Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (PS4 review)

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Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is the fifth game in the franchise and the first to make the jump to the PS4. The Star Ocean franchise is known for its flashy real-time combat, deceptively long story, and deep character development. The most recent entry has changed quite a bit from its normal formula, some for the good and some not so much.

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Characters and Customization

Every party member is completely unique in terms of looks, weapons, skills, and personalities. This game has my favorite character design of the entire Star Ocean franchise thanks to illustrator Akira Yasuda, who is known for his work in the Street Fighter series and Darkstalkers 3. Your party will eventually max out at 7 characters, and they all will be able to participate in battle. This is a first for the Star Ocean franchise since normally you are forced to swap between 3 or 4 characters in combat at any particular time. This may provoke the thought that the game will be easier since you have more teammates on the map. You would only be partially correct.

Battles unfold at a very fast pace with high amounts of damage being dealt from both sides, so you will have to rely on strategy compared to numbers. Each character can be assigned up to 4 roles, and these roles are similar to a job system in other RPGs, determining how your character will act in battle. Roles are broken into 5 subclasses: Attack, Defense, Healing, Support and Miscellaneous. Utilizing these to the best of your ability will ultimately determine the outcome of your battles. While you can freely equip any roles onto any character, do so with caution.

Equipping the main character, Fidel, with nothing but spell-based roles will do him little good since he cannot learn any symbology, aka magic. This is possibly the most restricting thing about the latest Star Ocean… the shoehorned playstyle for each character. Besides roles, each character has equipment slots for a weapon, armor and two accessories. These will start out very basic, but like the previous games in the franchise, you will gain the ability to craft, augment and customize each of four items you equip as you progress.

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Combat and Gameplay

The battle system is by far the best it’s ever been in the Star Ocean franchise. The transition is smooth as you go from the map into battle including most boss battles. It breaks down into a rock/paper/scissors paradigm where quick attacks break heavy attacks, heavy attacks break guards, and guards block quick attacks. This can lead to big counterattack opportunities. As you progress you will naturally unlock the Reserve gauge. This gauge is the key to increasing rewards after battle as well as unleashing each character’s most powerful move, Reserve Rush.

Early on I found myself struggling during certain situations because I hadn’t paid enough attention to the Role system. Many of my characters did great damage, but their judgement was so impaired that they often just stood around or failed to win in the battle paradigm, even against weaker enemies. Beginner roles such as Attacker or Beserker will be attractive due to making the equipped character attack more aggressively, the often accompanied penalties such as impairing the AI’s judgement should be noted during your battles. Your AI’s judgement during battle is very important, especially when reaching later portions of the game since battles are based upon the Rock/Paper/Scissors paradigm. One wrong move due to poor AI can lead to death from some of the game’s stronger foes.

As you progress, hidden challenge dungeons will appear that will either end with you succeeding or failing with the latter resulting in the dreaded game over. I fought through multiple dungeons as I came across them and nearly faced defeat every single time, even after I had effectively learned the role system. The final fights here are tense and extremely unforgiving, however, finishing these will give you access to the best gear and items in the game so they are well worth the risk.

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Final Reaction

The story at times is forgettable and can be completed in around 20-25 hours. While it will be a bit of a drag for some RPG fans, rushing through will definitely lead to you missing out on references to other games as well as unlocking special endings. My first playthrough clocked in at about 29 hours with a little over half of the side quests being completed and finding one special ending. My next big issue was the fact that side quests still only ranged from subjugation or crafting quests to the expected fetch quests.

If I could use one word to describe Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, it would be inconsistent. That’s mainly due to the fact that while they do such a great job of laying out the framework for an otherwise spectacular RPG, they drop the ball on the UI. It is frustrating to sort and find specific items, locations or NPCs for certain objectives during the side quests or even the story. Overall, I still recommend this Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness to fans of the franchise and other real-time combat RPGs like the Tales series.

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Rating: 3.5/5 Atoms

NR 3_5 Atoms - B-

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