Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin Xbox Series X Review

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is a mixed bag of highs and lows that collide together for an average adventure.

By Grayshadow, Posted 18 Mar 2022

When a game bears the Final Fantasy name many will expect high standards. Unfortunately, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin falls somewhere between poor and average. A narrative meant for veteran fans of the franchise and a combat system with incredible potential but due to certain choices in the game's design falls short in many areas. Repetitive dungeons with little variety, lack of connection between the characters, and a painfully mediocre exploration system heavily hamper the experience. The multiplayer option is a lot of fun but doesn't add much to overall replayability. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin had a lot of potentials but due to questionable decisions this is an adventure only for the most dedicated of fans.
 

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Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin stars Jack and the Warriors of Light. These legendary soldiers are meant to destroy Chaos and activate the crystals to save Coneria from Darkness. The core of the adventure focuses on the warriors facing against friends who have taken the crystals for themselves and restored the light for the people. The story is comical at the beginning, with the memes about characters constantly stating Chaos being spot on. It's during the final 3 missions of the game that the narrative truly picks up. Offering huge revelations that veteran fans of the Final Fantasy franchise will appreciate.

This is a problem as Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin falls into the problematic hole of things getting better as you play towards the end. The narrative is lacking during the first 80% of this 20-hour game as you just fight through waves of enemies with single-minded goals. The main character Jack is fully aware of this, dismissing anything that has nothing to do with the mission. And that brings to another major problem with the story, the lack of comradery.

Final Fantasy games are notorious for a lot of things and the characters are one of those aspects. Many games establish these bonds through each of your party members through shared experiences or difficult challenges and while the characters fight against massive beasts and take on suicidal missions they never really connect. The game does try to highlight that they care for one another with short emotional scenes that are never earned, they just happen. They talk to one another more like co-workers than brothers in arms. The voice work is fine and the actors did a fine job but having characters establish themselves as close comrades with little reason outside of being warriors of light isn't enough to establish a profound bond between them. 

The visual design is fine, there's literally nothing that truly stands out which is disappointing coming a mainline Final Fantasy game. The graphics, character models, and animations are all passable but the resolution will occasionally flicker due to inconsistent lighting and the frame rate occasionally drops. By the end of the adventure outside the boss encounters nothing really stood out presentation-wise. This is made worse by the mediocre soundtrack that relies heavily on nostalgia. The only memorable tracks were variations of an existing more popular song within the franchise.
 

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Exploration plays a major role in Final Fantasy games but here it's sorely lacking, as players will navigate through this world from a point and click map where you select the location and you're teleported there. You don't even get to explore the city of Cornelia outside from missions and only talk to the people from an option in the main menu, with dialogue being unlocked as you progress. Most of these conversations are bland 1 sided affairs with some discussions even repeating, why the developers decided to include 2 of the same exchanges in 2 different menus is bizarre.

The dungeons lack any inspiration, many of them are just long hallways and empty rooms filled with enemies. Some offer diversity in the way of occasional traps and shortcuts but heading back is rarely necessary. Littered throughout are orbs serving as checkpoints that restore potions and your characters to full health. Potions are limited and serve as single healing items, with enemies sometimes dropping them but rarely. Activating a checkpoint will restart all enemies, with the exception of key enemies. Despite the change in textures, all the dungeons play the same and lack environmental assets to create the illusion of a lived-in castle or isolated cave system. The developers were likely stretched for time as all the side missions take place within the main story areas, either having the player kill a specific enemy or collect an item that usually involves running through the dungeon again in reverse. These side missions are mandatory as the story missions will not provide the gear needed to progress as each stage has a specific level of gear that can be obtained, with main story missions requiring higher level gear that the previous story mission never provide.
 

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The fighting system is a combination of active combat and jobs. Players can choose from a selection of jobs that earn experience as they're used, unlocking new skills and sometimes other jobs. Whereas you can customize Jack's leveling system the others are automatic. Each of the 4 other characters starts with 1 job but unlock more as you complete side missions. You can swap jobs at any time with Jack able to quickly select between 2 jobs. Each job has 30 levels and a unique skillset with a variety of combo options that you can slot into Jack to perform unique attacks. It's a layered system that is easy to understand but requires time to get the best combinations down. Magic has been simplified with Jack able to cast any spell associated with the job but requires charging if you want to cast it on everyone.

Each job has its own strengths and weaknesses, even the subcategories, with distinct sets of weapons and armor that can enhance the job further by increasing the job affinity. This nets you more experience and specific abilities once you meet the requirement. Mixing and matching to complement your team is important as the ally AI isn't that great. You can temporality increase your ally's aggression but it's clear the developers wanted to balance friendly damage as when triggered allies can destroy enemies easily. When not in this state allies will refuse to attack do the bare minimum.

Enemy AI is a lot like Final Fantasy 7 Remake, where the enemies will mostly attack Jack unless repeatedly attacked by an ally. However, once Jack attacks the enemy will instantly target him regardless. This questionable type of agro system can be used to exploit many of the boss fights and tougher foes. Just trigger ally aggression, cast haste, and shift attacks between your allies and yourself. The reason enemies target Jack mostly is because if Jack dies the game is over. This is a terrible decision and it makes no sense, do your allies just lose all hope to continue when Jack falls? Why can't players just take control of another ally as the multiplayer option allows this?
 

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Multiplayer is simple enough, you can join other players or create a room and take on the game with others. It can be a lot of fun taking on these missions with a party of people and playing as the other Warriors of Light is refreshing. It's a fun addition and doesn't make the game any easier or harder, that depends on the party's skill. Once a mission is completed players can continue to play together or leave and return to their own game. It's a fun distraction and if you're having trouble the game does not gate equipment levels so players with high-level items can join those with weak items.

There are plenty of enemies, all taken from the classic Final Fantasy enemy pool. Each one has distinct attacks and movements and the boss fights are amazing affairs against deadly opponents with each having 2 phases. Each major story dungeon ends with a boss fight against a well-designed monster that usually towers over the Warriors of Light. The developers definitely went all out with these boss encounters, making it the highlight of the entire game. Finding out what awaits at the end was more of a treat than the rewards for completing the mission.

Fights are fun and mixing together the various jobs helps keep things fresh but not for long. You can stick to a comfortable selection of jobs with little worry and outside from achievement hunters most players likely will. Some jobs are more effective than others in fighting and defense such as Samurai and Ronin becoming worthless compared to Marauder or Breaker. Your primary goal is to drain to reduce an enemy break gauge to trigger a soul burst, killing the enemy, restoring MP, and causing a shock wave to damage surrounding enemies. Chaining these together is a lot of fun especially thanks to Jack's brutal finishers as the enemy crystallized and he smashes them to bits, allowing you to keep your MP meter healthy. Since every special attack requires MP you want to keep filling this meter by attacking but triggering a Soul Burst is the best way to restore it. Jack also has a break gauge for guarding and parrying, if drained Jack will be stunned until the meter requires. Jack can also absorb certain attacks labeled in purple and throw them back but has to be wary of normal attacks and unblockable ones highlighted in red.
 

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The developers did include 3 difficult options, the 4th hardest being available after completing the main game along with new side missions. You can change the difficulty at any time, even during missions, and if you take on a mission on harder options you're given more rewards but the level of the equipment you gather will remain the same though. You can even replay main story content but the game will not replay cutscenes which is disappointing. The increased difficulty just makes enemies hit harder and you deal less damage with the enemies act the same across all options.

You're rewarded greatly throughout the adventure, with plenty of weapons and armor. The overwhelming selection means you'll spend a lot of time dismantling items for parts since no traditional shops exist. You can optimize your gear for the best possible option and every piece of gear has a level to it, with resources earned through dismantling being used to upgrade anything you want. However, since you'll be swapping gear a lot upgrading items is usually a waste of time especially since your level is determined by your equipment score. The item you'll collect is expertly designed, some of the best weapon and armor designs in the franchise. Where recent Final Fantasy games have been lacking in this department, especially armor designs, the developers went above and beyond with the items. Even going as far to ensure the armor you're wearing is part of the cutscenes.
 

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Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin combat system allows for a lot of dynamic situations, especially against the excellent boss fights. The problem is that a lot of the key features such as exploration, unforgettable characters, and beautiful music notorious for the Final Fantasy series are sorely lacking here. Multiplayer does temporarily mask the repetitive and often uninspiring dungeons but ultimately, things start to bleed together especially seeing the large map that teases you every time you're about to select a new mission. All leading to an ending that long-time fans will appreciate but newcomers will leave confused. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is a mixed bag of highs and lows that collide together for an average adventure.
 

Adam Siddiqui,
Managing Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Square Enix Co., Ltd., Square Enix
Developer(s): Team Ninja, Koei Tecmo, Square Enix
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Release Date: 2022-03-18

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