Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness – game review.

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness was created as a game that was supposed to restore the splendor of the well-deserved series. Its first edition, released on the SNES, pushed the genre forward with certain solutions, and the next two tried to modify the successful formula. But then it got worse. Something went wrong with Star Ocean: The Last Hope. It was a blow by which the series almost made history. Today, however, it has a chance to rise. Will she succeed?

Integrity and Faithlessness uses the method most often used in the case of identity crises – it tries to return to its roots, to its comfort zone. It is also a return to the days of Star Ocean 2 and 3where the momentum was greater and we could feel like participants in a greater interplanetary intrigue, but to a more intimate SNES prototype. Those interested in the “five” should primarily bear this in mind before spending money. It depends on whether they will be satisfied or not.

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness – game review

The intimacy of SO5 is evident everywhere, from the momentum of the plot to various aspects of the gameplay. The main character of the game is a 23-year-old swordsman Fidel, who lives on the not very advanced planet Faykreed IV. It is a slight exaggeration to talk about the planet in the context of the game. During the adventure, the plot focuses on only one region, with three countries. Fidel’s country in the middle is at war with its western neighbor who, as we soon learn, has some strange alien technology that gives it a significant advantage. On the other hand, as a result of fate, Fidel comes across a mysterious girl named Relia, whose equally mysterious powers are at the center of attention of various more or less suspicious people from other corners of the cosmos.

Let’s be clear – Star Ocean has never been a series that was famous for good stories. Let’s say more – tri-Ace games are generally not famous for this (the exception may be Valkyrie Profile; on the way to work on the script of the last part, the one for mobile devices, even a professional playwright was hired). Integrity and Faithlessness, unfortunately, will not change much in this matter, but the disadvantages of the plot here are more due to the lack of courage of the creators / screenwriters to get out of the comfort zoneso as not to burn fans accustomed to certain topoi and key tones, and not because of the obvious curiosities that appeared in the fourth part. SO5 is a cliché, but also a cliché to be swallowed. The characters are quite archetypal, not overly intriguing, but at the same time they can arouse sincere sympathy, especially due to the Private Actions (conversations on loose topics not related to the main plot). In turn, the main plot itself is not likely to take us away, but the game is carried by other things.

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness – game review

The best thing about Star Ocean (and tri-Ace games in general) has always been the gameplay, and it’s the same now. The fifth part tries to develop patents known from its predecessors, especially to improve the known real-time combat system. First of all, the transition from exploration to combat (and vice versa) is smooth, which makes exploring significantly more enjoyable. Secondly, in clashes, participants often have seven characters on our side (!), And sometimes, when there are still guests, even more (!!). As a result, we are dealing here with battles on a really large scale. And let’s add that the skills of the fighters can be very spectacular.

I also liked the so-called Roles. They are a combination of professions / jobs and gambits from Final Fantasy XII. Each character has four four slots for them, and there are a lot of “roles”, which gives a lot of scope for different settings. They affect the parameters of the charges and their behavior during fights. We can also develop them, thanks to which their potential increases. To be precise, it is not the only element of the development system. In addition, there is also a traditional leveling up, extensive crafting (as befits SO) and learning new skills from guides found here and there.

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness – game review

Some tri-Ace solutions, however, have very noticeable drawbacks. The system, for example, is too chaotic. In the case of ordinary fights, it is not overwhelmingly overwhelming, because the margin of error is considerable, but in several places, e.g. when shielding one of the characters from an attack of enemies, it gets boring. Another downside? The game encourages blocking (a successful combo of the opponent is reduced by the bar responsible for firing special techniques), but with all these flashes, explosions and general freaks, I admire those who do it.

One of the innovations here are interactive cutscenes, but this concept is unlikely to stick in our memory. The way it works is that in the case of a conversation between heroes, we do not lose control over the main character. In the interviews before the premiere, the creators stated that how we position ourselves may affect the course of the clashes, but I have not experienced anything like that personally. Whether we go a few steps to the right or a few steps to the left – it doesn’t matter. Worse, cutscenes of the new type have a certain flaw. Due to their interactive nature, it is not possible to turn them off, which is even more of a problem because you can save only in designated places. In other words, you lose and have to watch the same cutscene until you win the fight.

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness – game review

It also deserves a separate attention backtracing and game structure. I rate the latter as a plus. It is not an open world, one large map, but many smaller, more diverse locations. This solution suits me better and I hope that it will be used more often in jRPG. On the other hand, for I suppose to artificially extend a game that can be completed in just over twenty hours, we were forced to backtrack in the worst possible style. The plot requires us to run from one location we have already visited to another without the fast travel option, so we run, because what exit do we have? The worst example is when being near Santaroule, one of the cities in the east, the scene takes us back to Fidel’s hometown, and then we are forced back to Santaroule. It’s a bit as if some of us are trying to make a joke.

Traveling through the same locations would be more bearable if they were made with more flair and something interesting was placed in them, but it is not. There are times when the SO5 looks really nice on the eye (better in motion than on the screens), but often we also have an unnatural void. There are no alternative roads, no hidden passages, no something (anything) interesting that makes us feel like we are running around the living world. Yoshiharu Gotanda, the creator of the series, allegedly invented many events that are part of the universe (which exist only on paper and have not appeared in any part of the series) in his enthusiasm, but apparently he did not care to make the planets that make up this universe more credible places for life. It’s a pity, because it would help a lot for some of the problems of the “five”.

Integrity and Faithlessness is an interesting game because it shows how much production budget means in today’s industry. You can have the skills and the will, but you cannot overcome certain obstacles without solid financial support. Here, the lack of this solid support can be seen in many areas, but I also cannot say that tri-Ace has lost the ability to make good games somewhere. SO5 is still a valid piece of code and I am writing this as someone who has never been a fan of the series. You just have to turn a blind eye to some things.

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness – game review

I don’t understand ratings like 5/10. I see some reviewers answering the jokes about using the 7-10 scale. Games without a loud fanbase or without a large marketing budget are a bit like a scapegoat in this situation, which is put together for better well-being. And, unfortunately, such extreme opinions remain in the public consciousness for longer (3/10 for God Hand in IGN – we remember). In addition, Square Enix is ​​not helping by asking for about 10 euros too much for the premiere.

The future of Star Ocean in the face of the above is therefore in great doubt. Perhaps the subtitle “The Last Hope” would be more relevant right now?