. And far of the early recreation a minimum of revolves round operating errands for kings and mages in an more and more nonsensical sequence of nesting subplots. It’s been a pleasant stroke down reminiscence lane however none of it’s nearly as good as I keep in mind.

Developer Tri-Ace is in a huge financial hole, and followers are frightened that Divine Power is likely to be the sequence’ final likelihood to show it nonetheless deserves to exist. Some are even buying multiple copies of the sport to attempt to maintain the dream alive. However the preliminary gross sales knowledge isn’t reassuring. In Japan a minimum of, the sport’s launch is shaping as much as be the second worst within the sequence historical past. It’s arduous guilty anybody, each due to the sport’s flaws and the inherent limitations and area of interest enchantment of the a long time outdated method, but additionally as a result of there are simply so many different JRPGs to select from. I’m dissatisfied that Divine Power isn’t the triumphant comeback followers have begged for, however I’m not shocked. I’m simply glad it’s not horrible, and that I bought to go to yet one more time earlier than the entire thing will get knocked down.


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