Having seen better days, Star Ocean has been in something of a downward spiral ever since its sole Playstation 2 title. While it had its fans, Till the End of Time’s odd story choices and pacing rubbed a few fans the wrong way. Things didn’t get much better in the sequel. While The Last Hope was rightfully praised for several big improvements, it took a step back for every one forwards. Now we have Integrity and Faithlessness, which sadly proves to be the weakest of the bunch.
Admittedly, this isn’t a bad game in the true sense of the word, merely one so mixed up its every advantage is cancelled out by a major failing elsewhere. Take the story for example – Once again it deals with the concept of highly advanced societies clashing on a feudal world and an ancient mystery, but puts a nice twist on several old concepts. However, it’s hamstrung by clichéd writing bordering upon hilarity, rushed storytelling and awful voice acting. The second you learn Fidel Camuze is your character’s name and hear him open his shrill gob, you’ll want to skip every line of dialogue you can.
In the same regard, lengthy cutscenes and bloated storytelling elements are thankfully skipped, a welcome idea to be sure. Sadly however, this is only replaced by NPCs standing stock still and exchanging lengthy conversations with one another. Between this and the poor voice direction, there is no atmosphere to these scenes, no depth, no sense of immersion, all points critical to any RPG. Matters are only made worse once you see the graphics, as while the game has an outstanding artistic direction, you’ll often run into environments so poorly rendered they might as well have been lifted from a Gamecube release. This does mean it runs at a brisk sixty frames per second, but there’s barely a moment where you genuinely need that speed.
The combat is Star Ocean’s only saving grace here and the main reason it isn’t scored lower. While fast, flashy and extremely tense, the rock-paper-scissors system and curve balls thrown your way via new abilities still allows it to remain tactically engrossing. It’s the sort of thing Final Fantasy XIII tried and failed miserably to achieve and, while there is a frustrating overabundance of special attack mini-cutscenes, it’s the true highlight of the game.
If you really are looking to get into Star Ocean or have some fun with the franchise, sadly the classics are still the way to go. If you can find copies of First Departure or Second Evolution then grab those without hesitation, but don’t drop any cash on this turkey any time soon.
STAR OCEAN: INTEGRITY AND FAITHLESSNESS / DEVELOPER: TRI-ACE / PUBLISHER: SQUARE ENIX / PLATFORM: PLAYSTATION 3, PLAYSTATION 4 / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW