Game Commentary - Star Ocean V

I was genuinely excited for Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (otherwise known as Star Ocean V). Having not played any of the games in the franchise and only ever hearing good things about it, I pictured myself role-playing in this giant universe filled with unique lifeforms, grand space battles and a vast galaxy to explore. Only after having played Star Ocean V did I realize I was actually picturing myself playing Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Star Ocean V has some issues. Nay, it has a lot of issues and for the most part, these issues are not inherently present due to the design of the game. Meaning to say, the concept was fine but they failed the execution (what a surprise these days).

Let's start with the positives. I like the combat, though it definitely needed some improving. It may be chaotic with 7 members on screen at a time but for me, it works. It adds to the atmosphere of well, you know, actually having 7 people fight at the same time. I found the movements of the characters to be pleasing albeit a little cartoony and real-time combat is always a plus. The skills were fun to use but far too spammable for some of them and the role system was great although it could use more polishing. It didn't explain a lot of what it was and it definitely did not provide me with the tools to truly customize how I want my characters to play out.

Now, I am a fan of strategy in combat. This is to say, if the game willingly limits the amount of skills I can equip just so I can think of a strategy around that, that's fine. But Star Ocean limits you to four skills, 2 for close range combat and 2 for range. Problem is, Fidel (the main character) is mostly a melee fighter and only learns a few range skills which are so weak in comparison that you'd rather not use them. This basically limits me to two skills which can get a bit dry after a while.

Then comes the problem with the mechanics of combat. They introduce a few key concepts to combat: weak attacks, strong attacks and guarding. Weak attacks interrupt strong attacks, strong attacks break guard and guards block weak attacks. Simplistic but effective especially because you start learning that you can chain skills with weak and strong attacks to create a long combo with no pauses in between, you can guard or sidestep into a counter and you can stagger enemies to open up opportunities. See, it encourages strategy. Nice. But like the skills, this falls short when you get further into the game. Why? You meet enemies with attacks that can't be blocked or sidestepped, you meet enemies that won't get staggered and you eventually realize you're better off spamming your grand combination of two skills rather than using any normal attacks. This completely writes off the initial introduction into the combat system!

Keep in mind I said let's start with the positives. I think that was actually the only positive. Now, the negatives. Let's talk about the Private Action (PA) system and the supposedly seamless cutscenes.

The PA system needs work. You basically enter a town and you get to disperse your party members before looking for them again to initiate a conversation that you may or may not participate trivially in. Sounds like a chore? It wouldn't really be until you find out that there are actually multiple PAs you can participate in but you can only do one at a time depending on the availability of the character. For example, if you have two PAs with Anne, you'd literally have to disperse the members, do her PA, round them back in, exit the area, re-enter, re-disperse and do her other PA before needing to round them together again. That's just with Anne. Imagine if each member has a PA with one another AND the fact that PAs differ from city to city. It becomes tedious more so because the characters are quite poorly written that I actually only like Anne and Relia.

The biggest sin is not letting me fast forward through any of the cut-scenes with this woman
Then the 'seamless cut-scenes'. So, the designer said that he wanted a seamless transition between gameplay and cut-scenes to create more coherent storytelling. If you've ever played the first Assassin's Creed, that's the one game in memory that I know uses that and I HATE it. You basically have this conversation between characters that you can't skip and you get to control Fidel as he talks so you can aimlessly just wander around. This happens throughout the whole game. I don't need to listen to 5 minutes of them talking about the war when I can easily just read through lines of text and I don't need to control a character during said scene because there's NOTHING I can do with that. This becomes especially annoying when you die and have to reload only to discover that once again, you have to wait for them to talk. Thankfully, I could use Japanese audio to help ease the pain but I still died anyways.

Now for the quick-fire round. The narrative was void of emotion and had questionable pacing, the music was questionable in some parts, the graphics was alright, the frame-rate dipped consistently in some places, the loading time is great, the crafting system was fun though too grindy (reminds me of Zestiria's weapon slot hunting mechanic), the level designs were a little too linear and uninteresting and finally, the side quest system was fine. I think that was everything.
To conclude this commentary, I just want to say any type of game will work, if they actually do what they set out to do.  As long as the game does what it does well, I'd enjoy it. Especially because with the JRPG genre, there are some pretty niche titles.
Star Ocean V could have been great. The combat system would have been great with better enemy designs and a more satisfying role system. Maybe tweak that skill limitation system too. The PA system needs work. I'd rather long extended scenes with each character to get their backstory (think how Persona does this) than multiple tiny ones which don't mean much. Seamless transition of cut-scenes should be removed and burned. Never do that UNLESS the scenes are short and sparse, do not occur before battles and when I do control my character, at least let me work towards something (like walking to a destination). Also note that field conversations does not equal to what I'm talking about. Field conversations are great.

I can go on and on about how to improve this game but hey, to each their own. I'm just disappointed at how they handled a franchise that was supposedly great. If the next game in the franchise looks great, I'd damn well try it again.


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