RPGs where we don’t directly control our party members have often offered the ability to micromanage everyone. In the Tales series, it’s possible to direct people’s actions and determine which abilities they can and can’t use when you aren’t determining their activities. Final Fantasy XII’s Gambit system let you choose the exact actions of NPCs with conditional phrases. Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness carries this out with the roles system, which allows certain characters to fall into various categories and excel at select activities, while also making you feel like you’ve accomplished something by acquiring them.
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness doesn’t have classes in the way that you’d expect. You can gather what some people are destined to do and be. Fidel is a warrior. Miki is a healer. Fiore is your mage. Emmerson is a ranger. Their weapons and abilities give them away, but the roles they can potentially take are what define them. These not only give them traits that would be applied in a more traditional class system, with various benefits, but also determine their actions. Four can be applied to a character at a time.
For example, Emmerson has a crossbow. You want to focus on attacks that rely on his long range abilities. Sharpshooter lets him use precision attacks from long range, granting higher criticals and allowing more attacks. Fringe Fighter works well with this, since it forces him to focus on foes with a lot of HP from far away, allowing more chances to attack and with a possibility of inflicting silence. I also like to add Table Turner, which sends him against the stronger foes and increases the chance of ignoring the target’s physical and magical defenses. Sometimes, I round this out with Menace, which focuses on more, quicker actions.
Basically, each of these roles, and all Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness roles in general, offer a boost that improves the character, while telling them how to act. They feel more purposeful, because they aren’t only telling people what to do, but making them more prepared for those actions. By keeping them equipped and using them, they grow in strength. Your experiences shape the traits you take.
They also determine which roles you have access to. Only a handful of base roles are available in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness. The rest are gradually doled out and awarded for general progress and accomplishments. Let’s keep using the Emmerson build I suggested as an example. Menace is a role you learn when he joins the party, because it works well with an archer. When it reaches level three, Sharpshooter is unlocked. Fringe Fighter comes from getting both Sharpshooter and Shrewd Overseer to level three, with Shrewd Overseer unlocking after the Invoker role, which Fiore brings to the party, hits level three. Table Turner comes from the Attacker base role reaching level three. Your entire party’s progress and bonds from battle make everyone better.
Of course, there are other way to unlock these roles too, and these can make otherwise tedious Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness activities more appealing. Some of them are rewards for various in-battle accomplishments. Remember how you would see trophies for in-game achievements like chaining 100 hits or using a certain amount of items? You want to do them here, because getting that kind of chain and completing bounty 75 can get you the Stun Supporter role, which gives ordinary attacks a chance of stunning enemies. Meanwhile, finishing bounty 99 and using items 500 times in battles over time will give you Item Expender, which reduces cooldown after using an item in a fight. Things that would be boring otherwise, perhaps even ignored, take on greater meaning.
So do private actions. Star Ocean has long offered players the opportunity to bond with party members in towns via Private Actions. These are more appealing when related to characters you actually life. Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness makes each of these an eagerly anticipated event. Seeing “Happy Together” with Relia in the eighth chapter gives an Equal Opportunist role that removes buffs from yourself and the enemy you’re facing with a normal attack. Making this memory not only helps you appreciate the characters more and learn more about them, but makes your party more capable.