A sea of lights.
I have been in and out of the JRPG game. There are classics that I have gone completely head over heels about. Final Fantasy VII, the Xenosaga series, and of course Blue Dragon. However, for the most part a lot of them feel the same to me. Too much amnesia-driven protagonist out to get the crystal of life and save the world. Star Ocean is a series that has never really captured me. I enjoyed the original game, but it has lost its impact over the last several releases. Still, I was excited to see how the first PS4 entry would fare; sadly it doesn’t seem to buck the trend of mediocrity the series has been spiraling towards.
I want to get one thing out of the way before diving too deep into this review. The subtitle of this game, Integrity and Faithlessness, is both the best and worst title ever created. I mean it just embodies all of what makes some of these games both ridiculous, and stellar in one simple phrase. But I digress.
Price I’d Pay: $29.99
The latest in the Star Ocean series focuses on a group of characters, all centered around the controllable hero Fidel. Throughout the game more characters are introduced into the party, and slip in and out at integral parts of the story. The most jarring thing the team at Tri-Ace has done is the removal of most of the cut scenes usually found in these games. Instead, they opted to have characters standing around, awkwardly I might add, and having conversations. There are large swaths of silence at times, and it makes the narrative feel both cheap, and not nearly as impactful as it should be.
The story quickly falls into cliché territory, and never really recovers. I was expecting it to open up later on, but it just simply ends on a whimper, and while I really enjoyed the characters themselves, the poor writing and bad voice acting don’t do it any favors. There is a great space battle that takes place about 6-7 hours into the campaign. Rockets firing, tension mounting, and the entire cut scene takes place in-engine, from the bridge of the ship. Talk about anti-climactic.
Sadly, the issues don’t end there. The world of Star Ocean is boring. Large environments are riddled with barren space, and the same selection is seen throughout the game. The map only focuses on the area I was in, so exploring was hindered. Enemy types repeat, and the visuals themselves just look dated and almost budget in nature. I do love the extensive color palette, but the repeating areas wore thin quickly, and that is saying a lot considering this is one of the shorter RPGs I have ever played.
Combat is where the game did drag me in though. The seemingly simplistic system evolves over time to become a fun romp when encounters occur. I actually didn’t mind grinding, as the combat was enjoyable, at least until protection missions cropped up. There are also portals scattered around the world that are simply dungeons full of combat, and are surprisingly fun. The role system is cool, if not fully explained, and getting new gear is fun, even if it doesn’t change the appearance of my characters.
The entire time I was playing, I was secretly waiting for the game to open up. JRPGs have a reputation of being long grinds, and the characters and combat had me wanting Star Ocean to expand. Sadly, when I realized I was nearing the end of the journey and not much had changed, it was sobering. There just isn’t much here to get excited about, and it feels like the game is just checking the boxes of what it had to have, instead of bringing any new ideas to the table. Still, I kept playing. Even with all of its shortcomings the game kept me interested to its end. It just doesn’t feel like a full-priced title.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.