Game review – Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is a case of same-old same-old
Despite some upgrades to this franchise, dated visuals, stiff characters and a predictable narrative lacking any flair give Integrity and Faithlessness a stale ‘been there, done that’ feel
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness
The arrival of more powerful consoles gives older game franchises opportunities to reinvent themselves. With more horsepower, games that have been overshadowed in recent years can start new lives.
That’s what developer tri-Ace is hoping will happen with the franchise’s fifth Japanese role-playing entry, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (for PlayStation 4).
Players need no familiarity with the earlier games to enjoy this one. They can explore the planet Faykreed IV without knowing the history of the Pangalactic Federation or the nation of Kronos.
Integrity and Faithlessness follows Fidel Camuze as he takes over his father’s swordsmanship school, while his dad moves on to help lead the lush Kingdom of Resulia in a war. Both Resulia and its ally Langdauq are trying to fend off Trei’kur, a country that’s using high-tech weapons to steamroll over the forces of both nations.
In this tumultuous situation, Fidel and his childhood friend Miki Sauvester get entangled in the hostilities when they discover a crashed spaceship with a child named Relia inside. Fidel and Miki dedicate themselves to taking care of her, and that puts them right at the heart of an intergalactic crisis.
Throughout most of the campaign, players will repeatedly rescue Relia from threats and kidnappings. She’s a target because she has a piece of technology that could upend this universe.
The Star Ocean franchise’s mixture of fantasy and sci-fi is unusual, and Integrity and Faithlessness leans more towards the fantasy side. For me, that’s a drawback, since the game really hits its stride with its Star Trek-type moments.
Once Fidel and company venture beyond Faykreed IV, the game opens up, and the stakes climb higher. Though some missions take place in outer space, most occur on the ground.
Newcomers might feel overwhelmed by tri-Ace’s real-time combat system, which resembles that of Secret of Mana, but with everything ratcheted up to 11.
Instead of controlling just three characters, a player takes charge of a squad with up to seven. As the player directly controls one of them, the computer handles the rest of the team.
Whenever some fine-tuning is needed, the player can quickly switch between heroes, or stop the combat completely to get his or her bearings. With seven characters casting spells, slashing foes and firing weapons, things can get chaotic. But after a bit of combat experience, newcomers will adjust.
The tri-Ace character progression system is highly focused on roles. As in World of Warcraft, each squad member plays a special role on Fidel’s team. A player can customise the heroes by endowing them with up to four Role traits, each with its own power-up.
For example, Miki is best used as a healer for the rest of the squad. A player can give her Role traits that boost her curative powers and enable her to cast more incantations. Meanwhile, a boost of Fidel’s Role traits can enable him to act as Miki’s shield, while being less vulnerable himself and inflicting more damage on opponents.
The combat system isn’t perfect. Sometimes team members faint, and it becomes a juggling act to try to keep allies alive while also reviving a fallen friend. The switches from role to role interfere with the visceral flow of battle, but have their own kind of tension.
Despite the updated combat and other improvements, however, Integrity and Faithlessness doesn’t feel new enough. A lot of that has to do with the visuals, which look dated on PlayStation 4. The characters seem stiff, and Faykreed looks too sterile, as monsters mill around in a rather boring landscape. Much of the narrative is predictable, and lacks flair.
Bottom line: Too much of Integrity and Faithlessness feels like a title from 2009, rather than 2016.