After creating an indie success in the form of 2018's The Messenger, Sabotage Studio is back with a brand new game. Titled Sea of Stars, their latest project is a prequel to The Messenger, and is now available to back on Kickstarter. The crowdfunding campaign needs to hit a goal of $90,000 in order to get off the ground, and at the time of writing, currently has received $5,000 of that goal. You can back the game at $25 CAD in order to get a digital copy of the game for PC or console, though it's limited to the first 500 backers. For $45 CAD, and also capped to the first 500 to pledge at that tier, you'll get the game, and some digital goodies. When it launches, it'll be a full-priced $60 game.
The game itself is a turn-based RPG--a bit of a slight departure from the original gamewhich was instead inspired by Ninja Gaiden--featuring detailed sprite-art. Rather than require players to "grind" for exp, the combat system in Sea of Stars will instead "rely on strategy and skill, rather than statistics". Even so, you will still be able to gain exp, level up, and learn new attacks. Should the game reach its required funding, it'll release for both consoles and PC, sometime in March of 2022.
A prequel to The Messenger
The story takes place long before the flood, where many islands are waiting for you to explore. As a full-fledged RPG, the adventure promises intrigue, perils and wonders . Those familiar with our previous work may recognize a few faces and get meaningful insight on some origin stories, as well as hints towards the bigger picture of the universe we aim to develop more with each of our games.
The Messenger - Sunken Shrine
That being said, newcomers should rest assured that Sea of Stars is absolutely enjoyable as a self-contained experience and doesn’t depend on having played The Messenger. In fact, it will even work the other way around should you choose to play our platformer second!
No random encounters, no separate battlefield: Considering immersion a top priority, combat is initiated by physical contact with an enemy, and battle takes place in the same field as navigation, seamlessly, with no loading or transition.
No grinding: Character progression in Sea of Stars flows naturally along with the story, without the need for any grinding. This concept is supported by a combat system which relies mainly on strategy and skill rather than statistics. That being said, you will very much be leveling up, increasing your stats and unlocking new special moves.
Synergies: During battle, everything is based on building up momentum and effects over a few rounds, to eventually unleash massive damage by cashing out on your build up. Featuring six very distinct playable characters, and a lot of synergies between each of them, there are a lot of ways to take down opponents.
Timed hits: Celebrating the greats of our childhood, we top it off with a ‘timed hits’ mechanic, where precise player input will increase damage done by your characters, or mitigate incoming attacks. Losing a battle doesn’t mean you should go back and grind, but rather that it’s time to apply what you learned from the enemy’s attack patterns and improve your execution the next time around. With skill and strategy as your main weapons, there is always ample room for improvement when a particular encounter proves challenging.
Spell-breaking: Making a point to break the potential linearity of turn-based combat, enemies can mount especially strong attacks or spells. While a good use of timed hits will always remove a good chunk of the damage dealt, even the smallest minion can be lethal if left unchecked while casting.
Enemies in a casting state display a bar with what we simply refer to as “locks”, each with an icon representing the damage type required to break it. For every broken lock, the ensuing spell’s efficiency is reduced. Break all of them, and the enemy’s action is entirely cancelled. This spell-breaking gameplay mechanic truly comes to life when groups of enemies demand clutch reactions and choices as more than one is preparing a spell, coupled with playable characters capable of combo attacks and multi-hit special moves.
Boss fights: No RPG would be complete without big bosses, and of course Sea of Stars is no exception. For bosses, we are also looking at breaking the potential linearity of rinse and repeat for x amount of rounds to win. Each boss will present different attack patterns to learn, evolving through manually scripted phases and special events.
Banking on the synergies, timed hits and spell-breaking mechanics, bosses will offer ample room for longer-haul strategies, giving players the freedom to see how much damage they can really deal in a single round with enough preparation time.
Boost: To shake things up even more, performing a regular attack generates “Eclipse Orbs”, which can later be absorbed to double the effect of any action (regular attack, special attack, healing, spells, etc...)
Depending on the situation, it may be wiser to save your orbs for later, perhaps to quickly get rid of an enemy that begins casting a spell with too many locks, or, in the case of longer battles like bosses, to dish out as much damage as possible once everything has been put in place for damage to be increased during a short window.
Unshackled traversal - no rigid tile-per-tile movement
Putting our platformer experience to good use, we make a point for moment-to-moment gameplay to present satisfying controls, micro challenges, and varied traversal opportunities. In other words, venturing through the rich environment should be accompanied by a feeling of freedom. While multiple paths and approaches can lead to your objective, leaving the main road and exploring less accessible (or hidden) areas will be rewarded.
Climb, jump, run, swim, vault and dive as you progress through villages and dungeons of all kinds. Anytime it feels like you can interact with something, the odds are that you can. Hoist up on rooftops, or jump off ledges into deep natural pools to explore underwater tunnels. Stick to the main objective, or follow your curiosity and see for yourself what wonders lay hidden.
Traveling between points of interest takes place in a classic World Map view where adventurers can roam around, free of enemy encounters. Those who like to go off the beaten path will find many optional areas concealing upgrades, vanity items, and side quests.
Since traveling between islands is a key part of the adventure, the party naturally gets its own boat. With full analog control, you will be invited to negotiate waves, and take advantage of the upwards and downwards formations to optimize for speed. While it isn’t anything that will ever block the casual sailor wanting to get to the next objective, we expect a lot of adventurers will be spending extra time sailing the world to play around with waves, look for sunken side-areas, secondary islands, or simply take a break from the hardships of heroism.
The boat also acts as a mobile base of operations, which can be explored in close-up character view, where the party is fully settled in, and available for banter and guidance in-between major story beats.
If you ever find yourself struck by the infamous “haven’t played in two weeks” RPG curse, you can rest assured that someone on your boat is ready to offer clear reminders as to what you should be doing next.
Full-on dynamic lighting and shadows
To truly convey the story of warriors using the power of the moon and the sun, we had to go hard on the lighting system. Spectacular spell effects thus being a given, the game also features real-time dynamic day and night cycles, which the player eventually gets to control with full granularity.
Focusing sunlight through a prism in order to open some secret area may only be possible at high noon, while a magic flower blooms exclusively in the evening. You may want to follow a trail of glow-in-the-dark aquatic plants only visible at night, while some monsters like to sleep during the day.
All of this ties into properly telling the story of Solstice Warriors , while also allowing for multiple puzzles and mechanisms dealing with light, shadows and reflections. Oh, and to make sure this world truly comes alive, we are also throwing in weather variations! Please back us.
Six unique playable combat characters
Sea of Stars features six unique playable combat characters, each with their own backstory, personal objectives, play-style, special skills, and synergies with the rest of the party. In this multi-layered story, motivations sometimes align in unexpected ways. In the interest of allowing you to go into the game without any major spoilers, we will only be revealing the two main protagonists here.
Born on the Summer Solstice, Zale is optimistic and bold. He wields a sunblade, through which he can absorb Eclipse Orbs whenever his attacks need an extra kick.
As a blade-dancer, he walks the path of the Guardian God Solen. The Elder Mist foretold that, in order to find his light and achieve his full potential, he will first need to “stare at the night inside of him”.
Born on the Winter Solstice, Valere shows curiosity and balance. Gifted with Lunar Magic, she can absorb Eclipse Orbs in her moonstaff to dish out massive damage.
Trained in the martial ways of the monk, she walks the path of the Guardian Goddess Luana. The Elder Mist sees great potential in her, believing she might one day be the one to “create paths on water”.
Even though we will be keeping our favorite ideas under wraps for the foreseeable future, we’re happy to show you above a few of the things we've been working on for the protoype!
For the sake of your enjoyment once the game releases, we want to be very careful with spoilers. However when it comes to mentors, villains, villagers, critters, pirates and abominations... as a full-fledged RPG, you can rest assured that Sea of Stars will have it all.
Sabotage’s award-winning composer Eric W. Brown, AKA Rainbowdragoneyes, is back to rock your socks off yet again. He was so delighted to apply his musical genius to a full-fledged RPG production that he even built his own studio at home!
In Sea of Stars, the music and SFX include instruments from all over the world, blending the catchiness of retro music Eric is known for with modern sound design’s best practices. Taking full advantage of the Wwise engine, all things audio are dynamically layered and adjusted to transition seamlessly through day and night cycles, indoor and outdoor areas, weather variations, and, of course, battle.
Sea of Stars is built in Unity, the engine which our technical team has been working with for over 8 years. It is our best companion for fast iteration, as well as the development of the specific tools we need to bring this new world to life.
Even though the game might seem simple at first glance, a closer look reveals visual effects seldom seen in 2D pixel-art games. Notably full-on dynamic lighting, which was mandatory given the narrative emphasis on the Sun and Moon.
Scalding desert suns, unsettling blood moons, lush underwater bioluminescent reefs, foggy swamps and dark caverns. We have the tools necessary to ensure each environment is brought to life with the utmost attention to detail to take you on a gripping adventure full of wonders.
For those interested in the technical aspect, here are a few of the components we are working with to tailor our own rendering pipeline based on URP (Caution : buzzwords ahead!) :
- Post processing effects such as Bloom, Color Correction and Ambient Occlusion
- Pixel perfect rendering
- Fully dynamic lighting of sprites including normal mapping, pixel depth writing and shadow receiving
- Shadow casting sprites from multiple angles and punctual/directional light sources
- Volumetric lighting
- Screen-space indirect lighting
- Animated Height fog
- Water shading including transparency, refraction, reflection, absorption, subsurface scattering and contact effect
- Water simulation for rivers and oceans