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Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (PlayStation 4) artwork

It's getting close to the 25-year anniversary of when I got introduced to the Star Ocean series by virtue of picking up The Second Story when it was released on the original PlayStation. That game was one of the role-playing highlights for that system and deserves all the credit for me playing through the rest of the series.

That puts me in an awkward situation where I feel like I should blast The Second Story for being too damn enjoyable. While I loved that game, I've found every other title in the series to range from respectable to mediocre. However, my brain constantly tells me I like these games more than I actually did — probably due to them boasting a more action-oriented combat system than the average JRPG — so I constantly am looking at their silver linings, while casually ignoring minor details such as how I abandoned Till the End of Time two or three separate times before finally forcing myself to finish the damn thing at the expense of no small amount of sanity.

So, if there's a big positive I'm taking from the rather goofily-named Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, it's that I shouldn't have to worry about those rose-colored glasses clouding my true feelings for once! Don't get me wrong — at its heart, this 2016 release is Star Ocean through and through. Combat is action-oriented and you'll get to put all sorts of points into a myriad of skills allowing you to craft all manner of equipment and items, as well as enhance weapons and armor. Also, as per the norm, you'll have a science fiction setting that still requires you to spend as much time as possible on a planet that's still residing in its medieval era.

The problem is that there just isn't that much to this one. There I was, traveling through the scant few locations repeatedly, fighting the same limited number of monster designs that all were palette-swapped frequently and being given tons of no-frills side quests that all amounted to either killing certain monsters or finding certain items. Everything was repetitive and mind-numbing to the degree that even an action-oriented battle system would struggle mightily in shaking me from my torpor. It was one of those things where I can't say I was having a bad time, but I also can't complement what I was experiencing. I was there, I was progressing through the game and that was it. I defeated the final boss, watched the credits, got my instructions on how to access the post-game dungeon, started to work towards that and then stopped, wondering to myself just why I was bothering. And then found myself playing Watch_Dogs, stealing money from the bank accounts of people with terminal illnesses to fill the bottomless hole in my soul.

Why did this game fall flat for me? A little bit of everything, to be truthful. The combat is pretty simple and intuitive. One button gives you quicker and weaker attacks, while another delivers slower and stronger blows and a third has you guard. By holding down either of the attack buttons, you'll be able to use special attacks. There's a sort of rock-paper-scissors action to battling where weak disrupts strong, strong overwhelms guard and guard mostly blocks weak. A meter rises as you exploit that system against foes, but depletes if the reverse happens. You'll want to build up that meter for boss fights, as it is used to unleash this game's version of a Limit Break. The higher it is, the more damaging that assault will be.

The issue is that in a lot of fights, it almost seems like destiny that your bar will get knocked down a bit. You'll see foes on the screen and run up to them, but won't be able to attack until the game's engine decides the battle has started. If an enemy is facing you at this time, there's a good chance it will either attack first or it will defend your initial blows and then respond. It's just weird, really. Everything happens in real time with no "whoosh" taking you to a combat screen. In theory, you should be able to run up to a foe and start attacking it, but for whatever reason, the game doesn't let you fight until it decides it's time, which tends to work in the enemies' favor more often than yours.

Another issue: Everyone in your party participates in these battles, giving you up to seven characters running around and doing stuff. Stuff which often includes spalls with large areas of effects and all sorts of bright colors and crazy happenings going on. Have fun figuring out where you're at and being able to fight efficiently when multiple spells are being thrown around and the screen looks like an acid trip just went really wrong.

But the combat at least is reasonably fun due to having full control over whichever character you're controlling. I mean, it'd have to be miserable to control one of the mages due to how they have way more spells than there are quick-equip slots, so you'd probably be spending a lot of time in a menu if you want to have a diverse offense, but for a melee character like main protagonist Fidel, things were tolerable. Besides, the AI in this game is respectable enough to let the mage's do their own thing as long as you "help" them out a bit by turning certain spells off or on when dealing with powerful foes with elemental resistances and weaknesses.

Other things are more difficult to justify. This game has a small world set up so that you'll be regularly backtracking over the same plains, deserts, caves and beaches to get to one place or another. Occasionally, you'll get sent to a different location — sometimes in outer space! Which would be more thrilling if not for how many of those dungeons are generic collections of corridors and rooms. If memory serves, this isn't the first Star Ocean game that's made me comment on how the more futuristic dungeons are so boring, it actually makes me happy I wind up spending most of my time in a more medieval setting.

While I'm complaining about stuff, I might as well dig into this game's storytelling because it's just weird in so many ways. First, there are very few actual cutscenes in this game, with most of those dialogue-heavy moments taking place within the game engine. I'm not sure what developer tri-Ace was going for, but it just looks cheap and also forces you to you regularly tinker with the camera just to see who is talking.

Assuming you care, that is. This game possibly has the most strangely-handled plot I've ever experienced. It starts out like the Super Famicom original with Fidel and gal-pal Miki endeavoring to fight off bandits threatening their isolated village. However, they at least don't have to contend with a strange disease turning everyone they know to stone. Instead, they wind up rescuing a young girl named Relia from some strange soldiers and decide they should protect her and try to reunite her with her family.

And for all intents and purposes, that is the plot. Sure, there are other details, such as the leader of a rival nation trying to start a war, the fact Relia and another girl were essentially engineered to be the perfect weapons in an intergalactic warlord's bid for supremacy and that guy's attempts to regain control of what he considers to be his property, but take my word — the only thing that matters is the devotion Fidel and Miki have towards Relia and, eventually, the other girl. The kingdom is being threatened, war might come to the galaxy and the main thing you'll hear from Fidel is "Return the girl…NOW!" In a game that's so protagonist-focused that no adversaries get any screen time unless they're directly encountering our heroes. It's just weird and takes what at least had the potential to be an epic tale and turns it into a Lifetime movie. And for that to work, the writing has to be a good bit better than it is in this game.

But that's Star Ocean for you. I got spoiled by The Second Story and have greatly suffered for that. Integrity and Faithlessness continues the series' slide into mediocrity, not even seemingly bothering to try to reach The Last Hope's level of "it's good, but…". It's a short game with decent, but flawed, combat in a small world you'll cross repeatedly while fighting the same sorts of monsters constantly. But at least I'm done with it and if I'm lucky, I'm through with… Wait, they came out with a new one, The Divine Force, just last year? Maybe this is where they return to form! I'll be right back!

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (August 31, 2023)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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If you enjoyed this Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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honestgamer posted August 31, 2023:

I reviewed The Divine Force for Game Rant, actually, and quite enjoyed it. Maybe you will too, someday!
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overdrive posted September 01, 2023:

I can only hope, because I know I'll eventually play it. Curse my soul, I will eventually play it.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted September 01, 2023:

I completely forgot about The Divine Force. I'm sure Amazon appreciates the $30 you just cause me to fork over. :)
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overdrive posted September 13, 2023:

FUN FACT: Apparently when PS Plus does their monthly "add games" thing for Extra/Premium users, Divine Force (and about every other Star Ocean game) will be added, so I might be able to play it without actually paying for it. Assuming stuff I want to play isn't going to be deleted next month. That's kind of stalling me on a couple games I'm playing right now -- the first two Watch_Dogs are being taken down next week and I wanted to at least play one of them, so I have to finish up about a dozen or so plot missions in the next few days.

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