It’s time to step into the Star Ocean once more. Join Fidel, Miki, and crew as they delve into the war that is taking over Faykreed – a war that may just go beyond the stars.
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is the latest game to take place in the Star Ocean universe. Situated in between Star Ocean: Second Story/Second Evolution (SO2) and Till the End of Time (SO3), the game heads for the planet Faykreed. You’ll assume the role of Fidel, a young swordsman from the city of Sthal. Along with his childhood friend Miki, they set off to the capitol to try and request aid for their village. What they don’t realize is that this decision will lead them to a quest that will go beyond the stars.
The best way I can describe Star Ocean 5’s story is that it’s very Star Ocean, but it’s not very space based. The writing is very similar to what I’ve come to expect from the series. The reason I say that it’s not very space based is that about 95% of the game takes place on Faykreed. Considering that even Star Ocean 1 didn’t do this (though it was a pretty bad offender at the lack of space travel), that’s not a very good place to be. The fact that there was so little actual space travel in the game was fairly disappointing to me, since space travel is sort of what Star Ocean is supposed to be about.
While some may not have liked it, there was a lot of things that Star Ocean: The Last Hope (SO4) did do right. The combat system in SO4 was pretty superb – a massive improvement from that of 3’s – and there was actually space travel. Sure some of the planets did take quite a bit of time, but you didn’t spend the majority of the game on a single planet. The fact Star Ocean 5 reeled back so badly on the amount of space was a massive disappointment.
Speaking of the combat system, Star Ocean 5 went back to SO3 and made massive improvements on that system. Considering that it took from SO3, the first thing I’m glad that they did away with was the MP Kill system. They did bring out the cancel bonus system, which while it was in SO4, it is definitely closer to how 3 did it. You can set up skills to either Strong or Weak in both the Long and Short distance ranges. Stronger skills will cost you more MP to use but will provide you more damage. As you chain these skills together, they’ll grow increasingly stronger, capping out at a 200% damage bonus (instead of 3’s 300% bonus).
In a massive departure from the previous Star Ocean games, Star Ocean 5 has made it so that you will always have every party member on the battlefield. No more trying to balance out with even leveling, everyone will always gained any earned experience (so long as they survive the battle of course). This does make it a bit more expensive if you want to keep everyone’s equipment up to date (instead of just focusing on your “main” team), but thankfully I never really had many money problems during my time playing the game. You will sometimes have party members who join you temporarily, but these members are not controllable at all. This is also true for one of the regular party members, with the only thing you can do for that character is set their roles and equipment.
Enemies will appear on the field much like they did in the last two games, but this time you will always be able to see what enemies are all within the battle. This is because combat takes place directly on the field itself, much like how it was within Tales of Zestiria. Unlike in Tales of Zestiria, the battle camera is usually not just complete garbage and will allow you to actually see what is going on most of the time. The transitions in and out of combat are extremely smooth, with the victory screen just coming up over the side. This means that the little “level up” scenes have been done away with, but I really didn’t even miss them.
Roles in Star Ocean 5 are essentially how you would adjust the AI of party members in the previous titles. The difference is that in this game these “AI adjustments” actually help give you meaningful stats and buffs. These roles can vary from giving you stat bonuses to changing AI behaviour to making you invincible (but will cause you to constantly take damage). The AI behaviour ones can affect both you and your foes, and while I’m still unsure as to the full extent of what they do, they can help swing a battle to your favour. There are also some roles that can even give you battle reward bonuses.
Item Creation has made its return, along with the ever-crazy Welch. This time around, Welch will give you quests to hunt down an enemy or some items, and in return you will learn to do more Item Creation. Synthesis has also made its return, however it is somewhat random as to what you will get as a reward from it. I didn’t actually touch Synthesis much, but I do know that the best equipment in the game does come from it. There is also Augmentation, a system returning from both SO3 and 4. This will allow you to meld items into other items, raising their stats and adding nice bonuses onto that equipment. You will have the freedom to do Item Creation wherever you please in this game, something I was very glad to see back from the first two Star Ocean titles.
Quests have also made their return from Star Ocean 4, although they are significantly less annoying to find. Almost all of your quests will be located on the Quest Boards located in three major cities across the planet. Here you will be able to accept and turn in these quests, with the ability to confirm which quests you have being both within the board and in your menu. These quests will send you all over the place in the hunt of things such as specific enemies and rare materials or items.
Star Ocean 5 features an interesting extra dungeon mechanic within the Cathedral’s of Oblivion. While these are not the only type of bonus areas in the game, they are what you will run into first. Within these Cathedral’s you will challenge different floors of enemies until you make it down to the final enemy of that area. The enemies within these areas do change as you progress through the game – something that is true throughout the game in general – and can cause you to easily miss some entries within your Battle Encyclopedia.
Everyone’s favourite – or maybe not so favourite – thing has come back from Star Ocean 3 and 4 – Battle Trophies. Luckily, the Battle Trophies in SO5 are significantly easier than those of 3 and especially 4. This means no more 600+ hours to try and complete all of them. While they are hidden from you until you actually earn them, you can gain a general idea of what they require before you do get them (IE: Chain, Unrestricted means that it requires a chain of some sort done by any character that you control). With there only being 100 in the game, it isn’t very hard to come across over 50% just by playing through the game and bonus dungeons.
While I do like the camera within battle, I do still have some issues with it and especially with the camera in the regular field. The camera likes to follow whomever it is you’re controlling, and it really takes it to the extreme. In the field, any little bump in the scenery will cause your camera to bump up and down along with it, causing a bit of a disorientating feel. Even when you sit idle, the camera will sometimes adjust side-to-side as your character performs an idle animation. It would’ve been much better if they had simply made the camera be more like that of the past two games instead of having it try to follow the character so exactly.
Speaking of the camera, I do hope you like playing cameraman within cutscenes! While there are some “regular” cutscenes like you would expect out of the series, there are more cutscenes that will allow you to slowly walk around and control the camera as you want. I’m not sure why these types of cutscenes exist, but I very much prefered when the “regular” cutscenes played. Also, for those people who disliked Star Ocean’s 30-60 minute cutscenes, you will be pleased to know that SO5 has massively sped up the pace of the game and these cutscenes are nearly non-existent.
The music is something I’ve generally enjoyed over the course of the series. While going in I had heard some stuff regarding this (just in passing), I wasn’t expecting the music in Star Ocean 5 to take the rips from the past two games to this extreme. At least half of the soundtrack in this game is composed of direct rips from Star Ocean’s 3 and 4, and often times the places where they are simply do not fit what is going on. What might’ve been a music within a city in Star Ocean 3 has been fit in as music for a mountainy hillside. What new music does exist in this game I did enjoy, but the amount of songs that came from the past two games was quite frustrating.
When it comes to the music in battle, I often found you’ll be lucky to even hear it. Even with turning down the voices and sound effects (and with the game music at max volume), I found that I often couldn’t even hear the track unless I sat paused within the battle menu for a bit. I feel like the battle music could’ve used with being turned up a few notches, since even if the music is reused, I’d like to at least be able to hear the songs.
Star Ocean 5 is an enjoyable game, but I did not find it to be that enjoyable of a Star Ocean game. The game simply felt rushed out. The sheer amount of reused music and the fact that you can see so many NPC clones wandering around town is not something that is very pleasing to see. It was nice to see staple Star Ocean systems back such as the Private Actions (even if they can easily be missed) and Item Creation, but it was also disappointing to see that the Coliseum was nowhere to be seen. I was sad to see that they had gone to such an extreme in taking out the space travel, especially after the fact that the amount of space travel was one of the things that Star Ocean 4 did very right.
While Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness will provide you with a decent amount of entertainment – you’re looking at least 100 hours to fully complete it – the amount of things that were stripped out was disappointing to see. I hope that if Square Enix does decide to continue onwards with this series they actually bring back proper space travel, and that they don’t make it feel so rushed out. So, while I do recommend the game, I’m not really sure I recommend it for the full price of $59.99. Maybe try and pick it up once it’s gone down some in price, especially since if you’re someone who is only in it for the main story, you’re only looking at around 20-30 hours of playtime.
I really enjoyed the game as a game. I didn’t enjoy it as much as a Star Ocean title. That is what my score is based off of.
I would like to thank Square Enix for providing me with a copy of the game for review purposes.