Stranger Of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin Review (PS5) – A Perfect Example Of Gameplay That Triumphs Over The Sum Of Its Parts
Stranger from Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin PS5 Review – The origin of Final Fantasy, or in this case the first Final Fantasy, should have been an exciting undertaking for fans of the franchise. Instead, the story of Stranger of Paradise is so bonkers that I hope the origin of Final Fantasy’s main antagonist, Garland, isn’t officially tied to the story here. Fortunately, Stranger of Paradise is the perfect example of a game where its gameplay is far greater than the sum of all its parts.
Stranger from Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin PS5 Review
A Final Fantasy with a sometimes laughable forgettable narrative
Stranger of Paradise begins with a fantastic opening cutscene that sees Garland slaughter soldiers as they attempt to defeat him. It’s a violent and bloody affair that sets the tone for what I hoped would be a solid origin story. I was wrong.
The main cast, consisting of Jack, Jed, and Ash, reunites outside of Cornelia’s kingdom. They meet for the first time and discover that the three of them carry crystals and believe that they are the Warriors of Light.
This simple interaction automatically makes them best friends and comrades. This is the biggest problem with the game’s overall story: Jack and his party members are one-dimensional characters. As the story progresses, you see some decent glimmers of characterization, but they’re rare.
It also doesn’t help that the game’s dialogue looks like it was written by multiple people with different writing techniques. The characters seem emotional and buoyant at one point, while the scene that plays out right after is quite the opposite.
The big problem with Jack is that he’s one of the most insufferable characters I’ve seen in a long time. Most of his dialogue involves him moaning or ignoring what someone is saying unless he’s talking about Chaos.
Things pick up in the final third of the game, however, and the story shows glimpses of something great like FFXV did before much of its story was cut. I can’t say if the same thing happened with Stranger of Paradise, but the last third of the game tells a better story than the first twenty hours.
Borrowing from the best doesn’t always pay off
What was built as a “Soulslike” Final Fantasy game, none of the soulslike mechanics actually remained. Stranger of Paradise is more like Nioh and its combat than anything else. Those who were hesitant to hear about the game’s difficulty can rest easy as Stranger of Paradise offers different difficulty settings to help everyone enjoy the game.
Combat is where Stranger of Paradise shines and its only saving grace. The action combat is fun and fluid, and the job system adds enough variety to keep it entertaining, especially on the harder difficulties. Those who played the original Stranger of Paradise demo last year will notice that many mechanics have been changed or completely removed in the final version.
Leveling up is done explicitly through the game’s gear and loot system. You don’t increase any of your party members’ attributes; instead, you improve your work. Another aspect that makes combat so fun is the job system.
Leveling up various jobs and unlocking new skills and abilities is a blast. I was quickly driven to find the job that suited me best and to improve as many positions as possible.
The games loot and job system gives you plenty of customization options
Stranger of Paradis has a whole looting mechanic. You will collect hundreds of pieces of gear and weapons from missions, and some of these pieces of gear will have increased affinity for a specific job.
The higher your affinity, the faster you can upgrade a job and even gain boosts like increased attack damage. What’s even better is that certain gear will provide affinity for jobs you may not even be using, allowing you to upgrade a job without ever having to use it.
The amount of loot you collect can be overwhelming, and constantly cycling through your gear every time you grab something new and equip it between three party members gets tedious very quickly. This led me to use the gear optimization feature to allow the game to equip the best gear based on the job I’m currently using.
A great fight that is not only fun, but addictive and strategic
The combat is great fun; the working system helps keep it fresh. It becomes essential to take advantage of the enemy types you face and take advantage of their weaknesses on higher difficulties. MP is probably the most important thing to pay attention to during combat, as MP allows you to take advantage of your unique skills, such as a dragon jumping ability.
Magic users burn MP as you would expect. There are no items to restore MP, and the only way to recover them is to fight and run finishers. The finishers are pretty huge and brutal to watch, but get old fast because they’re so repetitive. Unfortunately, executions are the best and fastest way to regain your MP.
One thing that can make the game easy or difficult for you is the break gauge. Every enemy has one, and if you manage to break it, you can perform an execution. This is great because you can smash an enemy that may have 80% health remaining and finish them off.
The best piece? It even works on bosses. Come to think of it, I defeated a boss after breaking his gauge while he was still over half health and ended up beating him.
The damage done to the break gauge depends on the skills you use and the jobs you use. Mage is a great way to deplete the Break Gauge when attacking an opponent’s weakness.
I wish there was more than one enemy variety in Stranger of Paradise. With so many historical enemies in the franchise, I was expecting a much bigger variant. Most of the enemies are just re-skinned enemies you’ve faced before and don’t do much different. The skeleton you faced at the start of the game won’t be much different from the dark skeleton you’ll face later on.
Locations inspired by old Final Fantasy titles are a nice touch
Stranger of Paradise is a mission based game. So you’ll enter missions through the world map, each equipped with a recommended level of gear, so you know how difficult a mission will be. One notable aspect of the various locations you visit is that Final Fantasy fans will recognize the areas you see in the original game, as well as some of the characters you encounter in those areas.
The big difference is that they are not based on their Final Fantasy design, but rather inspired by other Final Fantasy games.
The locations are inspired by various titles in the franchise like Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy III, and even a Mako Reactor from Final Fantasy VII. However, not every game is featured, which is a shame as it would have been the perfect celebration of the franchise’s best.
While I loved the callback to previous games, not all locations are on the same level. Some locations are linear all the way, while others have branching paths and leave lots of open areas to explore.
Some good music tracks can’t help the ugly visuals and terrible script
The Stranger of Paradise soundtrack is pretty random. I enjoyed most of the score, especially the mixdown to make some songs more retro, but others just don’t fit the script. I mean, I really shouldn’t hear techno music when I’m exploring a forest. Elsewhere, the voice acting is also bad, but that’s mainly down to the writing.
Graphically, Stranger of Paradise is ugly. It’s not a pretty game at all. While the character models and bosses are great, the rest of the game is terrible on almost every level. The textures look muddy and the lighting is so dark I could hardly see anything in some missions. It’s just not a pretty game in any way.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin should have been a great game. Yet, it’s held together somewhat by its fun combat and job system. Still, with so much potential, I expected so much more from the game.
When the credits rolled, and I noticed there were four different directors, I wondered if they had a clash of ideas. All in all, if Stranger of Paradise didn’t have the Final Fantasy name, you’d probably think it was an indie title made on a budget.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin will be released on PS5, PS4, PC, Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One on March 18, 2022.
Revision code provided by PR.