Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (PS4) Review
hen their home village is attacked, swordsman Fidel Camuze and his best friend Miki undertake a journey to the capital to request reinforcements. Along the way, they encounter a mysterious young girl named Relia, whose unique magical powers have made her a target for enemies from beyond the stars. Can Fidel and Miki protect Relia from these powerful invaders.
Back in the day, I was a massive Star Ocean fan. I sank hundreds of hours into the first three games, and although I was disappointed by Star Ocean: The Last Hope, I felt certain that this, the fifth game in the series, would set things straight. How wrong I was.
Within the first couple of hours of playing Star Ocean V, my overriding impression was one of dull blandness. Never mind, I thought, it’s bound to get better. It didn’t, and before I knew it, I was over halfway through the main story, at a point where other Star Ocean games would still have been in their opening chapters.
From start to finish, Star Ocean V is textbook JRPG, without a spark of originality to its name. The seven playable characters are all introduced early on, and each one of them is entirely shallow and two-dimensional. There’s the teenaged swordsman; the girl-next-door healer, the haughty mage, the brash starship captain, and so on. These characters are introduced swiftly and without fanfare, and never development beyond their one-line stereotypes. Meanwhile, the main plot is a weak mishmash of “fantasy battle between warring countries” and “sci-fi mystery about a girl with special powers”, that serves little purpose other than to drag the characters from one city to the next. Worse yet, the vast majority of cut-scenes are in-engine and unskippable – all you can do is move the camera round and walk in a tight circle as you wait for the various characters to finish saying their lines.
Well then, what about gameplay? Star Ocean’s frenetic real-time battles have historically been both fast-paced and fun, but here again, Star Ocean V fails to deliver. Apart from a couple of battles where you have to protect a specific character, there’s very little in the way of strategy and variation – just keep pressing X to spam your special attack whilst your AI-controlled allies pile on. Battles require so little concentration from the player that you can easily get on with some other task whilst playing – and if you ever should end up in trouble, you can just unleash a massively powerful ‘Reserve Rush’ attack to finish off the fight. Given that levelling up occurs at the drop of a hat, and you always have more than enough money to buy all the latest weapons and armour, you’ll rarely encounter any kind of challenge.
If for some reason you do like playing this game, there are of course the obligatory optional quests, which are of the usual “defeat these monsters” and “collect these items” variety. These quests feel like an afterthought that were included because someone somewhere read that RPGs have sidequests, and there’s no real disadvantage to ignore them – in fact, it means you can get the game over with more quickly. Special skills like crafting and harvesting also make a return, but the system here is far more simplistic than in earlier Star Ocean games.
Visually, Star Ocean V looks extremely bland for a PS4 game – in fact, it probably would have looked poor as a PS3 game. The majority of character designs are as dull as their personalities, and the environments are little better. Given that the game weighs in at a whopping 29.7GB, I was expecting an expansive and amazing world that would put Xenoblade Chronicles x to shame, but instead I got a largely linear experience that made Final Fantasy XIII look freeform in series regular Motoi Sakuraba, but it doesn’t differ too much from his arguably better work on previous titles.
Star Ocean V isn’t actively terrible, but it does feel like a game that someone designed in their lunch break. The story is weak, the characters are bland, and the battles are so dull and repetitive that you barely need to be awake in order to win them. For a series that once delivered so much, this is a disappointing low point, and one that the franchise may not be able to recover from.