As I saw the first screens from Stella Deus I immediately thought of Final Fantasy Tactics (FFT). I am not really a tactics sort of gamer but that game was really good. And now here was Stella Deus – I could not wait to get my hands on it.

Plattform: Playstation 2
Utvecklare: Pinegrow
Utgivare: ATLUS
Släppdatum: 26 april 2005 (US)
Köp här: eBay

Before you start the game, it might be a good idea to flip through the manual. What I did not learn through the game’s tutorial (or maybe I just happened to miss it) was how to change the camera angle. I fought through quite a few battles without being able to see the whole battle field – then I thought “a 3D tactical game that cannot switch camera angles – what is this?”. I opened the manual and there it was – with a quick turn of the right analog stick, you change the camera view. Phew!

The game-play is very similar to FFT with the main difference being – there are no jobs that your characters can switch between. Each person has his/her own special skills, some of which they all may have in common. One thing that FFT did not have is something called Team Attack. It allows your characters (those with the required skill equipped and who are in close enough range to the enemy) to do a more powerful combo attack.

Stella Deus does have a lot in common with FFT, and there is no shame in that. There is a guild where you can take on certain special missions – some require you to fight, some require you to bring certain items to certain places etc. You can spend a lot of time one these “side quests” if you like, they do not take much time and it is a lot of fun. What is a major difference between FFT and Stella Deus is leveling up. In FFT there would be random fights whenever you would walk somewhere on the predestined roads. In Stella Deus there is none of that. When you have cleared an obstacle it is cleared forever and nothing will ever happen there again, unless there is a certain quest you are taking or the story comes back to evolve on that certain spot. Instead there are catacombs with many levels and each level is a bit harder than the previous one. This is the only way you can level up your characters and I soon discovered that it is not an option to go through these, it is a must. If you try to beat the game without using the catacombs, I am afraid you will fail. If you only take on the battles that occur as the story progresses, you will not be strong enough to defeat the enemies or bosses that lie ahead. The catacombs are fun though; I have spent at least 15 hours of my 55 hours played leveling up.

Stella Deus does have a good score, but there are not enough songs to go around. The same battle theme is used over and over again except for boss fights. FFT did this better, where the battles had lots of different themes that came along in a mixed order. But even though the variety could have been better, Stella Deus still delivers a good soundtrack that fits the game perfectly.

As the fights are in the lime light when it comes to tactical RPGs, it was a pleasant surprise to find that Stella Deus has a good storyline. I do think the characters are well made (some better than others though), but the main character Spero did annoy me somewhat in the beginning of the game. First off his appearance reminded me of the young Luke Skywalker (!!!) in Episode 4 and his voice actor can sometimes sound a bit lame.

All in all, I am really happy that my hopes of Stella Deus being a great game were met. I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I still have a few things I want to complete before beating the game, but one thing is for sure, you definitely get your money’s worth.

Skriven: 2005-07-12