Sea of Stars Review – The Shining Example of What All JRPGs Should Be

Sea of Stars is a absolute gem that meets and exceeds expectation, making it one of the best JRPGs in years.

Sea of Stars

Image via Sabotage Studio

Sea of Stars is more than a nostalgic throwback to the JRPGs of yesteryear; it’s an evolution. The latest offering from Sabotage Studio is a visually stunning adventure brimming with personality and quality, and one I was enthralled with from the moment I picked up the demo.

Mixing feelings of nostalgia with a hearty dose of fresh, brilliantly realized ideas, Sea of Stars embodies all the best elements of the genre and brings them together in what is easily one of the best offerings we’ve seen since the classic gems of the genre.

Key Details

  • Developers: Sabotage Studio
  • Platforms: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4&5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
  • Release Date: August 29, 2023
  • Price: $34.99

A Beautiful story in a beautiful world

Screenshot by Gamepur

Sea of Stars is the kind of story that you, the player, should enjoy with as little knowledge as possible going into. As such, I won’t go into too many specifics with the game’s story here, so you get the best experience when you play. What I can tell you is that it was a beautiful tale I honestly wished wouldn’t end.

Sea of Stars has players take control of two young heroes, Zale and Valere, who are raised and trained at Zenith Academy to become solstice warriors. The sole purpose of these warriors is to protect the world and combat the Dwellers, dark minions of the Fleshmancer. After years of training and preparation, they embark on their quest to defeat the last Dweller and finally free the world of the Fleshmancer’s evil. From there, it’s an epic adventure that just keeps on giving.

Along that journey, there was a slew of twists, turns, and thrilling moments that made that adventure a truly captivating and joyful experience, complemented by its steady and consistent pace. No matter what was going on, even in the game’s slower moments, I always felt like I was working toward something – whether that was reaching a new destination or fighting to save a town. It kept me engaged, and I enjoyed every place and person the game threw my way. It’s helped that the plot is a simple yet effective one. It’s not trying to be complicated, confuse you, or bog you down with needless details. You are on a quest; it’s important, and the game does a great job of reminding you of that fact while not beating it over your head.

Screenshot by Gamepur

Sea of Stars also manages to blend this sense of familiarity with newness. The game has made no secret of its inspirations, and that’s evident in the plot, but it isn’t a carbon copy or trying to be. Instead, it draws on some of the familiar tropes and themes from old JRPGs – themes of friendship, wonder, hope, and determination – and uses them to supplement its world, not outright drench it. It’s that sense of new and old that makes it an oddly nostalgic, exciting experience.

The story is only made better by the absolutely delightful cast of characters you meet along the way. Along with our protagonists, we have Garl, a happy, lovable warrior and chef who stood out to me during my playthrough. He acts as a driving good force in the world that, like the main characters, always compelled me to push forward, and his interactions with Zale and Valere always felt genuine and made him an endearing character. He wasn’t the only highlight, however. In fact, pretty much every character I met was brilliant. Whether they are a key party member like Senai, the mysterious assassin, Teaks, who joins you to discover the history of the world or the merry band of pirates you befriend, everyone feels alive. They had quirky personalities, and all added character to the world and how you experienced it.

Screenshot by Gamepur

All of these details take place on the center stage of the game – the stunning world it takes place in. The world of Sea of Stars is, for lack of a better term, breathtaking. It was vibrant and varied in a way I had not seen in a long time, and every pixel and place was a joy to explore and see. I often took moments to really examine the details and flair even the most simple objects had, and it speaks to the team’s passion and care. Add the beautiful soundtrack with excellent additions from Yasunori Mitsuda, the man behind Chrono Trigger and Xenoblade 3’s stellar music, and it becomes impossible not to be consumed by the world.

All of this made for a genuinely compelling adventure that I didn’t want to end, and I wish I could tell you every detail and moment about the journey, but as I said, this is one to enjoy yourself. Honestly, just sit back and take it all in your own time. I promise it’s worth every second.

JRPG Staple With a Fresh Coat of Paint

Screenshot by Gamepur

Sea of Stars is a JRPG through and through, and it wears its influences on its sleeve proudly. However, it also doesn’t rely on the staples to do all the work. Sea of Stars not only takes and remixes the classic formula but also improves on it.

The world players explore is filled with unique locations, all with their own flavor and plenty to find and discover. The game encourages this sense of wonder and exploration but never feels like it is a slog or takes away from pushing you forward in its story. Every little healthy distraction never took more time than needed, and I always felt rewarded for taking those extra few moments to check out a cave or pathway, and it made my time exploring all the more fulfilling. 

When I wasn’t exploring every corner of an area, I was engaged in the game’s combat, which is nothing short of a masterclass in simple yet layered design. All the mechanics Sea of Stars teaches you are clear and concise. 

Combat is turn-based, with players able to use three party members at once and use them in any order they choose in a round, giving you more strategic freedom. Each party member uses different skills with different damage types, such as lunar, solar, sword, and blunt, that affect enemies differently depending on their weaknesses and resistances.

Screenshot by Gamepur

Alongside that, the game uses a simple yet effective timing-based system, where pressing the action button at the right moment can add damage or reduce damage taken. It’s simple but adds extra taste and keeps you engaged with the fight. Mana is scarce, and regaining it is done through regular attacks, creating a symbiotic relationship between your various attacks and skills that encourages you to use them often.

Sea of Stars also has some original ideas that give combat its own flair. Live Mana and Boosting come to mind, which sees enemies drop a resource during combat that players can absorb and use to boost their attacks. There is also Combo Move, powerful attacks that multiple party members perform together. They provided more options and ways to handle enemies and added an extra depth to the affair. Then, as an extra, you can have Relic, which can alter gameplay with modifiers and adjustments to make a more challenging or lenient experience that can be toggled on and off at will.

As for enemies, they have a clear timer that counts down with each move you make, making it clear which is attacking and when. Enemy placement is vital to combat, as certain skills and abilities can target enemies near each other. They also utilize a lock system, which sees various symbols for damage types appear over their heads before they perform powerful moves. It’s then up to players to use the right attacks to break the locks and stop their attacks. Dungeons were the best example of this and an absolute treat to complete. Starting more simplistic, the gradual increase in their complexity and challenge was welcome, and their boss battles presented a challenging and satisfying implementation of all these mechanics to beautiful effect.

Screenshot by Gamepur

Outside of combat, you have to contend with supplies, namely food. Players can take ten meals with them, ranging from healing to revives and must have the right ingredients and consider what they need as they move ahead.

All of these elements are simple on their own, but it’s how the game combines and layers them together that makes them shine. Each mechanic is one thread in the weave of superb design, and they all interact with each other effortlessly and create a real depth and nuance to combat. It does all that while being approachable, and having the core mechanics so straightforward makes the experience frictionless and enjoyable without sacrificing strategy for simplicity. I never had a moment where combat felt tedious, and I was so impressed by just how polished and clean it was. It is an absolute prime example of how to make combat deep and exciting while remaining player-friendly.

A World Full of Secrets and Wonder

Screenshot by Gamepur

Combat isn’t the only thing Sea of Stars does well, as players can expect to find plenty of variety in their adventure. Ranging from fun activities to challenging puzzles, the game is dense, and it makes the experience all the better for it.

Throughout the adventure, you will be treated to a variety of puzzles. Those found in the world are often tucked in hideaways, once again encouraging you to do a little exploring. These can include altering the time of day using your solstice powers or finding a switch and trigger that unlocks an area. Some are more involved, like Solstice Shrines, which are unique puzzle rooms. Others may have you perform mini-quests to find items or help NPCs solve their problems. Each of these is a healthy and worthwhile distraction that offers rewards like equipment or items, and I was always on the lookout for an extra little task to complete.

As for what you will find during these endeavors, that is a long list. To say Sea of Stars is brimming with things to find would be an understatement. It. Is. Packed. You’ve got the equipment, accessories with unique effects, rainbow conches, relics, music sheets, artifacts, stories, question packs, combo moves, and probably a few more I’ve yet to find. I was stunned by just how many things this game had to find. Every few minutes, I was grabbing a new collectible or finding helpful items, and it proved to be one of my favorite parts of the game.

Screenshot by Gamepur

Now I get to talk about Wheels, and oh boy, did I love this addition. Like Gwent was for the Witcher, Wheels is a game inside the game. Players use different figurines with various powers and effects to battle NPCs found in the taverns of the world. It involves strategy, planning, and a bit of luck – and it is addictive. Winning a match nets you new figurines and upgrades to your wheel, and the more you play and unlock, the more in-depth and fun it becomes. Seriously, I’d be more than happy with an expanded, standalone version of this mini-game because it was one of the highlights of the whole game.

But wait, there’s more, as you’ve also got fishing. By visiting lakes and ponds found in the world, you can enjoy an easy-to-learn pastime that nets materials for recipes and can be a fun diversion that sprinkles a little cozy vibe into the mix.

Screenshot by Gamepur

Many of these are just for flavor, adding extra color and details to the already stunning world, which is why I like them so much. The world of Sea of Stars is already brilliant, and all of these items and activities just encourage you to see more or add to it, and it all contributes to the game’s ongoing effort at worldbuilding and immersion. It has been so long since I played a game where I was exploring or enjoying the side activities, not because I had to get stronger but because I wanted to. I wanted to hear the music, find the items, take part in Wheels, and enjoy the adventure to its fullest, and that speaks to just how well-crafted the world and the game as a whole truly is.

Recapturing the Magic

Screenshot by Gamepur

For all the fantastic elements of Sea of Stars, one underlying aspect really sold the whole experience for me. Much like with their previous title, The Messanger, Sabotage Studio has looked to the past to inspire and influence their work. With Sea of Stars, that meant looking at the JRPG staples and bringing them into the modern day in a spectacular way.

For all its similarities, It can be easy to see this as a carbon copy of the games that inspired it, like Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG, and yes, there are clearly areas where the team pays homage to those titles. However, what impressed me was the game’s ability to embrace nostalgia and innovation at the same time. Some moments captured that same feeling I had when I first dabbled in JRPGs in my younger years, but there were just as many new and exciting feelings from playing Sea of Stars as reminiscent interludes.

Screenshot by Gamepur

The best way to explain it is with this simple summary: Sea of Stars is not trying to copy what made those games great or bank on nostalgia; it’s recapturing the feeling they gave players. All the game elements have a sprinkling of nostalgia, from the sights, sounds, and mechanics, but these are merely flavor that adds to the game’s stellar design, which is entirely down to the developer’s hard work. It captures that same sense of wonder and feeling I had as a young gamer, but I never felt like it was trying to be those games. It’s its own beast, with its own ideas and identity, and it’s all executed brilliantly. 

Trying to explain that feeling isn’t easy, but all I know is I couldn’t put the game down when I was playing it, and I have never seen a game manage to blend the feeling of old and new so effectively. It’s a testament to Sabotage Studio’s effort and clear passion for the work, and I cannot commend them enough.


Screenshot by Gamepur

Sea of Stars is a triumphant JRPG that pays homage to the classics and carves its own space in the pantheon of its best titles. The world and characters were excellent, and experiencing the story alongside them was an absolute joy. Whether it was combat, exploration, or puzzles, I always found myself fully invested in the adventures of Zale, Valere, and everyone else I met on the journey.

The masterful way that Sabotage Studio has been able to capture that feeling of adventure and nostalgia is nothing short of incredible, and Sea of Stars not only sits among some of the genre’s greatest, but it manages to exceed them. It is truly one of the best JRPGs I have ever played.

Final Score:

10 / 10

+ A compelling and beautifully told story
+ Characters are loveable, unique, and a joy to interact with.
+ Simple yet layered gameplay makes for an approachable yet deep experience
+ The world is overflowing with things to find and collect
+ Masterfully captures the feeling of the classics, while making its own mark