As a long-time Final Fantasy fan, I had to try out the Stranger of Paradise demo on PS5 to see what the action heavy game could mean for the future.
E3 2021 has come and gone. This year, it brought with it the most surprising new game from Square Enix. The publisher ended their show with a darker, bloodier, and angrier Final Fantasy game called Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.
Along with this announcement, Square Enix and developer Team Ninja released a demo for players to preview this “new vision for Final Fantasy”. This is our review of that demo.
Soulsborne Meets Final Fantasy
In the demo, you play as Jack alongside his two companions Ash and Jed. The trio is on a mission to kill Chaos because…Chaos is bad? The motivation behind killing Chaos or their anger toward it isn’t touched on at all in the demo. Nevertheless, the trio enter a castle where they believe Chaos to reside and take on a number of dark and formidable enemies both new and familiar to the Final Fantasy series.
As many suspected, everything about Stranger of Paradise has a Soulsborne feel to it. From the gothic art style, to the relentless boss fights, and the repercussions of dying. Yet, somehow it still maintains the essence of a Final Fantasy game through combat, sequences, and the personality of its characters.
The combat style of Stranger of Paradise feels vastly different from prior Final Fantasy games. To start, the game utilizes a real-time, free motion combat style. This is something the franchise has adopted since Final Fantasy XII, but what makes Stranger of Paradise different is it doesn’t have ANY sort of turn-based RPG mechanic at all. What I mean by that is that there is no quick menu to choose what ability or magic you want to use. Rather, players have to input the right combination of buttons to enact abilities. It’s a much faster combat pacing than we’re used to.
Speaking of abilities, the demo doesn’t give you an option to use your companion’s abilities. In fact, while your companions are somewhat effective, you can’t control them, establish presets, or really do anything expect waste a potion on them when they’ve fallen. They essentially become human shields in more difficult situations, and I hope they add more to companions overall in the full game.
As for things you can control, the game allows players to swiftly switch between weapons and their associated classes seamlessly in battle. It’s not just weaponry that switches, however, it’s all of the armor you have equipped while that weapon and class was equipped. Therefore, players can create specific builds to benefit specific class types.
Stranger of Paradise also has two different forms of blocking. These are going to have to be your best friend if you want to survive; because it’s not easy. First, you have your standard weapon block that will defend against any attack, but still gets you with minor damage. There is also break gauge where, if broken, will stun you for a little while.
Then, there’s a blocking mechanic specifically to stop and absorbs magic. This block has to be used at exactly the right time to avoid damage and send it back at enemies. It’s highly effective but also annoying because it’s locked to the ‘O’ button and I’m so used to that being evade. I often found myself trying to block when I meant to evade.
Much like Soulsborne games, Stranger of Paradise is very unforgiving. You’re going to die a lot. This is especially true against the final boss of the demo: Garland/Chaos. When you die, the game removes a portion of the MP gauge you have built up. Thankfully, unlike Soulsborne games, it’s much easier to build it back up through further combat and blocking magic.
Enemies are relentless. In the fight against Garland, he barely gives you much room to breath when you first approach him. It requires a ton of patience and strategizing (using the right weapon classes at different moments) to eventually take him down. That said, it still requires a lot of grind just to get to a point where you can defeat Garland.
Hungry For More
In all my years of gaming and demo coverage, I’ve never experienced a demo that required grind. From the looks of it, that’s what we can expect when Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin releases. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but certainly different from what many of us have come to expect from the RPG series.
Overall, though, I am intrigued by this new vision for Final Fantasy. It’s challenging, fast-paced, and features a lot of innovative combat mechanics and concepts. That said, I hope it doesn’t become the standard for Final Fantasy games going forward but as more of a separate entity (or even spin-off) for Soulsborne fans to enjoy. That way, Square Enix can have a Final Fantasy for everyone.
The Stranger of Paradise trial is available on PlayStation 5 until Thursday, June 24th, so be sure to download it now if you haven’t already.