Thursday 18 August 2016

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness

There was a time when the Japanese Role Playing Game genre dominated the console gaming. Following the massive successes of Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger, so many companies wanted to get on board to replicate their success. Unfortunately for fans of those games, those times no longer exist. We now must wait for games of this ilk and when they do come along, it’s a massive event. After nearly a decade away, Star Ocean is back and it feels very much like the last game in the series, for better and worse.

Developed by Tri-Ace and out now on PlayStation 4, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness seems like an almost copy and paste from the team’s last effort “The Last Hope”. While this would normally be detrimental to any game series to have not much change, the simple fact that it was so long between the games and that very little like it came out in that time, it almost feels fresh again, or at least it does for the first few hours. This doesn’t mean though that Integrity and Faithlessness isn’t worth playing but fans of the series will feel very familiar with everything quite early on.

The game’s storyline takes place between The Second Story and Till the End of Time and you play as Fidel on an undeveloped world who comes into first contact with a more advanced space traveling race. The village which he protects was first attacked by a neighbouring village and he must first protect his own. It is then he encounters a quite amnesiac girl called Relia with his best friend Miki and they must try to uncover who she is or where she is from.

The story itself isn’t that impactful. Dialogue and cut-scenes even are delivered in-engine, and a lot of the time still in-game which is a departure from most other games in the genre. This was clearly done to cut costs for the development but it then means that there is no sense of major moments or character development. While there is some development of the protagonists, they fall into cliché, like the rest of the story.
Gameplay though has always been the game’s selling point and expect a very similar structure to previous games in the series. The combat takes place in real-time as you control one member of your team at a time. You can freely switch between them at any point so should you need to mix tactics up, you can do so both in combat and by setting roles for each character.

While the gameplay itself feels fine, the camera does not. Quite often, when a battle gets hectic, you simply cannot see your characters as other parts of the battle get in the way. It is placed too low and the lack of control means that it may not always be where you want it to be and wrestling it is one extra thing you don’t want to be dealing with in a major battle.

Visually, the game is a mixed-bag. Some assets like the protagonists, enemies, and some locations look incredible. While not a technical showpiece, there are some moments that are worth pausing for and embracing the surroundings. Unfortunately, the textures on show range from detailed to PlayStation 2 level of detail with blurry and very little details applied to them. One of the clearest places to see this is on the doors in the starting village, they simply look awful.

For a JRPG, Star Ocean Faithlessness and Integrity isn’t very long. It clocks in at around 20 hours and no outcome feels truly satisfying. While there are multiple endings, the journey to get there might not be good enough to see them all through. It’s great to have a JRPG again and the recurring aspects still feel fine but the bad camera and lacklustre story keep it form being a truly great tale in the Star Ocean Universe.

A decent tale among the stars. 3/5


Jason Redmond

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