Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin PS5 Review – The Origin of Final Fantasy, or in this case the first Final Fantasy, should have been an exciting endeavour for fans of the franchise. Instead, Stranger of Paradise’s story is so bonkers that I hope that the origin of Final Fantasy’s main antagonist Garland isn’t officially linked to the story here. Thankfully Stranger of Paradise is the perfect example of a game where its gameplay heavily outweighs the sum of all its parts.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin PS5 Review
A Final Fantasy With A Forgettable Sometimes Laughable Narrative
Stranger of Paradise starts with a fantastic opening cutscene that sees Garland massacring soldiers as they try to defeat him. It’s a violent and bloody affair that sets the mood for what I hoped would be a solid origins story. I was wrong.
The main cast, consisting of Jack, Jed, and Ash come together outside the Cornelia Kingdom. They meet each other for the first time and find out the three of them carry crystals and believe they are the fated 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 glimmers of decent characterization, but it’s few and far between.
It also doesn’t help that the game’s dialogue seems to have been written by multiple people with various writing techniques. The characters seem emotional and carrying at one point, while the scene that plays right after is the complete 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 groaning or ignoring what anyone is saying unless they’re talking about Chaos.
Things get better in the last third of the game, though, and the story shows glimpses of something great much like FFXV did before so 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 Big
What was built as a “Soulslike” Final Fantasy game, none of the soulslike mechanics have actually remained. Stranger of Paradise is more akin to Nioh and its combat than anything else. Those who shied away from hearing about the game’s difficulty can rest easy as Stranger of Paradise has various 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 harder difficulties. Those who played the original Stranger of Paradise demo last year will notice a lot of the mechanics have been changed or completely removed in the final build.
Levelling up is explicitly done through the game’s gear and loot system. You don’t level up any of your party members’ attributes; instead, you level up your job. The job system is another aspect that makes the combat so fun.
Levelling up various jobs and unlocking new skills and abilities is a blast. I was quickly drawn to finding the job that best suited me and levelling up as many of the jobs as I possibly could.
The Games Loot And Job System Give You Plenty Of Customization Options
Stranger of Paradis has a whole looter mechanic. You’ll pick up hundreds of pieces of gear and weapons from missions, and some of these pieces of equipment will have an affinity boost for a specific job.
The higher your affinity, the faster you can level up a job and even gain boosts like increased attack damage. What’s even better is that some of the gear will provide affinity for jobs you may not even be using, allowing you to level up a job without ever having to use it.
The amount of loot you collect can be overwhelming, and constantly going through your gear every time you pick up something new and equipping it between three party members gets tiresome very quickly. It 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.
Great Combat That’s Not Only Fun But Addicting And Strategic
Combat is great fun; the job system helps keep it fresh. It becomes essential to take advantage of the types of enemies you face off against and take advantage of their weaknesses on higher difficulties. MP is probably the most important thing to pay attention to during combat because MP allows you to pull off your unique skills, such as a Dragoons Jump ability.
Magic users burn through MP as you would expect. There aren’t any items to restore MP, and the only way to gain it back is through combat and executing finishers. The finishers are pretty tremendous and brutal to watch but get old quick since 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. Each enemy has one, and if you’re able to break it, you’ll be able to perform an execution. This is great because you can break an enemy that may have 80% of its health remaining and finish them off.
The best bit? It even works on bosses. Come to think of it, I defeated a boss after breaking their gauge when they still had over half their health and ended up beating them.
Damage to the break gauge depends on the skills you use and the jobs you utilize. Mage is a great way to deplete the break gauge as it attacks an opponent’s weakness.
I wish there were more of an enemy variety in Stranger of Paradise. With so many historical enemies in the franchise, I expected a much bigger variant. Most enemies are just reskinned foes you faced before and don’t do much of anything different. The skeleton you faced at the start of the game won’t play much different from the dark skeleton you face later on.
Locations Inspired By Past Final Fantasy Titles Are A Nice Touch
Stranger of Paradise is a mission-based game. So, you’ll enter missions through the world map, with each one equipped with a recommended gear level, so you’ll know just how hard a mission will be. A remarkable aspect of the various locations you visit is that fans of Final Fantasy will recognize the areas you see in the original game, as well as some of the characters you encounter in these areas.
The big difference is they aren’t based on their design from Final Fantasy but instead are inspired by other Final Fantasy games.
Locations are inspired by various titles throughout the franchise like Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy III, and even a Mako reactor from Final Fantasy VII. Not every game is featured, though, which is a shame since it would have been the perfect celebration of the best of the franchise.
Though I loved the call back to previous games, not every location is on the same level. Some locations are linear to a tee, while others have branching paths and leave a lot 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 hit and miss. I enjoyed most of the score, especially the mix to make some of the songs sound more retro, but others just don’t fit the scenario. I mean, I really shouldn’t be hearing techno music when I’m exploring a forest. Elsewhere, Voice acting is also bad, but that’s mostly because of the writing.
Graphically, Stranger of Paradise is ugly. It’s not a pretty game at all. Though the character models and bosses look great, the rest of the game is terrible on almost every level. Textures look muddy, and the lighting is so dark I could hardly see anything in some missions. This is just not a pretty game in any way.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin should have been a great game. Still, it’s held together somewhat by its fun combat and job system. Still, with so much potential, I expected a lot more from the game.
When the credits rolled, and I noticed that it had four different directors, I had to wonder if they had a clash of ideas. Overall, if Stranger of Paradise didn’t have the Final Fantasy name attached to it, you would probably just think it was an indie title made on a budget.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin releases PS5, PS4, PC, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One on March 18, 2022.
Review code provided by PR.