The launch of Star Ocean: The Divine Force is very close to orbit, a sci-fi JRPG developed by tri-Ace which, after the failure of the previous episode (for all the details, read our review of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness ), will have the important task of reviving the fortunes of the historic Square Enix franchise. Waiting to be able to dissect the product through the inevitable review that will be published at the end of October, we tried the first two hours of the campaign and we offer you our preliminary impressions below.
Lost on an alien planet
As told in our previous preview of Star Ocean: The Divine Force, the new iteration of the saga can be experienced from two different points of view: at the beginning of the campaign, in fact, the player is asked to choose which character to play, with all the consequences of the case.
Just as it happened in Star Ocean: The Second Story / Second Evolution, this peculiar feature of the title will partly influence the course of events and even the companions that can be recruited during the story. If the final product will then allow us to start the adventure in the role of the male hero or the female heroine, the demo of Star Ocean: The Divine Force already available on Steam, PlayStation Store and Microsoft Store instead put us at the controls of the first. . Descendant of a renowned dynasty of space merchants, the muscular Raymond Lawrence is the captain of the spacecraft Ydas and, along with his crew, makes a living by making deliveries to every corner of the known universe. During the transport of a very particular cargo, Ray’s ship is however attacked by a warship belonging to the Pangalactic Federation, that is the cosmic organization that for centuries had worked hard to preserve peace in the cosmos. Not having the necessary means to counter or otherwise escape the cruiser Astoria, the captain of the spacecraft Ydas finds himself forced to rescue the crew, who are ordered to leave the spaceship through the escape pods.
Arrived in the hold to try to rescue even the cargo he should have delivered at the end of the voyage, the stubborn Ray is pushed into a capsule by his first officer and launched against his will in the direction of the fourth planet of the Aster system: a world that the Pangalactic Federation had labeled as “underdeveloped,” but which in reality may not be at all.
Following an emergency landing, Raymond discovers that the subject Chloe has also reached the fourth star of the Aster system, but since her escape pod was intercepted by an electromagnetic cannon at the time of entering orbit, the girl has crashed in a different part of the planet and the on-board computer suffered irreparable damage. After sending a distress call to his older brother, Ray decides to set out to track down the little girl when a giant toad takes him by surprise.
Saved by the providential intervention of two strangers, who among other things give him a sword to defend himself from monsters, our hero then meets the resolute princess Laeticia – the female protagonist of Star Ocean: The Divine Force – who together with the faithful Albaird is traveling to save their people from impending disaster.
Encouraged by the landing of a third emergency capsule and determined to track down any survivors of his crew, the merchant landed on a hostile and far from underdeveloped planet decides to put his skills at Laeticia’s service: traveling in her company for the Kingdom of Aucerius and protecting its borders from attacks from the nearby neighboring country, the captain will have a better chance of surviving and finding the subordinates who landed on Aster IV.
What Raymond and the princess still ignore is that, by doing so, they will become entangled in each other’s problems, since if the first part of the campaign will certainly revolve around the exploration and defense of Aucerius, the Star Ocean lore teaches that the second will bring the Pangalactic Federation back to the stage in order to explain what actually happened to what was once a benevolent organization.
Drawing on the solid narrative that has always distinguished the franchise, Star Ocean: The Divine Force is preparing to tell us about the umpteenth conflict that broke out between two kingdoms of a remote planet: an event at first sight insignificant, but which could turn out to be over the hours. once again a fundamental piece of a much larger and vaster drawing like space.
If for the moment we do not have enough elements to evaluate the characterization of the protagonists, who would say quite stereotyped to the nose, we still appreciated the atmosphere that permeates the initial stages of the adventure and above all the usual mix of fantasy and science fiction that supports the entire narrative framework at the base of the brand.
Between combos, barriers and ultra-fast shots
Moving on to the analysis of the playful mixture, it should be emphasized that, where at first glance the Star Ocean: The Divine Force combat system seemed extremely limited to us, over the hours we realized how much this instead offers a profound level of customization.
Through fairly large skill trees, Laeticia, Albaird and the other heroes can also learn new techniques that the player can use to build three different combos, each assigned to a different key on the controller: the special menu allows you to associate three attacks on each button and execute them through as many consecutive presses, or alternatively to deliver a single and powerful blow by holding down the selected button for a few seconds. By learning many skills it is possible to create complex and always new patterns, which, depending on the enemy faced, can prove to be more or less effective. If diversification is the key to achieving victory in any situation, it should be specified that each action that can be performed in battle requires the expenditure of a certain number of APs, i.e. the segments of a bar that recharges over time and prevents you from attacking relentlessly. the designated target. Not surprisingly, when the controlled character runs out of his AP, he cannot activate any technique for a few seconds. It is a gimmick that at first confuses and limits the player’s options, but which in the long run – and with the right practice – moves the clashes a lot, opening the doors to a delicious strategic component.
The distinctive element of the gameplay of Star Ocean: The Divine Force, however, is represented by the functions of the DUMA, a very advanced sentient robot that, once connected to our heroes, allows them to soar and advance at full speed, both in the middle. some disputes with the monsters that during the exploratory sessions.
PS4 vs PS5 As widely estimated, the weak point of the production seems to be the dated technical sector. We tried Star Ocean: The Divine Force on PlayStation 5, where the uploads don’t seem to take advantage of the astonishing speed guaranteed by the Sony machine’s SSD at all. If the loading times recorded when switching from one area to another are longer than expected, the trial version still offered us a very fluid experience: both on PS4 and on PS5 the frame rate runs around 30 FPS, but where frequent dips of up to 20 frames per second occur on the former, the current flagship Sony never wavered throughout our tests.
If a long press of the appropriate activation button allows you to erect a solid barrier that repels incoming attacks and can make the performer jump, a fleeting pressure triggers a very rapid snap that can be used to shorten distances, escape the offense of a monster to then take to his balls, and last but not least take opponents by surprise to maximize the damage inflicted. During our test, for example, we abused it to easily annihilate the annoying enemies capable of flying, which too often in action RPGs are difficult to reach. As if that weren’t enough, the DUMA dash can also be used to target the weak points of larger enemies, in order to disable their most dangerous attacks and get additional rewards after taking home victory (a little as has always been the case in hunting games).
No less interesting seemed to us the potential applications of DUMA being explored. It can also be used only to move faster and go in a few moments to the most remote points of the map, the robot can be used to reach otherwise inaccessible places, overcome impassable crevasses or climb mountains in an instant. In this way, exploring the vast maps that make up the world of Aster IV requires a very reasonable amount of time, also thanks to a special function of the DUMA that identifies and signals the presence of all the treasures in the immediate vicinity.