Stranger Of Paradise Review: Seeing Final Fantasy In Another Light. In this Stranger Of Paradise Review, we’re going to dive into the upcoming Action RPG, which is a reimagination of what happened in the original Final Fantasy 1 game. Stranger Of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin features familiar mechanics that fans of the Final Fantasy franchise will immediately recognize but this isn’t the game’s only selling point. In fact, it’s developed by Team Ninja, who are known for their popular Soulslike title, the Nioh Series. Is the game ultimately worth getting on March 18, 2022? We’ll answer this question and more!
Stranger Of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is developed by Team Ninja and published by Square Enix. The game will be available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
Stranger Of Paradise Review: Final Fantasy In Another Light
- Genre: Action RPG
- Developed by: Team Ninja
- Published by: Square Enix
- Release date: March 18th, 2022
- Platforms: PC (Code Provided by Square Enix), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
- Price at the time of review: 59.99 USD
Stranger Of Paradise Review: Story and Setting
Stranger of Paradise takes place in the same timeframe as Final Fantasy 1. If you’ve played this, then you’ll feel nostalgic when you come across Characters you’ve met before. There are also notable Locations or dungeons such as the Chaos Shrine, which is the very first dungeon in Final Fantasy, as well as the Kingdom of Cornelia. But don’t expect to experience the exact storyline since this iteration takes on a much darker tone and there are key details that differentiate it from its predecessor. If you’re on the other side of the camp and Stranger of Paradise is your introduction to Final Fantasy, then you’re in for a treat! The game isn’t confusing so you won’t be left out as a player.
In Stranger of Paradise, you mainly play as Jack together with your companions. As a group, you’re known as the Warriors of Light whose ultimate goal is to defeat the enigmatic Chaos, the villain in the first game, and the darkness he brings forth. Right from the get-go, Jack is accompanied by Ash and Jed but as you progress further you’ll meet other characters who have the same mission as yours. Now, these warriors carry dark crystals, which represent the four basic elements of life, namely, fire, wind, earth, and water. According to a prophecy, and on top of hunting down Chaos, they must come together to convert these from darkness to light.
Doing so will cleanse the people of Cornelia and eventually bring about peace in the kingdom. However, this task isn’t simple. In fact, Strangers as they are called, have perished on several missions while searching for these crystals. As a result, their loved ones who are left behind, can’t help but sow hatred and disdain to those around them. Can Jack and the three warriors restore hope in the hearts of the many? Or will they also succumb to the chaos that awaits?
The story of Stranger of Paradise is uneven because the dialogue can become cheesy and cliche at times but it does get better when you progress further. This is the case when you start unlocking memories of the fallen Strangers, which also lets you gain access to side missions. Upon completion, you not only level up your Jobs and acquire better equipment but you also unlock Jack’s memories, thereby granting additional combat maneuvers. Furthermore, there are lore notes such as Fool’s Missives to expand the story by providing details on the locations you explore and the bosses you go up against.
Similar to the other Final Fantasy games, you won’t be able to make choices in conversations to change an outcome or relationship with another character. Rather, everything is linearly presented to you when you move from one dungeon or mission to the next via the World Map. Reaching certain milestones such as defeating bosses will unlock cinematics to move the plot forward. Moreover, the exploration part of the game isn’t striking in any way. Finding your way from point A to point B is the goal for every new location you venture into.
Sure there are secret passages here and there and sometimes, you have to go back to where you initially came from. But apart from these, I didn’t feel the need to revisit and redo a mission simply because I felt attached to it. You go there, complete the mission, and more importantly, acquire amazing loot.
Lastly, character development isn’t as immersive and emotional in Stranger of Paradise so much so that Jack’s interaction with the rest of the cast could definitely be improved. However, the game makes a strong comeback when it comes to the gameplay and Combat, which I’ll be discussing next.
Stranger Of Paradise Review: Gameplay and Combat
Stranger of Paradise doesn’t have a Character Creation menu and instead, you’re catapulted into the world right after your first encounter with Tiamat. In the bright open fields, which is also known as A Desperate Struggle Mission, you’re taught the basics of combat and the ways to wield your Weapons correctly. Note that you can keep going back to this practice area every time you discover a new type of weapon to learn its corresponding playstyle.
Stranger of Paradise Review: Jobs, Skills, and Character Customization
What makes Stranger of Paradise incredibly exciting and fresh are the numerous jobs and skills that you have at your disposal. In fact, in the first few missions of the game, I couldn’t help but try out these jobs every time I picked up a new weapon. Who doesn’t want to immediately become a menacing Ronin who slaughters enemies up close? Or what about a destructible Mage with the advantage of dealing ranged damage?
There are so many possibilities and Builds you can come up with considering that you can equip two jobs at the same time. There are approximately 30 classes comprised of Basic, Advanced, and Expert Jobs. The way this system works is you’re able to freely swap between them depending on the type of weapon you wield. For instance, if you wish to become a Samurai, you must equip a Katana.
Swapping jobs is Nioh’s equivalent of the Combat Stance System in that you can completely change your playstyle depending on the classes you choose. Essentially, you’re able to cast spells and deal Magic Damage on one hand and then slash enemies up close to inflict Physical Damage on the other.
In order to level up the associated Job Trees of these classes, you’re going to have to wear their respective gear in fights as well as attack and slay enemies with them. If you’re trying to become a Warrior, you’ll have to unlock this Advanced Job for both the Swordsman and Ronin Trees so you should opt to fight with the Greatsword and Katana, respectively, while equipping Armor tied to their affinities. The higher your job level is, the greater your job points will be. These points can then be spent on passives to enhance your damage on top of active Abilities to learn new and deadlier moves.
Note that you’re not limited to investing in every node before you can unlock a new job. Stranger of Paradise features a flexible system in which you can skip a node even if it’s connected to the one you’ve been meaning to get. So you can opt not to maximize the level of say, the Lancer before you can become a Dragoon or Monk. As such, you’ll be able to gain access to Advanced Jobs much quicker, allowing for better specialization and combo abilities.
Stranger of Paradise Review: Combat and Difficulty
Stranger of Paradise’s combat is exhilaratingly fun and challenging without being painful. Despite comparisons to Soulslike titles, it’s still more forgiving and accessible than games like Nioh and Bloodborne, for example. The main reason for this is that progression carries over even after death. So there’s no currency such as the Amrita or Souls to chase after, which means that you’re not at their mercy to improve your Attributes. Instead, you have to rely on farming for better gear and investing in job nodes.
This isn’t to say that combat is easy nor average either, especially when facing brutal bosses. In these cases, you have to study their movements while being quick on your feet, otherwise, you’ll go down in a matter of seconds.
Similar to Nioh, there are rest spots called Cubes, which let you restore your HP, MP, and health potions. This also results in enemies respawning so if you have to go back to where you came from, you’ll need to face them once again.
In encounters, you can evade, guard, parry, and counter incoming attacks as many times as you want because there’s no stamina bar to manage. Instead, you need to be cautious about your Break Gauge, which works similar to how it does in Nioh. If you’ve been attacked multiple times and in quick succession, resulting in a completely depleted Break Gauge, you’ll be immobile for a couple of seconds and your max MP will plummet.
This makes you extremely vulnerable to attacks, especially against highly agile creatures, and it can lead to your downfall. While the Break Gauge of your first job restores over time, you can swap to your second job, which starts with a full Break Gauge of its own.
In Stranger of Paradise, enemies also have to be aware of their Break Gauge. Attack them enough using the right types of weapons consisting of high Break Damage and you will have exhausted their gauge. Broken enemies, may they be mobs or bosses, can be immediately executed with style thanks to Soul Burst even if their HP still amounts to more than half. Doing so not only raises your max MP but also restores a portion of it. MP is an essential resource you’ll be relying on to be able to execute powerful abilities, which I’ll be discussing next.
Combo and Instant Abilities
There are four different types of abilities that are well implemented in the game – you have job, Combo, Command, and instant abilities. For every class, there’s one distinct Job Ability that they specialize in. For instance, Warriors can briefly heal themselves while instantly damaging enemies by roaring out into the open with War Cry.
Combo Abilities are moves that are unlocked via Job Trees and can be executed by combining your Basic Attacks and Job Ability. What Team Ninja does incredibly well with these is that the R1/R2 buttons always stay the same regardless of your class so you don’t need to relearn them every time you change playstyles, resulting in a smoother overall experience.
Command Abilities, on the other hand, are usually comprised of enhancements to help you survive on the battlefield or to weaken enemies further. Examples include restoring your HP based on the damage you’ve inflicted as well as poisoning creatures when they get persistently hit by a venomous weapon. All of these three abilities will heavily consume MP so you have to keep chipping away at their Break Gauge and then execute Soul Burst once it has been fully depleted to restore MP.
To make combat much more in-depth than it already is, Stranger of Paradise also features Instant Abilities, which gives enemies a taste of their own medicine. Instant Abilities are skills that you steal from them. What happens is you counter their attack and stagger them in the process with Soul Shield. Afterward, you automatically learn the same skill that these enemies have just used against you. Note, however, that even if Instant Abilities don’t consume MP, they’re limited to a certain number so you need to keep using Soul Shield to maintain an ample supply.
Companions and Difficulty
In Stranger of Paradise, Jack will be accompanied by Ash and Jed, followed by Neon in the first 2 hours of the game. For starters, each companion has 1 job but upon progressing in the story, they’ll be able to individually take on another job. In combat, only two can assist you but you can freely swap among them at rest points or via the World Map. Unlike Jack, they don’t have Combo Abilities that you can tweak or skills to invest in as they’ll level up and develop on their own. However, you’re able to change their weapons and armor.
With companions, I do wish that players have more agency beyond commanding them to utilize their abilities. It would’ve been excellent if we could cycle through these ourselves, similar to how it’s been done in other Final Fantasy games.
When it comes to difficulty, fans of Soulslike titles and the Final Fantasy series will have their ways of playing the game. There are three modes to choose from – story, action, and hard. You may change the difficulty before you start a mission or when you approach rest points. Although remember that once the mission has begun, you won’t be able to increase the difficulty anymore. Instead, you have to go back to the World Map to do so.
Stranger of Paradise Review: Equipment and Upgrades
The last section that I’d like to cover under Gameplay and Combat in this Stranger of Paradise Review is the equipment and upgrades. As mentioned earlier, you’ll be able to gather rewards in the form of weapons and armor while killing enemies, looting chests, and completing missions. Like in Nioh, there are multiple equipment rarities including yellow, green, and purple with the latter possessing the better job affinity bonuses available.
When you wear gear with corresponding job affinities, you unlock bonuses that can improve your job. For instance, if you’re a Marauder, and you reach a total of 80% affinity, then you automatically gain access to Marauder’s Wisdom III, granting additional HP, Strength, and Stamina. You don’t necessarily just equip gear at higher levels because it’s vital to inspect their rarities and job affinities as well.
In terms of upgrades, be sure to visit Cornelia under the World Map, and then select the Smithy. Here, you’ll be able to dismantle equipment you don’t need and you’ll receive materials in return. These will then allow you to upgrade the gear’s effects. It’s a pretty straightforward way to improve your most prized items, considering that these effects are the same for every kind of weapon and armor.
Stranger Of Paradise Review: Audio, Visual, and Design
When it comes to Stranger of Paradise’s audio, you’ll be listening to a wonderful soundtrack, tugging between hope and despair, with impeccable and weighty sound effects to go along with it. This comes as no surprise since the lead composer is Naoshi Mizuta has also composed music for Final Fantasy XI and most notably, XIV. The level of dedication and beauty when fighting against the forces of Chaos is heard through the heart-pounding music and sound effects. And it becomes much more enthralling and recognizable if you’re a fan of any Final Fantasy game.
Meanwhile, the voice acting in Japan is also decent as the emotions of the characters are conveyed in a natural and convincing manner. For the English version, and similar to the way the game’s story is told, it gets better over time.
I wish I could say the same in terms of the games’ graphical fidelity and optimization, however. Graphics-wise, Stranger of Paradise can be improved given how grainy some of the location and character textures are. The lighting and color schemes are also uneven, making scenes, which should look eventful, fall short of the original intent. Additionally, I encountered hiccups as my framerate continued to dip even in cutscenes. I’m hoping that Team Ninja will improve optimization and enhance the graphics shortly after the launch. Thankfully though, I’ve never encountered any bugs, either game-breaking or minor ones, throughout my playthrough.
Replayability and Pricepoint
Stranger of Paradise can take about 40 hours to complete if you also do the side missions. Note that this doesn’t take into account the highest difficulty mode as well as the numerous builds you can experiment with that goes to show how replayable the game truly is. Plus, there’s also a multiplayer option, which lets you play with two other friends. In this mode, you can create your own room or search for a room of your liking. You can also set the difficulty and preferred missions if you and your friends are farming specific gear sets.
Stranger of Paradise is priced at USD 59.99, which is a tad bit overpriced if you consider the game’s scale and size since it’s not as massive as the other Soulslike games and RPGs of recent memory. However, if you’re a fan of Final Fantasy and Soulslike titles, then this shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
Stranger of Paradise is a welcome addition to the list of growing Final Fantasy series. Not only does it manage to spin the franchise in a different light, but it successfully introduces in-depth gameplay and combat mechanics that fans of Soulslike games will also appreciate. The hard difficulty mode is certainly the type of challenge that they’re clamoring for given how tough and intense the bosses are.
Stranger of Paradise is also flexible, allowing it to cater to a wide audience. It’s a highly exhilarating and fun game with encounters that will continue to keep your heart racing. There’s also no shortage of playstyles to experiment with given how straightforward the systems in place are.