I just finished the Star Ocean The Divine Force demo over on Playstation 5 and it’s been a while since I’ve been this excited about a JRPG. The open world action role-playing, fast-paced and responsive aerial traversal, coupled with what appears to be a deep upgrade system is leading me to believe that this could actually be one of the best JRPG’s this year, so it’s very worthy of a quick review.
The demo begins with Raymond Lawrence, whose spaceship is under surprise attack from the Pangalactic Federation while on a routine transport mission. Said ship is destroyed and Raymond crashes into an underdeveloped planet with swords and sorcery, where he then sets out to look for any other ship survivors. What always sets apart Star Ocean to me is this juxtaposition between advanced civilizations merging with underdeveloped planets and its citizens as a storytelling device.
Gameplay & Elements
Star Ocean The Divine Force is an action role-playing game with a vast open-world setting that can be explored both on the ground and in the air at breakneck speed. The sprinting moves so quickly and is a boon to those of us who care about pacing and video games not arbitrarily wasting our time. Then you couple that with Lawrence’s companion droid called D.U.M.A. that allows him to shoot into the air and glide/climb over chasms and obstacles and you have some very interesting gaming elements just in terms of movement.
You’ve certainly experienced battles like these before if you’ve ever played JRPG’s in the past few decades. You engage with various enemies in the open world and there’s usually a lot of hectic action on the screen. However, it’s not always simply button-mashing until your awarded experience points. For starters, the real-time combat can be paused for those who wish to engage in a bit more strategy. Further, D.U.M.A. gives you the ability to finely control your characters movements, shield from attacks, float, and even lunge from great distances to quickly blindside your enemies and open them up to other combos that are customized manually prior to battle, but more on that later. Again, more emphasis on speed within the gameplay.
One negative I experienced with combat was the camera. It simply needs to pull back some from your character. Even while locking onto targets, I still felt there wasn’t enough room for me to really grasp what was going on with other characters in my party. Oddly enough, I checked the settings and the camera for battle was set to “Far,” so hopefully there will be additional options for that in the full version of the game.
Further, one of the D.U.M.A. mechanics allows you to ping your surrounding in order to find chests, items, and the like. It’s an upgradeable mechanic, which I definitely put some points into, but I was bummed to only be able to ping my surroundings while being completely static. That just seems a bit clunky to me considering how fast-paced the traversal can be at times.
In terms of upgrading your characters, there’s quite a few ways in the menus (which the menus & HUD does feel a bit clunky to me). Anyways, after gaining SP points, you then open up a giant grid for each character and attribute them accordingly. Some of these specific plots only affect stats while others grant you new skills/abilities. One thing to keep in mind is that you actually have to equip passive skills and abilities in order to benefit from them. Further, you can also level up these specific skills and make them even more useful. If you focus on specific builds, it would appear you could make your characters ultra powerful in specific facets of warfare. For example, you can link specific skills to combo presses in order to chain the desired attacks or buffs & debuffs on your targets. So, again, it’s not as simple as button-mashing and hoping for the best. There’s some variability and exploration at play here.
Lastly, there’s the aforementioned D.U.M.A. droid that can be upgraded with DP points that are essentially shards you find throughout the world. These shards are usually hidden or atop a large cliff, which forces you to get creative with the gliding and dash mechanics to acquire them. Thankfully, due to the speed, this is surprisingly fun and worthwhile.
Many may not be blown away by the visuals in parts of the open world, but some of the nighttime views are certainly breathtaking, especially when looking at what appears to be other nearby moons or planets in the solar system. I opted for the default performance mode for my playthrough on the Playstation 5, so it’s possible that the visuals could look better, but the speed in which The Divine Force plays lends to higher framerates being the optimal focus for gameplay.
I’ll note there was a bit of noticeable chug in part of the open world, but I was also recording gameplay directly from the Playstation 5 this time around. I tested the game without recording gameplay and that frame rate chug still persisted, so hopefully that’s just something to do with the demo…
This is a generous demo. The speed and articulation of character movement makes the pacing seem reasonable and you’ll get a couple hours of enjoyment out of it. It’ll be up to you to try out some of the various customized settings for battle and delve in a bit deeper, but there’s a lot to love here. Hopefully some of the issues will be resolved in the full version, but Star Ocean The Divine Force is looking very promising for those who are fans of the JRPG genre.