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Sea Of Stars' demo is a nostalgic love letter to old-school turn-based RPGs

From the developers behind The Messenger

Three pixel people fight a massive giant in the clouds in a screenshot from Sea Of Stars
Image credit: Sabotage Studio

There’s something so comforting about old-school turn-based RPGs. Maybe that comfort comes from a childhood spent playing the genre until 2AM - muffling the sounds of an epic adventure by stuffing my DS under a pillow anytime an adult walked by the room. Enter Sea Of Stars, a love letter to the genre that’s full of both nostalgic charm and fresh new ideas.

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Unfortunately, you can’t play Sea Of Stars until the wee hours of the morning since the full game doesn’t come out until late August. I did spend a couple hours with the game’s demo, though, which was released as part of Steam Next Fest and is still available to download now.

The demo gives you an hour-long taste of the game, taking you through the opening village (full of pirates), dungeon (full of portals), and boss (full of weird cosmic matter). Although, I may have spent many more hours tackling the game’s unruly fishing mini-game.

What immediately sticks out about Sea Of Stars is how damn good it looks. The lush pixel art and blocky menus are endearingly old-school but modern tech lets the developers animate in unprecedented detail (AKA muscly men can now bulge their pecs.) Sea Of Stars also has a few guest tracks from Yasunori Mitsuda - the legendary composer behind Chrono Trigger - so the music keeps up with the game’s dashing good looks.

The game borrows more than just a composer from Chrono Trigger since combat has two main similarities: flashy combo attacks and an emphasis on enemy positioning. Thankfully, this time you can hurl enemies around the battlefield, setting them up nicely for powerful AoE magic. Hitting certain buttons at just the right time lets you deal/defend against extra damage, adding some extra momentum to fights. And there's also some unique ways to stagger baddies and buff your party via souls of the dead - cute, I know.

Sea Of Stars’ dungeon design was probably its most surprising part, as complicated routes, secret paths, puzzles, and unique ways to get around set it apart from the more linear caves of retro Final Fantasies and Dragon Questies. The one dungeon here had a more elaborate structure, and I’m excited to see if the layouts get more tangled in the final game.

Sea Of Stars comes from developer Sabotage Studios, who previously worked on the throwback action-platformer The Messenger. Based on the team's prior work, I'm assuming there'll be a few surprises waiting behind the full release.

We’ll need to wait until Sea Of Stars officially releases on August 29th on PC (via Steam) and consoles. The game also launches into Game Pass on the same day. But for now, you can just try out the demo.

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