Star Ocean title is a JRPG series known for having more of a science fiction bent than others of it's genre. It’s been around since the mid-90s, obviously with very periodic releases, this being the fifth title.
As the first one I played, I originally bought Star Ocean Second Story specifically because it had multiple endings. Unfortunately I lost my save and never returned to it after a certain point. The games are all part of the same universe, but thankfully tri-Ace have focussed on the universe, rather than the characters, so you don't have to have played them all.
Star Ocean Integrity and Faithlessness focusses on Fidel and Miki, as they head off to Central Resulia (the capital) for reinforcements against bandits. They meet Victor, a captain of the guard, who brings in Fiore, as he's tasked to escort her to the capital. You soon lose them both, showing very early on that your party will be changing regularly as people have things to do away from your various increasing questlines. They start to get interesting around the two hour mark, when the first hints at sci-fi enter the game, which has been very much fantasy until now.
Side quests are a genre stalwart, and Integrity is no different. You can obtain them by talking to people, or by visiting the various bulletin boards in towns. You can accept as many as you want, so by all means pull a Skyrim and just accept everything -- you'll probably get around to them someday! Probably even by accident…
A lot of the bulletin board missions require you to kill a certain amount of one monster type. You can see the monsters on the field, so you can avoid them if you wish, and battles take place instantly without a scene transition, so you can sneak up on some enemies, and get a preemptive strike. You have normal attacks, strong attacks, blocking and items. The attacks work on a Rock Paper Scissors formula: normal beats strong, strong beats block, block beats normal. If you hold one of the buttons, it does a special attack, which uses mana points, and these can be changed between battles by learning new ones.
As your party grows, you can change which character you play as, although it will revert to Fidel for the non-fighty parts. So if using a sword isn’t your favourite thing, you can use magic (known as Signeturgy), or switch to the one who uses her fists, or even the crossbow guy!
Each character has a unique fighting style, as well as a reserve rush -- basically a super move that damages every enemy a ton. As you get into fights, it gradually builds up, and if you leave it to build long enough it can be extremely devastating to bosses.
At certain points in the game there are set piece battles, which see you fighting loads of enemies for a set time. It’s a good way of showing an ongoing war as the story progresses, with incursions and skirmishes, and after fighting some monsters for a minute at a time, having to go through a five minute constant battle against multiple enemies mixes it up nicely. It’s not a simple case of “Here’s some story, now fight a boss”.
Another thing I enjoyed, were the physics which I love. Things move in the breeze and when a character moves; clothes, breasts, hair, that kind of thing -- two of which are ignored in most JRPGs. The game is aware of how pretty it is, and tri-Ace has taken every opportunity it can to highlight the fact, no not just by having Fiore as the focus of some game engine led cutscenes. There are vast plains and huge cities bathed in great effects -- I don’t usually wax lyrical about graphics, so that shows what an effect it had.
In a lot of ways, the game feels similar to Tales of Zestiria, which I reviewed a while ago. Not just from the world itself (at first), monsters being visible on the game world, and the battles taking place without stopping you for a moment, but there are also skits. If you’ve never played a Tales title, let me explain -- at various points whilst wandering around, the characters will stop and have an oft-funny conversation. Integrity has similar occurrences, where the characters will chat as you go from place to place, and also in towns.
This is expanded upon if you enter an area usually outside of an inn: the characters will split up, then it’s up to Fidel to find them and talk to them, either listening to them or picking the right responses depending on how you want certain relationships to grow. It’s all entirely optional, of course, but I liked learning more about the characters through these.
Unfortunately not all of these scenes, or the dialogue for the rest of the game, are exactly well written. A lot of it can be put down to using direct translations of lines, rather than rewording them to sound less forced or pointless, but the fact that translation is still an issue in 2016 has to be highlighted.
Another thing I took issue with were the maps. They were pretty big, but very empty. Like when cover-based combat started being popular in games and Mass Effect 2 wound up having very obvious ‘This is where a fight happens’ areas, Integrity is hit by the same problem. You know, just not by seeing objects you can obviously hide behind, but open areas.
The plot isn’t as cut-and-dry as I thought it would be, going into it. It had some twists, along with some obvious things, but more often than not the plot wasn’t trying to be subtle in those cases.
It’s a very solid RPG that will likely appeal to fans of the series more than anything, but it certainly does appeal. It doesn’t change the genre, and the surprises are few and far between, but I definitely enjoyed it.
Star Ocean Integrity and Faithlessness (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
It’s a very solid RPG that will likely appeal to fans of the series more than anything, but it certainly does appeal.