Star Ocean: The Divine Force review (PS5)

The Star Ocean series holds a special place in our hearts, so we had been eagerly awaiting Star Ocean: The Divine Force, the sixth main entry in the franchise that started way back in 1996 on the SNES. We played it on a PlayStation 5, though it’s available for Xbox and Windows as well.

In a genre that’s filled with so many pure fantasy-themed games, Star Ocean’s sci-fi narratives have always felt like a breath of fresh air. It’s been a long wait since Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness though, which came out back in 2016. To put that into perspective, it also launched on the PS3 when it did. Developer tri-Ace went the remake/remaster route with Star Ocean afterwards, but The Divine Force is the continuation we had been looking for.

The Divine Force lets you choose between Raymond Lawrence and Laeticia Aucerius as our protagonist, though you can recruit a group of additional heroes as you play and explore Aster IV, which is where the narrative takes place. It’s a standalone adventure that can be enjoyed without any knowledge of previous Star Ocean games, though veterans will be able to enjoy subtle reference to the later franchise universe as they play. Design-wise, it feels like a game that was made to try and lift Star Ocean out of its somewhat niche status.

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If you’re a Star Ocean fan, then the events of The Divine Force fall somewhere between Integrity and Faithlessness and Till The End of Time, the fifth and third game in the series – triAce has never been very good at making this serious chronological. But while Faithlessness is easily available as a PS4 entry, it’s likely that Till The End of Time isn’t as well known, with its PS2 roots – it’s a shame that one didn’t get a newer-gen upgrade yet, and it’s one of our favorite games in the series.

Joining you on your travels this time is D.U.M.A., a robot who helps you with functions like a scanner and a shield, but also aids in traversal with a jetpack that lets you get to players that otherwise seem impossible to reach. This encourages players to explore, and larger environments than in the previous games make this entirely possible, though the game isn’t littered with rewards for exploring every nook and cranny. Diverse backdrops and locations make checking out the environments fun to do though, so it’s definitely an improvement.

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The narrative also works well, largely due to an entertaining cast of characters with well written background and stories, personalities and motivations of their own. Their visual designs may look a bit ‘last gen’, but it’s a rich world to explore with side quests to help expand the lore of The Divine Force. There’s also a good bit of diversity to the combat side of things, thanks to skill trees, passive boosts and chain attacks that you can develop over time – with differences between characters that allow you to strategize a bit on the battlefield.

Star Ocean: The Devine Force feels like the Star Ocean game we’ve been waiting for for over a decade now. An interesting story and characters, combined with a new world to explore and solid combat, make this a great JRPG that’s welcoming to newcomers as well as recognizable to longtime fans.

Score: 8.0/10

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