When the Stranger of Paradise trailer played in the Square Enix Present E3 showcase earlier this week, the internet collectively laughed. It’s an ugly-looking game, with dull-looking and sounding white-dude-bro characters, and they mentioned “Chaos” to the point it’s become a meme of its own. To make matters worse, the demo that was supposed to go live straight after the conference was broken and wouldn’t play for anyone for over 24-hours as either Team Ninja or someone at Square Enix worked to make it playable. Well, it’s finally working, and I’ve played through to the boss, and I can safely say it’s a mixed bag. 

Stranger of Paradise is an action RPG in the vein of Nioh or Sekiro combined with a job system from the Final Fantasy universe. Enemies have a stamina bar that depletes as you consistently attack them, opening them up to a finishing attack, or you can bring their HP to zero. You have a block button, a basic attack and a special that uses mana and an energy shield. Suppose you parry an enemies basic attack with the energy shield. In that case, you’ll knock them back, opening them up to a counter-attack while also gaining some MP and increasing your overall MP gauge (it resets to your default level when you rest at checkpoints). If you parry an enemies spell, like a basic fire attack, you’ll hold one charge of that spell and be able to cast it back for free.

Honestly, there’s a ridiculous amount of onboarding at the beginning of this game in a very rough tutorial. There’s also an ability to eat a level of your mana to deal more damage and decrease enemies chances to regain stamina, and it’s very easy to miss how essential this is to use. 

Defeating enemies earns you exp, which lets you unlock abilities and stat upgrades on a sphere grid, and later in the demo, you gain two more classes to level up as well. You can have two jobs equipped at any point to switch to on the fly. I had the swordsman as my default and the mage class as my quick-switch for casting spells. 



I played the demo on the ‘normal’ difficulty, but I appreciate the option for an ‘easy’ and ‘hard’ mode. Until the boss, I only died once and didn’t find the game to be much of a challenge. However, when I reached the boss at the end of the demo, ‘Chaos?’ the difficulty stepped up several levels, not always thanks to the boss. 

To fight Chaos, you need to see the enemies attacks and block or dodge accordingly; however, the two AI companions you have — oh, did I forget to mention them? — they’re utterly pointless and cause you more issues than anything else. Their bodies make judging an enemies attack hard at times; plus, their special attacks made it more distracting to tell what the boss was doing. If they weren’t making my life harder, they were running blindly into a super-attack to get knocked down for no reason. They were two of the most pointless companions I can remember getting stuck within a video game for years. 

So, I didn’t beat the boss fight. RIP the gamer-cred card. But I enjoyed the fight, for the most part; it’s just some of Stranger of Paradise‘s mechanics in this build that is useless or annoying, making it more frustrating than it should be. For another example: I also felt the default stun time if a heavy attack hits you was way too long. All of these are things that will, of course, change by the time we get the full release. Those two companions will have to have an added reason to be in the game for a start.


To be blunt: this is a very rough demo, and I’d be surprised if the final game is anything close to resembling what’s here now other than in basic premise and idea. 

The Stranger of ParadiseFinal Fantasy demo is an odd thing to release to the public. It’s ugly as all heck to look at, and the story is more-or-less non-existent outside of theorising about how it’s a prequel to the original Final Fantasy and what that means. Combat is a hodgepodge of systems; none of the great. I like some of what’s here, but god does this need a lot of work to be a game worth a retail priced sticker.