Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is a bit of a conundrum. What’s included feels light and underwhelming but it is also, at times, a good to great JRPG. However, throughout the journey you’ll be hard-pressed to not see the signs that something isn’t quite right with this game.
Things start promisingly when some interesting, if cliché, characters set out on an adventure to help a girl with amnesia and secret powers. All the characters fit into some type of stereotype you’ve seen before but they also work to go beyond that (when they are actually given time to do so).
One of the more interesting things Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness does is allow you to control main character Fidel in the vast majority of the game’s cutscenes. While it is super cool to see exploration seamlessly flow into a discussion between characters, it is also bizarre when you stand inside another character the entire time. The camera can be zoomed in to give a more cinematic feel but Fidel’s head will still be visible, blocking the middle of the screen. It’s a neat idea but when the game switches to the more traditional way of doing things, it really highlights how much more interesting thought out camera angles can be.
The story itself is nothing to write home about either. At first I liked the almost too short cutscenes as it was a nice change from the long-winded JRPG trope. But after a few hours, I realized it made everyone look completely insane. Entire plot points that are super important (like why they are on this adventure at all) will be glossed over in a sometimes laughable manner. It’s like the game didn’t want to explain it so it quite simply didn’t bother. That’s not even the worst part of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness’ story, however.
There’s no rising or falling action in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, just a constant stream of things going on to the point where I wasn’t sure if I was heading into the final dungeon or not until it explicitly told me. And my response was, ‘Oh, I guess this is the end.’ It didn’t feel like it at all. The whole plot can be summed up as rescuing one person over and over in each corner of the map. It does that for so long you kind of forget that there’s also a war going on and then there’s some fighting and it ends.
The story is forgettable but that’s actually excusable because the real problem is with the pacing. It all feels like something that was supposed to be a smaller portion of the game that was then stretched out to be the entire thing. Also, the ‘big bad’ of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is just whoever happens to be there at the time. Sometimes I thought they were the same person but no, they were completely different people. It would be like if Star Wars Episode I never mentioned Darth Maul until the Naboo fight. It wouldn’t make any sense and you wouldn’t care about the character. That’s how I feel about the enemy groups in this game. Nothing.
Going back to the seamlessness though, one of the best parts of the game is going from inter-party discussion, to a battle, to a cutscene, and then a boss fight without any pauses, loading, or interruptions. It’s actually pretty awesome. Sure, similar things have been done before but not quite like this. Walking through a town and having party members start talking to each other is really cool and fits the JRPG styling perfectly. It’s just a shame that private actions (scenes specific to each character to learn more about them) are so frustrating to activate.
Since the story cutscenes are so abrupt, these optional scenes are the only real way to learn more about your party. To activate them you must stand on a circle in each town that lets your party members scatter around the map. Then you go over to them to start the scene. After that, you return to the circle and leave the area to respawn the circle. Repeat that until you either get bored or want to jump out a window. The scenes themselves are interesting but the tedium involved in watching them is a tad ridiculous. Given that I spent what must have been 3 or so hours going in and out of inns to respawn the circle and watch more scenes, this bizarre mechanic took up over 10% of my playtime with the game.
Let’s move on to something I did like about Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness before this sounds too negative: the battle system. The battles take place in real-time and are essentially a basic 3rd person action game. There’s a damage boost for chaining together different abilities so you are always encouraged to mix things up with light and heavy attacks and special moves. Switching to and playing as the other characters is a nice way to keep things fresh but Fidel is really the only member I enjoyed playing as for any length of time. That was fine though as there was always something to do and, besides boss fights, you’re never in a battle for too long.
The game also introduces a rock-paper-scissors type of system into the battles. Heavy attacks are slower and emit a blue glow; they can be countered with light attacks. Guarding is effective against light attacks and can lead to counter attacks. However, guards can be broken with heavy attacks. This is a nice idea but it doesn’t quite work as well or as efficiently as it should. Besides the fact that having seven party members turns each battle into a flurry of explosions, everything moves a bit too quickly to take full advantage of the system. And you don’t need to. I beat the game without ever doing a counterattack. I really have no idea how it works outside of the brief tutorial at the very beginning. The other sides of this system will be done easily and accidentally enough to not be something to worry about. This is yet another example of a half-baked idea in this game.
Piggybacking off the rock-paper-scissors system is the rush gauge. Performing well in battles gives bonuses to exp, fol(money), and sp depending on the technique used. Raising this gauge also allows you to use each character’s special move. You’ve seen a mechanic like this before. It works well but isn’t revolutionary.
So Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness’ battle system is a lot of fun, but what about party member AI? To be blunt; it’s pretty bad and the enemies don’t care at all. Certain enemies and bosses deliver powerful area attacks that hit for 70% of an ally’s HP. When this happens to two or three party members at the same time because they didn’t run away from the explosion, you can accidentally see the game over screen rather quickly. It makes the game not feel balanced when you can be fighting along fine, mob after mob, and then run into an enemy that gets one attack off and kills half the party. Not to mention one boss that pulls nonsense like that to the point where I spent the majority of the fight as the healer just to survive. Thankfully most of the battles are fair with bosses requiring the appropriate amount of strategy. I’d like to highlight the final boss encounter which was a fantastic 15 minute war of attrition. It’s easily one of my favorite parts of the whole game.
In addition to the main quest, there are plenty of side quests to complete– they are mostly all ‘kill x enemies’ or ‘find x items’ though. It’s a nice distraction but the quest listing does a poor job of telling you what to do sometimes and all quests take you right back to the same areas of the world you’ve been to countless times. They’re fine but nothing memorable.
There’s also crafting which is completely optional since the side quests for it can be easily overlooked. Not that it matters because the several systems that are unlocked are convoluted and offer little fun in figuring them out. Looking up a good thing to craft on a forum is not the kind of crafting I’m into. Having the item that will be created be a mystery until I’ve made one of them is not fun. Sorting through countless junk items and hoping they all mix into something useful is also not fun. I don’t get it but it’s here if you want it, I guess.
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness either had a small budget or was only allotted a very short time in development, and it really shows. Sure, there are a ton of side quests and things to do but it all feels very compact and compressed. The story is abrupt, simple, and forgettable. The entire game takes place on the planet Faykreed and it feels so incredibly small. With about 4 towns and straight lines connecting them to larger open areas, there isn’t much to see. However, you’ll see it all because the game takes you back and forth along these paths several times to the point of insanity. I enjoyed my time with the game, but I can’t say I’d really recommend it. If you’re looking for a 30ish hour jrpg to fill a void in your life, it will do. For everyone else, there’s plenty better out there.