|Platforms||PC, PS4, PS5|
Team Ninja is no stranger to developing Souls-like games or Final Fantasy titles. They created Nioh and its sequel, as well as Dissidia: Final Fantasy NT. Here, they brought both experiences together, while throwing in some influence from other franchises as well. So, let’s look at how well they did.
Language: You will hear a**, d***, s***, and h*** frequently, as well as occasional uses of b*****d, and one use of f***.
Violence: As with all Final Fantasy games, the action is very stylized. However, unlike most entries in the franchise, it’s quite bloody. The opening cinematic in particular doesn’t shy away from it. In battle, blood stains your clothes and weapons for a time. However, you can turn the blood off in the settings.
Spiritual Content: Crystals are considered divine. There are occasional parallels with Buddhist philosophies.
The opening cinematic is easily the best and most exciting beginning I’ve seen in a while. I never played the original Final Fantasy 1, so this is my first exposure to anything related to this story. I intend to play the first Final Fantasy now.
After the cutscene, the game takes a Final Fantasy XV turn by putting you straight into a boss battle. It serves as a glimpse of what you will face a bit later in the game. In a way, it acts as its own spoiler.
I find the beginning to be quite funny in a very nerdy way. The game’s story revolves around Jack’s obsession with killing Chaos. Then the first thing you do after the opening cinematic is kill the monster Tiamat. In ancient Mesopotamian religion, the dragon Tiamat was the symbol of chaos.
Immediately after that first battle, the game takes you through a combat tutorial. Enemies spawn and you must follow the on-screen prompts in order to continue. It’s very reminiscent of how Team Ninja covered combat in Nioh.
The dialogue can be a little cheesy at times, but it’s also done in a way that doesn’t detract from the game. It’s like the developers knew it’s kind of goofy, and embraced it rather than try too hard to take it seriously.
The character development is impressive. Jack isn’t the most likable protagonist at the beginning, but his character develops well. Even still, I’m a bigger fan of the supporting cast, particularly Jed and Ash. Of all the characters you encounter, the dark elf Astos is my personal favorite.
Overall, the combat has the difficulty of Dark Souls, but it feels more like God of War (2018). Just like in these games, Stranger of Paradise has heavy and light attacks, both of which feel more influenced by God of War than Dark Souls. To further drive home the God of War influence, once you stagger an enemy, you can immediately finish them with a cinematic kill in Kratos-style brutality.
Jobs play a major role in combat. Swordsman and Mage are two of the basic ones you have from the beginning, and as you progress, you unlock more advanced jobs like Samurai and Dark Knight. When you level up, you obtain points to upgrade your skills in each class. Doing so grants you more abilities. You’re allowed to have two jobs equipped at any given time, and you can switch between them at will. Outside of battle, you can change which ones are equipped from the menu.
One thing I really appreciate about the combat is how strategically it forces you to play. You can’t easily just play through everything as one job; you have to mix it up to adapt to the various kinds of enemies. Picking just one job and expecting to bludgeon your way through the game won’t end well. Doing so may be possible, but it makes the game harder than it needs to be.
The difficulty isn’t the only thing Stranger of Paradise shares with Dark Souls. Checkpoints are cubes that, as you approach, transform into spheres. Resting at one replenishes your HP and potions, and respawns the enemies in the area. Dying brings you back to the last rest point.
Your gear is the primary factor in changing your stats. Each piece of gear tends to be better suited to one job or another and affects your stats accordingly. For example, some pieces will decrease your physical strength, but increase the strength of your magic. Others increase your HP while decreasing your magic defense. You have to be as strategic with your gear as with the jobs you’ve equipped.
I find the lack of variety in weapons to be disappointing. Enemies drop weapons and gear constantly; sometimes it’s better than what you already have, and oftentimes it’s equal or lesser. But I amassed dozens of weapons for each job, and while the weapons were unique to each job, I inevitably ended up with a ton of the same sword appearance with different stats. I would have liked different looks to the greatswords and spears, as previous Final Fantasy games have done. Fortunately, the outfits make up for what the weapons lack in variety. My favorite look is the “savage” armor set.
The game is chapter–based, which makes it very linear. It’s formulaic in that you fight your way through each chapter until you reach the end and fight the chapter boss. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a bit of a letdown if you go into it expecting an open world to explore at your leisure.
Once you finish a chapter, you have the option to either continue to the next chapter or complete a side mission in the area of the chapter you just finished. Each chapter and side mission provide recommended levels for both you and your equipment. As far as I can tell, the side missions have no bearing on the story, but they do grant you more experience and better gear.
Boss battles are where the game becomes punishing. Luckily, if/when you die, orbs containing tips for fighting them appear outside the entrance to the battle. They disappear after reading them, so make sure to pay attention to what they say.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is great spinoff. It’s not the most spectacular entry in the franchise, but it’s well worth the time. If you’re a fan of action RPGs, you can’t go wrong with this one.
The Bottom Line
Stranger of Paradise is a great choice for anyone who enjoys Action RPGs and Souls-likes.