Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (PS4) Review

The Star Ocean series is a beloved and cherished JRPG franchise.  It deserves every bit of praise it receives with its free-flow style combat, mixed with beautiful visuals and memorable stories. It’s a franchise I’ve always wanted to take part in, but was always a little nervous because of its rich history and passionate fan base.  That’s why I was so excited to hear about Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness as it was considered the most accessible game in the series.  As a long time RPG fan that’s never jumped into the series, I can say it is pretty welcoming, but the game is far from perfect, and could have benefitted from a little more time in development.

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Even with that, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness still meets almost every bit of criteria that comes with Star Ocean. Starting with the story, I was completely caught up in every aspect presented. There are two warring factions; you, the son of one of the highest generals in your kingdom’s army, are tasked with defending your hometown from the invading enemy army. During an attack, you discover a young girl with the ability to stop time. She has no recollection of who she is, or where she came from, but she could be the key to ending the war indefinitely. She’s your only hope.  You, your friend, and a merry band of warriors must traverse the land to discover who she is and hopefully save the kingdom along the way.

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You get a team of seven characters. Each one can be equipped with  roles and special attacks. You can switch freely between each member during battle, and will have to use that strategy to your advantage in many cases. If you’ve never played a Star Ocean game, the combat to Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is akin to the Tales series, where it’s free-flowing but confined to a battle circle. The transition from exploration to combat is completely seamless, so there are no annoying, disengaging load-screens when you jump into an enemy encounter. Since you can have up to seven players in a party, things can get pretty intense.  Much of the combat revolves around a rock-paper-scissors system with light attacks, heavy attacks and blocks. Strong attacks break guards, guards block light attacks and light attacks are so quick they overtake heavy moves. Following that system allows you to fill a team attack gauge, but if an enemy wins that rock-paper-scissors match, you lose some gauge juice.

You can put your skills to the test in the Cathedral of Oblivion. I actually found this by accident. But somewhere in the main hub world, there is a portal which is not marked on the map, and never mentioned prior to discovery.  If you go in, you’re warned that if you continue any further, there is no turning back. The only way out is reaching the end of the Cathedral, or death. The goal is to go from room to room fighting hoards of enemies with increasing difficulty. I got killed after the third room, but it’s a really cool side secret, and a great way to test your grasp of the combat.

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I like this battle system because there are consequences to your actions. If you mindlessly tap one button, you could lose all your momentum. Yet, if you pay attention to your enemy’s moves, the battle is yours. The team attack is insanely overpowered, but it works as a reward for playing the game right. With that being said, I did manage to button mash my way through more than one battle. I also had my gauge broken by other enemies surrounding me with no help from my AI.

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This makes me think that Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness could benefit from a little more time in development. Your party’s AI is not at the level you would hope for from a 2016 release. Later in the game, you unlock battle commands that make this a little better, but when left to their own devices, it feels like you’re on your own sometimes. They waste their MP, can’t defend themselves, and don’t help each other (aside from healing). I get that you’re supposed to switch between them as the battle goes on, but they can be straight up incompetent at times.  Outside of battle, they have a tendency to run in front of you, which makes navigation really confusing if you turn your brain off. It gives you the sense that you’re supposed to follow them. It’s a weird thing that I never thought much about in other RPGs but this happened right at the beginning of the game without any indication of where I was actually supposed to go.  I also had a lot of issues with the lock on camera during battle. It would constantly get caught behind trees or other characters making it hard to telegraph my enemy’s moves.

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On top of that, the draw distance is laughable. Treasure chests, grass, and even enemies seem to pop out of nowhere because the game can’t seem to render small game world objects. From far away, large things can look great. Backdrops look gorgeous, but the closer you get, the worse they look.  Water and rocks appear to be straight from an early 2000s PC game. Visually, it’s kind of startling. If that’s not bad enough, you can walk right through townspeople, animals and even treasure chests.  I think a lot of these issues are because the game is also available on PS3. It felt apparent that the game I played was an upscaled last gen title.

I expected a little more from the game from a technical standpoint, but Star Ocean:Integrity and Faithlessness manages to make up for those issues with a deep levelling system with countless combinations of roles and specialties.  I was honestly a little overwhelmed when I saw just how much customization is available for each party member.  Personally, I tried to vary each character as much as possible, building my main party member with a focus on attack, thriving when he’s surrounded. The remaining members of my party were equipped to act as a healer, a defense specialist and a magic specialist.  

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Whatever your play style is, you’ll probably make your own concoction in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness. This isn’t a perfect game, its flaws are very clear, yet the title is endearing. I really wanted to like this game more than I did, but it’s clear that it is a cross generation game, resulting in some compromise. From a technical standpoint, it’s disappointing, especially since the series is known for its beauty. Yet, I think it’s a story worth experiencing, with a great combat system that doesn’t ever get boring.  If you can get past the technical issues, then I strongly recommend this game.

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