Review by Infinity_Bowman
Dense and Barren
Star Ocean became my favorite game series the first time I ever got my hands on the Second Story many years ago. Since then, tri-Ace's blend of science-fiction and fantasy has hardly disappointed...
... until now.
Welcome to Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, the fifth entry in tri-Ace's science-fiction/fantasy action RPG series. Before I get into the game, allow me to sidebar here and just say that at least the Collector's Edition did not disappoint. The steel case for the game is just slick, the book featuring artwork from all of the games is great, the soundtrack is a nice touch, but the real icing on the cake? The Pangalactic Federation ID card - complete with space to affix a photo. But I digress... and tuck my fanboy back in...
Right out of the gate, the visual presentation of this latest Star Ocean is quite fetching, if not groundbreaking. The character models look crisp and the detail - particularly for essential characters - was not skimped on. Not unlike other games in the series, this one also wastes little time in giving you hands on time with the battle system. In my opinion, the battle system is where SO5 really shines.
While I ended up mostly enjoying SO4s battle system, SO3s was better (excepting MP death, obviously). SO5 is a return to SO3's form with some ideas from SO4 in the Role system. On the actual combat side, a gripe I have is that though I loved SO3s battle system, I feel a little cheated having it practically copy-pasted into what is supposed to be a next-gen game. By that I mean though you are playing as Fidel Camuze, you control Fayt Linegod in battle all over again with very little difference other than the characters looking and sounding different. Aside from that, the battle system works regardless. One complaint I have seen is over the battle party; with all available characters being in the battle at once. In response to that, I can only assume the complainers did not spend much time with the Roles. Similar to the BEAT system from SO4, the Role system not only affects attributes but affects character behavior on the battlefield. And there are roles for different classes as well, giving you the ability to fine-tune your mages and fighters. After spending ample time with assigning appropriate roles (and getting them levelled up which leads to new, more beneficial roles), I had little trouble managing my large battle party.
Next up would be the characters. Before saying anything... Fiore. Powerful little over-sexualized Fiore. Firoe, the mage wearing a chess board to "show off her signets." Good job, Akiman. Well, now that I've gotten that out of the way... SO5s cast is... probably the least relatable in the series. Though character development is not non-existent, it is certainly lacking serious depth. I like the characters... but I want to know more about them. The main protagonist, Fidel Camuze, is probably given the most depth but even that isn't saying a whole lot. As far as voices... I can at least say Star Ocean has been redeemed here - at least as far as the main characters are concerned. This is also where I am annoyed with Fiore. She is supposed to be a more-than-competent Signeturge both in practice and in research - and her voice actress (Aimee Castle) did a wonderful job in making that believable. Each of the main characters has a believable voice. Now... moving away from the main characters we begin to see typical JRPG voice acting. Antagonists that should have cold, calculating voices have 'roid-rage, meathead-sounding voices.
But where voices may or may not disappoint, the soundtrack is very easy on the ears. This comes as no surprise, though, as Motoi Sakuraba handles the OST with care. Moreover, as long as you got at least the Day One edition, you get a handful of bonus music to be used in battles from both Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile.
Also of note are returning elements like item creation, bonus dungeons, and... Welch Vineyard. Fortunately, Welch's role is far smaller than in SO4 though not much less obnoxious. Item Creation, too, was returned to where it should be - in the camp menu. Rather than having to go to a ship or special building, item creation is again accessible from the menu.
Lastly, there is the story... There was a time I convinced myself this series had excellent stories. Now, though the games aren't terrible in the story department, they're not exactly amazing either. They are... passable. This time, sadly, story really took a backseat. Throughout the game, nearly all of the events happen on the fly with only a select few moments occurring as actual cutscenes. While it isn't a major problem and doesn't necessarily effect storytelling, it can give a rather rushed impression. Conflict is around most of the corners in the game, so it can be a little disorienting wondering whether or not you're being thrown into a fight after this next bit of dialogue. Furthering the disappointment is that there is evidently quite a lot going on both in the world you're on and in the galaxy in general... but you seem to really only skim the surface of it all. Colorful language is used, as usual, to explain certain things like technology or magic or whatever... but it still feels vague at best. On top of that, Star Ocean makes a triumphant return - and on the PS4 no less - and is pretty much contained to one planet. Even the very first Star Ocean visited three. So again, you get the impression that something incredibly epic is going down... but you get the cliff notes of the cliff notes. Sadly, not even the encyclopedia does enough to fill in the massive amount of blanks.
All in all... Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is still fun. Between the battle system, item creation, resource gathering, role development, and the other extras, it is still worth a shot - even if only once. Just don't expect to be moved to tears.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (Collector's Edition) (US, 06/28/16)
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