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Everything we know about Sea of Stars

Dive into the beautiful world of Sea of Stars, the retro RPG prequel to The Messenger, when it launches in Summer 2023.

Role-playing games have evolved considerably since the days of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Yet even 25 years after the console was discontinued, the RPG games of that era still remain as beloved as ever. Games like Final Fantasy, Secret of Mana, Dragon Quest, and Illusion of Gaia (among many, many others) still top several lists of the best games of all-time, and many count these titles as their favorites from childhood.

Now, of course, the RPG landscape looks far more diverse and complex. In many ways, that’s a great thing — yet there’s nothing wrong with occasionally looking back at classic turn-based RPGs and wanting a new one in that style.

That’s where Sea of Stars comes in. Developed by Canadian indie team Sabotage Studio, it serves as the prequel to their 2018 indie platforming gem The Messenger. Though this one isn’t a platformer, it has the same retro-inspired design in mind (though with RPGs instead of platformers).

The game is set to launch on August 29. Before you dive into Sea of Stars, here’s everything you need to know.

Spending some time in the sun

See a quick preview of Sea of Stars with this gameplay trailer.

After the launch of The Messenger, Sabotage Studio wanted to create a send-up of RPGs from the 1990s. Many on the staff were nostalgic for these titles, and wanted to explore more of the world of The Messenger. So they began development on a turn-based RPG as a prequel to their first title, taking on a brand new genre inspired by retro games.

Sabotage Studio opened a Kickstarter campaign for Sea of Stars on March 19, 2020. Launching a crowdfunding campaign right at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was stressful, especially with the cancellation of GDC that year. Sabotage nonetheless smashed its funding requirements with all stretch goals met. Much of this can be attributed to Sabotage’s audience following The Messenger and the positive press coverage.

Originally developed for PC, versions for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 are also in development. Sabotage Studio is not against releasing on other consoles, but no other consoles have been announced yet.

While it was planned for a 2022 release, the latest news seems to confirm that Summer 2023 is the launch window for Sea of Stars. According to an update by the developers, the full storyline is playable with game mechanics more or less working as intended. Sabotage hasn’t announced a specific date yet, though we can expect one in the coming months.

Moonlight, the stars and you

Sea of Stars Character
There’s plenty of characters to interact with here.

Sabotage Studios is exploring further into the world they first showed off in The Messenger, expanding on its origins with a story set thousands of years before the events of that game. We don’t know a ton of details about the story yet, as Sabotage is obviously keeping most of that under wraps.

What we do know is that the main story is the quest of the two Children of the Solstice to learn the secrets of Eclipse Magic. This force, combining the powers of the sun and the moon, is a long-lost art that’s the only defense the world has against the evil Fleshmancer and their armies.

That’s the basic gist, but Sabotage has promised dozens of characters and story arcs to interact with over the course of the journey. And with six playable characters on the roster, there’s plenty of details to uncover about the heroes in Sea of Stars.

Sabotage has revealed three playable characters so far; the rest remain secret to avoid spoilers. Valere and Zale are the two main protagonists, born on the Winter Solstice and Summer Solstice, respectively. The former uses her spear and Lunar Magic for martial arts, while the latter wields a sunblade and Solar Magic to deal fast, striking blows. Then there’s their friend Garl, not gifted with any magic but an expert cook and defensive fighter.

Sea of Stars is a retro turn-based RPG

Sea of Stars Combat
Your party will face up against plenty of foes on the adventure.

Given that this is a retro-inspired RPG, of course the battle system is going to feel familiar if you grew up playing RPGs like Chrono Trigger. Enemies are out on the field, constantly attacking you; running into them or a projectile begins a fight.

Each character has their own special moves that provide different effects. For example, you can launch an AOE attack that’s boosted by another party member’s skills. Or you can heal your party before delivering a devastating combo flurry. Normal moves are just as important, however, since they regenerate mana points.

Your characters can absorb dropped mana to boost their attacks with magic power. Enemies can also generate magic locks when charging a powerful spell. These locks correspond to specific attack elements, and you’ll need a solid strategy to break them before their attack goes through.

One of the big points of battle are timed hits, where your attacks are more effective if you press a button at the exact time. You’re more than familiar with this system if you’ve played a Mario RPG game before. Many action commands seem to take direct inspiration from the Mario & Luigi series specifically, especially with multi-party combos.

Exploring the islands

RPG Exploration
Run around a beautiful fantasy world.

Even if you’re familiar with The Messenger, the world in Sea of Stars feels entirely different. This land consists of a series of islands, which your party can travel between with the aid of a ship.

Despite the retro RPG style, movement allows for a lot more freedom than you might expect. Since characters aren’t restricted to tile-based movement, you can go wherever you want to go on the map. Context-sensitive maneuverability functions also help you get across areas, as characters can climb up ledges and vault across gaps.

The most interesting system by far is a day and night cycle, which renders lighting in real-time — a feature you wouldn’t normally expect from a 2D game like this. As Children of the Solstice, you have control over the time of day and can change it at will. Not only does this change an area’s looks and the enemies you encounter, but can also open up new areas or help solve puzzles.

Whenever you want to take a break, you can start a campfire to rest up and cook some delicious meals with ingredients you find in the world. It’s also a great way to learn more about the history of this land, thanks to the wandering storyteller Teaks who you meet along the way.

And lest you worry: the game does feature a fishing minigame. And honestly, it’s pretty awesome.

A sea of pixels

Sea of Stars Nighttime
With its high-quality pixel art and real-time lighting, Sea of Stars looks absolutely incredible.

You’ve definitely noticed from the screenshots and gameplay trailers that Sea of Stars looks incredible. Its pixel art graphics take inspiration from classic SNES RPGs while still maintaining its own visual identity. With vibrant colors and plenty of character detail, it’s a pixel art fan’s dream.

Not every moment inside the game looks like this, however. One of the Kickstarter stretch goals was animated in-game cutscenes, which play during critical story moments. These will make for a nice break between the game’s typical pixel art sections.

We also need to mention the music by Eric W. Brown (AKA Rainbowdragoneyes). Similar to their work on The Messenger, it takes influence from games of the past in the melodies while also adding modern effects and audio processing techniques. Notably, the soundtrack also features contributions by legendary RPG composer Yasunori Mitsuda. Apparently, Mitsuda is a fan of The Messenger and worked with Sabotage on about ten songs for Sea of Stars.

When can I play Sea of Stars?

Cliffside View
You won’t have to wait too much longer to dive into Sea of Stars.

Sea of Stars is developed and published by Sabotage Studio. It will launch for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC via Steam on August 29. A free demo for Nintendo Switch owners is available to play right now.

Are you looking forward to Sea of Stars? Let us know!

Daniel Hein

Daniel Hein is either A) a lifelong video game fanatic, writer, and storyteller just sharing his thoughts on things, or B) some kind of werewolf creature. We're not quite sure which yet. He also makes mediocre video game retrospectives (and other content!) on YouTube where you can watch him babble on for hours about nothing.
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