Date: October 11, 2021
When the first trial for Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin was released, I unfortunately didn’t have a PS5 at the time to try it out. So this second trial was my first time trying out the game, and I was very impressed with it, wishing I had more time to spend playing it. Final Fantasy Origins is a collaboration between Square Enix and Team Ninja (known for games like the Ninja Gaiden series and Nioh), to bring us something new for the series, which is a game with mechanics and difficulty similar to a Souls like game. While the idea of combining Final Fantasy and Soulslike sounds bizarre, so far the game is doing a great job blending the two together.
The gameplay has many of the things you would expect from a Souls game, but with a Final Fantasy twist. You have your standard dodging and blocking, as well as normal and heavy attacks (though these cost MP to use). Healing comes in the form of Potions, of which you are given a limited amount. The game lacks a map, meaning you will have to explore and memorize the layout, which is normal for these kinds of games (but not for Final Fantasy titles). You will find Cubes as you explore which act as campfires, where you will recover all HP/MP and restore your Potions. This of course causes enemies to respawn, as is standard in Soulslikes.
There are noticeable things missing as well. For one, there is no weight limit in this game, so there is no hassling with your inventory to keep your weight low. There is also no stamina in the game, meaning you will be able to attack continuously. Instead of stamina, there are the Soul Shield and Break Gauge, which are important mechanics in the game.
Both you and your enemies have a Break Gauge, which is represented by a yellow bar. As you attack an enemy, their Break Gauge will deplete, and when you bring it down completely, you are able to finish it off. Keeping pressure on enemies keeps the bar from regenerating, so this encourages a more aggressive gameplay style. Keep in mind that since you have this bar too, you can also get broken, which leaves you temporarily paralyzed and wide open to an attack. You can also use some of your Break Gauge to block with a Soul Shield. Blocking this way will restore your MP (used for heavy attacks and abilities), give you a chance to counter, and sometimes even use the ability you blocked yourself.
Helping to give the game more of a Final Fantasy feel, Stranger of Paradise features an extensive Job system. The trial features 14 playable Jobs, though not all of them are immediately available. You unlock basic Jobs by finding a new weapon type (finding a spear will give you access to Lancer for example). Each Job features a skill tree, which you can progress through as you level it. The trees unlock things such as abilities, passive enhancements, and even access to new Jobs (called Advanced Jobs). You are able to pick two Jobs to swap between freely in battle, and give each one its own set of equipment. With all of the possible Job combinations even in just the demo, there’s a high level of customization available in this game.
Final Fantasy Origins has three difficulties you can choose from: Story (easy), Action (normal), and Hard. I played through it in Action mode, and while it wasn’t quite as difficult as a Souls game, the challenge is definitely there. Bosses are relentless and require you to observe their moves and figure out when to attack, and even groups of regular enemies can swarm and overwhelm you if you’re too reckless. The difficulty can be changed at any time, so if you’re not enjoying the challenge, or you want a harder experience, you will be able to make that adjustment to enhance your playthrough.
The trial gives you access to two areas after a short tutorial, the Chaos Shrine and Refrin Wetlands. All of the environments are beautiful, and the areas are completely unique to each other. Enemy designs are great and look fitting for a Souls game, but remain faithful to their classic Final Fantasy designs. The music is great and helps enhance the experience as you’re exploring and fighting, and they even use some music from the original Final Fantasy.
The story in the trial is fairly thin. We see Jack and company trying to find Chaos in the Chaos Shrine, and in the Refrin Wetlands, the group discusses the possibility of him existing with newcomer Neon. The story structure for the game seems to be based on doing missions, and there will be side quests available in the full version of the game.
While some people may be turned off by the darker tone of this game, so far there is plenty here to appease both Final Fantasy and Souls fans. The challenging gameplay mixed with RPG elements make for a great combination, and the difficulty options make this game a great way for people new to these types of games to pick it up. I’m excited for the full release of Stranger of Paradise, and am looking forward to seeing what else the game has in store.