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Played in 2023
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Sea of Stars surpassed my expectations. I had a fantastic time playing this game, and although the main ending is a bit abrupt and anti-climactic, journey there is one that does not miss many marks. The combat system is great, and the action-commands, while not important to hit every time as the game makes sure you understand, do make the system overall much more engaging, especially when combined with the lock system. The game is very easy, perhaps one of the easiest turn-based games I've ever played, even without any of the optional 'Amulets' that can make the game significantly easier, and while I definitely understand if people become disinterested after awhile because of this, I really did not mind at all. I really appreciated the very straightforward mechanics; I play plenty of very difficult and often very complex games, and while I can absolutely love those to death if done well, the simplicity of Sea of Stars various mechanics was a nice change of pace from what I often expect from RPGs. I particularly enjoyed the lack of an overwhelming amount of side quests, which is a major complaint I have with some other current RPGs, such as the Octopath games.
The most universal complaints about Sea of Stars revolve around its story, and I can agree with a lot of what is said but I don't think it's as bad as some say. The story isn't anything revolutionary and likely won't be very memorable for me, but it is a net positive, despite some missteps with character development (particularly with the two main characters). The ending, as I mentioned in the opening, was extremely lackluster, and the 'true ending' being locked behind the completion of essentially all side content is an odd and disappointing decision, but personally I don't think it ruined the game, even if sticking the landing is often quite important in RPGs; the game does absolutely lack a satisfying pay-off unless you do all the extra content, which may be a bigger deal for some than others.
Sea of Star's aesthetics and non-gameplay elements are all passable, although certainly not my favorite part of the game and a bit unpolished at times. The UI isn't great (although it's clearly trying to emulate older SNES RPG UI), and there are a number of spelling/grammatical mistakes in the English dialogue and text that are quite noticeable throughout the game. The environmental diversity I thought was great; I really enjoyed running through the different areas and finding secrets in the gorgeously created pixel-art landscapes. Sea of Stars certainly does not have my favorite pixel-art style ever, particularly for the character sprites, but the environments are definitely the highlight of the art style. The music is fun and catchy; I wouldn't say there's really any masterpieces in the soundtrack, but it all fits quite well and there are at least a few memorable tracks.
Finally, I appreciated the developer's attempts to vary the type of gameplay in a genre where the combat is often the only actual 'gameplay' there is. There's lots of puzzles and little mini-game encounters that I enjoyed, and combined with the varied types of environmental traversal and overworld mechanics, I never felt like the linear segments of the game became monotonous.
Overall I had a ton of fun with Sea of Stars, and enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. There are a number of small (and occasionally larger) issues that keep it from reaching the upper echelon of turn-based RPGs, but I found this game very engaging and lots of fun, consistently. I absolutely believe that Sea of Stars lived up to the the hype.
This was my introduction to the Armored Core franchise, as it was for many, and I really had a great time. As I've come to expect from any FROMSoft game, AC6 is extremely polished in nearly all aspects, and has tons of content and replayability. I have certainly not played a game with a structure like this before, and while it took some getting used to (very short individual missions, mostly focused on customization), I came to appreciate it, especially considering how formulaic some current releases can be.
Even though I didn't understand a lot of it, I did quite enjoy the story in this game, particularly the last couple chapters where it really ramped up and there were several important decisions to make. The voice acting and characters were all fantastic, especially considering you never actually see a single human face throughout the game (which was another sort of nice change of pace I think).
I loved how many different weapons and such became available throughout the game, with each one is pretty drastically different from any other, and you unlock almost all of them just naturally playing through the story. I tried quite a few different builds, although I always ended up going back to one somewhat basic dual trigger bipedal setup that was the only thing I felt like I was able to use to get me through the game's most difficult boss fights and challenges. I'm no expert at customization so I had a hard time building anything that felt like it came close to the power of dual trigger gatling guns and this one grenade launcher (Songbirds) that solo'd a lot of the game for me, but I did at least enjoy experimenting with other things in less difficult missions, particularly in the Arena.
The boss fights in this game were also pretty fantastic, there were a couple I hated a bit and had a lot of trouble figuring out how to not die instantly, but most of them felt like a good, fair challenge with incredible set pieces, particular the Chapter 4 boss which was by far my favorite in the game and reminded me of some of the best FROMSoft boss fights of the past. I found myself playing this game for 6+ hours at a time, which is not something I'm capable of doing with too many games, and so objectively I can say that I was pretty engaged throughout my entire playthrough.
I know getting just one ending is pretty loosely considered 'finishing' the game, but unfortunately there are just so many other things to play atm I think I will have to put this down for now, but it is something I am certainly interested in picking back up again for a second go-around, especially considering a NG+ playthrough would be significantly shorter than my 21 hours I spent doing everything I could in my first. Super neat game, and definitely was of the quality I expect from FROMSoft these days.
Excellent Metroidvania experience with interesting and varied environments, balanced and consistently enjoyable combat, a unique and polished aesthetic, and arguably most important for the genre, a wide range of secrets and rewards for exploration.
I was fully engaged throughout my entire playthrough of this game, at least to some extent reminiscent of my time with Hollow Knight (although a much different experience still). I found the combat to be quite fun, and the overall difficulty of the game to be very well-balanced, with plenty of difficult areas and fights but nothing too egregious or 'unfair'. Overall this game is extremely polished, sticking to its aesthetic and themes throughout and engrossing you in a beautifully horrific world backed by almost-always-excellent gameplay.