Publisher: Square Enix
On one hand, I’m glad to see developer Tri-Ace still plying their trade in the world of video games, but on the other…Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness isn’t a great game. I’d assume there are a number of budget restrictions here, after all, Star Ocean isn’t exactly Square Enix’s number one RPG priority over the past decade or so. But the scope of Integrity and Faithlessness never manages to hit the scale or depth of previous Star Ocean games, and that’s a real bummer for this guy.
Like other entries in the series, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness takes the premise of a old-school Star Trek episode and puts a decidedly JRPG spin on it. When the game begins, it doesn’t feel too far removed from any other generic, sword and sorcery-type RPG. You have your lead character, the son of a famous warrior, his plucky healer sidekick, a mysterious young girl with amazing powers, and so on. The early hours of Star Ocean 5 could literally be called RPG Archetypes: The Video Game due to how generic the premise and party roster is. But thankfully it doesn’t take long for the slightly weird marriage of fantasy and sci-fi to occur, which helps to liven up everything that revolves around the story here.
On the plus side, Star Ocean 5 does a few things quite well. The party, once it’s fully outfitted, is pretty entertaining. There’s some decent voice acting here from the English VO, which is certainly an improvement over Star Ocean 4. The general plot isn’t overly exciting, but I did enjoy seeing the party interact.
I also appreciated the amount of customization given to outfit your party the way you want, at least when it comes to skills. As you earn SP from winning battles, you can spend those points on roles, which have generic designations like Attacker, Defender, Healer and so on. Once you’ve leveled up roles, new roles will unlock, which tend to get more specific, like providing bonuses when fighting insects, humanoids, and so on. These roles splinter off pretty frequently, allowing you to not only customize your party to your playstyle, but also allowing you to really focus on enemy weaknesses and abilities for specific, harder fights.
Likewise, combat is pretty solid in Star Ocean 5, and that’s generally one of those areas that Tri-Ace manages to nail. The early hours can feel a bit bland, until you start to open up new abilities. Once you get a few solid strong and weak magic based attacks under your belt, you’ll find your ability to combo and stagger foes goes up significantly. Also, the transition from exploration to battle is pretty seamless, if you see an enemy in front of you, you just need to get close enough to trigger a fight. This helps make battles feel like less of a chore and more of an engaging activity, one that I rarely tired of.
However, there are definitely negatives with Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness. I wish the overall scope of the game was larger, you rarely leave the initial planet, and even then, it’s not to do anything noteworthy or new. In fact, you’ll end up traversing across a lot of the same locations over and over again, which frankly gets to be pretty tiresome in the first dozen hours spent with the game. Also, while the characters are generally entertaining, the overall plot isn’t. There’s nothing bombastic or amazing to see, with no real cutscenes or neat looking CGI/Anime interludes to spice things up. You’ll also have party members frequently join and leave in the early hours of the game, which prevents you from fully appreciating the customization options early on.
Other aspects of Star Ocean 5 also feel a little out-of-date compared to most modern RPG’s. Save points, for instance, are only accessible inside of inn’s and dungeons. I’m not a person that’s opposed to save points, but not being able to save when you want while on the outside maps can be somewhat annoying. More so because the save points for the outside areas are pretty widespread and scattered about, not consistently placed at entrance and exit points like you might expect.
I also wish that Star Ocean 5’s crafting system felt more substantial and useful. You can harvest points on the map for fish, herbs, minerals and so on, which in turn feed into crafting done through the main menu. However, especially for weapons/armor, it never feels particularly useful. It’s generally far easier, and unfortunately more rewarding, to just buy health items, weapons, and armor from vendors. By the time I managed to amass the supplies necessary to craft a new sword or other piece of gear, I found that the equipment I just bought generally surpassed the craftable item. Granted, some of the crafted gear has special attributes that you won’t find in shops, but those attributes hardly felt substantial.
Overall, I think you’ll find Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness to be a serviceable RPG in a time when serviceable doesn’t quite make the grade. Especially with titles like Tokyo Mirage Sessions releasing right around the same time, it’s hard to justify spending the 30 hours or so it’ll take most players to finish this game. I definitely think it’s worth checking out at some point, but not at $60 and not when there’s more appealing, higher quality titles out right now.