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Image via Sabotage Studio

Sea of Stars Demo Impressions – Visually Stunning and Nostalgia-Filled JRPG Goodness

Sabotage Studio's newest JRPG outing - Sea of Stars - looks to be one of the years best indie releases. Here is our impressions from the demo.

I first saw Sea of Stars in January 2022 when a rogue post from the official Twitter account popped up on my feed. In it, a giant stone creature scooped up the party and proceeded to lob them into the distance. It was creative, beautifully animated, and caught my attention, and since then, I’ve followed the game’s development.

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With the August 29 release date approaching, I decided to take the plunge and try out the demo, and I came away with this lovely mix of nostalgia and excitement and realized just how unique Sea of Stars is.

The only downside to my time with the demo was its length, with it only taking me around 90 minutes to complete, and I honestly could have played it for much longer. Despite its short length, the demo does a fantastic job of showcasing what players can expect from the full game, showing off the core gameplay of Sea of Stars.

A Beautifully Detailed Pixel World

Image via Sabotage Studio

First, we have to talk about how gorgeous Sea of Stars looks. I was amazed by the top quality of the game’s aesthetics. The pixel art on display is top-notch, with everything looking equally detailed and vibrant. Whether that’s the mountain regions you first land in via a stone giant’s baseball arm travel system, the Port Town of Brisk with its lively NPCs, colorful shops, grungy bars, or the crisp blue ocean – everything I saw looked stunning. If the whole game shares this same level of quality, we are all in for a real treat for the eyes.

Beyond just looking great, the game played great too. Sea of Stars borrows elements from other JRPGs while adding some unique features in a healthy mix of familiarity and new ideas.

Sea of Stars offers more freedom in its exploration than some of its influences, with players able to explore areas with much more verticality. Players can climb up ledges, skip and hop across chasms, and head behind and around structures and environments, with nearly every excursion off the beaten path providing chests or items for your exploring efforts. In one case, I came across a secret store with some expensive but worthwhile items, and it felt incredibly satisfying to go off and find it myself. The game seemed to encourage that sense of discovery.

Combat Felt Layered and Engaging

Image via Sabotage Studio

When I wasn’t busy looking around every corner for treasure, I was wrapped up in combat, which felt just as engaging. It takes its inspiration from games like Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG, with positioning and flashing combos being a particular highlight and focus, and it borrows some of its influence’s best bits and blends them to great effect.

You have situational button presses, ala Super Mario RPG that would increase attack power or block incoming damage. Combo attacks, much like Chrono Trigger, have two party members unleash bigger attacks together with Combo points you earn through battle. Then with positioning, I could hurl enemies around the battle with one party member while another could unload a hefty AOE attack on them all. At the same time, the third could be breaking enemies’ defense, or Spell Locks as they are called, to weaken or cancel an incoming attack.

It doesn’t just copy what came before and adds a few tricks of its own, namely Live Mana and Boosting, which see party members power up via Live Mana dropped in combat to enhance or alter attacks. Add all that to the usual fun and layered trappings of JRPGs of old; gear, varied party members, and skills; it makes for a fantastic experience I can see being even better in the full release.

Some Worthwhile Passtimes

Image via Sabotage Studio

The demo also showcased some of the most relaxed gameplay players can expect, including fishing and cooking, which were fun, worthwhile additions that complemented the overall experience. Fishing involves a simple minigame to reel in fish, netting some ingredients to use while cooking around a campfire.

You are also limited to only carrying ten meals, at least in the demo, which added some extra strategy into the mix. I only felt like I saw a small fraction of these mechanics at work, but I still enjoyed utilizing them and can see them being major timesinks with the complete offering the game will have.

Dungeon Diving

Image via Sabotage Studio

To finish out the demo, you’ll get a taster for the game’s dungeons, which look excellent, given my experience with this one with a marriage of old and new. Along with some more challenging combat, the dungeon was filled with puzzles involving crystals and different challenges that felt more open than others in the genre, with secrets, unique ideas, and a less linear design that were all welcome. It made solving each puzzle and progressing feel fulfilling, and the extra challenge of combat made the cooking I had done earlier all the more rewarding and essential.

To top it off, you get a boss battle that proved to be equally challenging and rewarding, showcasing all the best parts of combat as I used the right moves to weaken attacks, carefully used Combo Attacks and button presses, and the food, skills, and mechanics at my disposal. Seeing all the elements layered so neatly felt so satisfying, and it was made better by a stellar presentation. Like the rest of the game, I imagine it will be bigger and better in the full release.

This demo was only a tiny part of Sea of Stars, but even the brief time I had with it was excellent and only made me even more excited for the full release. I’m eager to explore the vast world, the plethora of enemies and characters, see the combat grow and expand, try the other minigames, and fully immerse myself in this experience. With its August 29 release date, it’s not long until I can do just that.

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Matthew Fuller
Matt is a freelance writer based in the UK and has spent over three years covering and writing about video games. He discovered his love of games journalism while attending Canterbury Christchurch University, where he earned a bachelor's and master's degree in Game Design and has been writing ever since. He will find any excuse to play and write about games. When he isn't fighting dragons or exploring far-off galaxies, he spends his free time playing D&D, listening to music, or reading a good book. His primary game bests are Diablo IV, the Final Fantasy series, D&D, and anything new releasing that tickles his fancy.