Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness Review (PS4) – Time for Signeturgy
Star Ocean is a game series which has its roots in the Super Nintendo back in 1996. Twenty years later, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is almost out in North America; only on Sony’s home consoles. Find out if this Japanese RPG is worth your time and money in our review.
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness stars a new cast of characters on a planet some 6,000 light-years from Earth, called Faykreed (at least, by the more advanced civilization). Young gun Fidel is the son of a famous commander of the army in a quaint seaside village, but of course, Fidel is destined for greatness, perhaps even beyond the only planet he has ever known. There’s a large cast of characters, many of whom are eager to help you on your journey, and others whom you love to hate. The story, on the other hand, is largely forgettable and occasionally completely predictable. That’s not to say it isn’t good, there’s just slight twists on things that we’ve seen elsewhere.
There could be another subtitle added to Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, and that is multitasking. Walking around the world, buying and selling goods, talking to villagers, etc. is easy enough, but once you’re in battle a few chapters into the story, things quickly become quite hectic. You end up in a party of seven people, and can freely switch between six of them during battle. Battles are conducted in real-time, which means you really have your work cut out for you.
Thankfully, tri-Ace realized that managing six people in real time can quickly become unmanageable, so they’ve adjusted a few of the game’s mechanics to fit. First, any other characters you are not actively controlling becomes AI-controlled. The computer tends to do a pretty good job at managing other characters, as well. Next, by pressing the triangle button, the action instantly pauses, and a menu wheel is brought up. Here, you are free to change characters, use items, change character roles, use signeturgy (more on that in a bit), and even change equipment. Since all action is paused, you are free to take as much time as you wish to change up your strategy mid-battle – the game’s tutorial even recommends this.
Call It What You Want
Whereas previous Star Ocean games featured something called Symbology, since you’re on a new planet free from influence of the events of the previous games, the inhabitants of Faykreed call this magic Signeturgy. Admittedly, Symbology is the better-sounding of the two names, but kudos to tri-Ace for coming up with a decent name for similar things. Signeturgy is akin to casting magic in western RPG games, and costs MP (Mental Points in this case). Most of the major characters have a set of these Signeturgy casts, called Battle Skills, which can be unlocked by using various books that you find throughout your travels.
Besides Signeturgy, there are also Roles which can be unlocked and upgraded using SP, or Special Points. There are a lot of roles to unlock. Each role can have a maximum level that it can be raised to, and once a role is unlocked any character can use it (though each skill can only be utilized by one character at a time). These roles also dictate what kind of tactics a character will use in battle when you are not controlling them. The Attacker role, for instance will make the character attack early and often, with higher-level versions of the role netting a buff to the ATK stat. If you manage to upgrade certain roles high enough, you will unlock secret roles. Sometimes, this is as simple as upgrading one role to level 5; other times a couple of roles must be upgraded to minimum levels before one of the (generally) more powerful roles is discovered. It’ll take a handful of hours to simply unlock all available roles.
Plenty of Playtime
Ah, yes, playtime. RPGs tend to have a lot of it. Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is an RPG that will gladly take your time, and lots of it. If this is your first dip into the Star Ocean, you’ll probably want to play on the easier difficulty level; the game’s Normal setting is quite a challenge, and it is impossible for some reason to alter it without starting the game over. Besides a few tutorial screens, your hand is not held at all. Fans of the series no doubt love this, otherwise the games would not be as popular as they are.
Having said that, it is very easy to get lost because unless you’re in the right area, the game’s map is almost useless with pointing you in the right direction; take one wrong turn, and go to the wrong area, and the map won’t help you one bit. Pressing Triangle and using the Resources menu option to look at the Synopsis section can tell you where you need to be, but navigating there is all up to you, since a star that shows where to go next only shows up if you’re in the same exact area as that point of interest. There definitely could have been a few improvements to Integrity and Faithlessness’ navigation system.
From a graphics standpoint, Integrity and Faithlessness woefully disappoints. I almost had to double-check that I was playing on the PlayStation 4, because most of the game wouldn’t look out of place as a launch title for the PlayStation 3. Although there are moments when the game hits that sweet spot of 1080p/60 frames per second, any time you have more than a handful of enemies onscreen, or a large landscape nearby, the game will drop frames left and right. Animations are also lacking, even for major characters, and especially during major story moments. There is also pop-in, but it tends to occur at relatively far distances. Presentation isn’t everything, of course, but this is not a game to purchase for cutting-edge graphics. On the plus side, loading times are quick, even when starting the game up from scratch. To top things off, boss fights occur without warning and are often much tougher than anything you’ve seen up to that point in the game; save early and often if you don’t want a headache!
A Good Overall Package
On the flip side, the game’s audio is pleasant. The soundtrack tends towards the arcade-like, which sounds weird at first, but fits the game’s setting of undeveloped world-meets-spacefaring-civilization. Characters are also fully voiced within cutscenes, which is quite a feat when you consider that Integrity and Fathlessness has a playtime measured in dozens of hours.
Speaking of cutscenes, most of them do not take you out of the game; they take place completely within the world as you see it. You’ll know a cutscene is about to ensue because Fidel and others begin to walk, or stop entirely. These cutscenes are usually pretty short, and even ones that do take camera control away from you last not more than a few minutes. Generally speaking, the transitions into and out of cutscenes are so seamless, you’ll often miss your cue that you have control of Fidel again, and everyone is just standing around, waiting on you. Oops!
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is a lot of RPG gaming for your money. It will take upwards of 40 hours to run through the game’s campaign, and perhaps up to even 100 hours to fully complete the game and find everything that it has to offer. However, the game’s presentation feels very dated, graphics performance fluctuates, players new to the franchise may feel left out in the cold, and the story is somewhat predictable. Yet, despite these issues, the game is ultimately very fun for RPG fans, both Japanese and Western, thanks to the meaty campaign, countless strategy options, and numerous unlockable and upgradeable skills and roles. Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is a perfect time-sink to game away those lazy summer afternoons on.
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness promotional code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.