Published on November 24th, 2022 | by Jamie Kirk

Star Ocean: The Divine Force PS5 Review

Star Ocean: The Divine Force PS5 Review Jamie Kirk

Summary: While it might not keep up with the mega JRPG franchises, Star Ocean: The Divine Force is a big leap forward over previous entries, and has a fun combat system and just enough charm to recommend.


Divine Return to Form

The Star Ocean series has become something of a black sheep among JRPG franchises. In recent times it has lacked the budget, ideas and execution to compete with titans such as Final Fantasy, Persona and the Xenoblade series. The series hit a low point with Integrity and Faith, its last instalment and it seemed like Star Ocean just might not be able to keep up with the competition. The latest entry Star Ocean: The Divine Force could be classified as a return to form, although it can’t escape its B-tier trappings.

The Divine Force has a unique hook to its story as you can play as one of two characters. There’s the charming space captain Ray, with perhaps the worst Motley Crue style haircut in a genre known for wacky haircuts. Ray is tasked with delivering a mysterious device called DUMA when his ship crashes on an unknown planet. With no sign of his crew Ray sets out to find them and joins forces with the other main protagonist Laeticia. She is the princess of the Kingdom of Aucerius and is on her own quest to find someone in order to stem a potential war. Their stories intertwine and the stage is set for some intergalactic intrigue.

The dual protagonist routes are more than just minor aesthetic differences as well. Each character gets some specific individual routes and will split up for portions of the story. This leads to some unique scenes in each playthrough that tell the tale from one side. It’s not absolutely necessary to play both routes to understand the plot, but there are a few details from each side that help fill in shades and develop the characters and world.

It’s the sort of mechanic that is perfect for a New Game Plus, so it’s baffling to see that The Divine Force does not have this. That means if you want to see the scenes you missed the first time around, you do so from scratch. For a 40 odd hour adventure, this seems like a bit of a chore.

The Divine Force is helped by the fact that its story is engaging and the characters that make up your party are fun to spend the journey with. Their backstories are also filled in with Private Actions. These are similar to social links in Persona or the skits from the Tales series. It gives you a little something extra to do in each town you stop in as you check in on the various members of your party.

The big new addition to The Divine Force is DUMA. DUMA acts as a companion in combat and exploration. In the field DUMA operates as a sort of jet pack, allowing you to traverse the vast fields at top speeds. It also adds a vertical element to exploring in both the field and towns. It brings to mind the extra dimension that Ys IX: Monstrum Nox gained when navigating towns. The downside being that apart from finding orbs to upgrade your DUMA, there really isn’t too much to be found.

Towns are bustling with life, yet not many people can actually be interacted with. In the open field there are wide expansive environments, but there isn’t much interesting to see. The awe-inspiring feeling from the open world in the  isn’t quite there. So, in the end DUMA feels like great fun to zip around with but doesn’t really add too much to exploring.

On the flip side, DUMA shines in the combat system. The battle system is an action RPG style system where each attack costs AP, and you only get a certain amount of AP before needing to recharge. This means you cannot just rush in and mash buttons, as you will need to decide when to fall back, when to unleash ridiculous chain combos and when to simply grind out damage. You can also pause the action to survey the battle, use items and plan your next moves. The secret ingredient is the aforementioned DUMA, which adds an extra tactical layer to proceedings. DUMA can be used to target enemies from far away and blindside enemies, which stuns them and gives you a few free hits to deal damage. DUMA can be used offensively, or can be used as a shield. Combat feels great, and is probably the best executed element of the game.

Your mileage will vary with The Divine Force depending on your expectations. Those looking for another AAA JRPG experience may be left confounded. Character models look too lifeless, the lip syncing is laughable and the world almost feels like it needed a few more months of work to feel alive. Existing fans of Star Ocean are going to be very pleasantly surprised at the robust combat system, the engaging characters and the well told story. It is a like a very good straight to DVD movie, there’s a lot to like but you can see where it lags behind the blockbusters. It is a step in the right direction for the Star Ocean franchise and definitely worth checking out for fans of the genre.

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