Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin – Wanderer of the Rift Review – Battle on the Big Bridge

Nov 4, 2022 08:00 AM EDT
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin - Wanderers of the Rift

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin was one of the year's most surprising releases. The game made some amazing strides since its unintentionally funny reveal back in 2021, turning out to be a solid action role-playing game featuring the masterful combination of mechanics from the Nioh and Final Fantasy series, one of the best iterations of the Job System and a surprisingly compelling story.

Sadly, Team Ninja hasn't managed to deliver the same quality of the base game with the Trials of the Dragon King expansion, which did not make any meaningful addition to the experience, being more of an expansion to the endgame. Sadly, this seemingly was also the approach of the Wanderer of the Rift DLC, an approach that will inevitably disappoint those who wanted to see more of Jack and his companions in actual action.

Related StoryFrancesco De Meo
Forspoken 1.02 PC Patch Improves Performance On Steam Deck, Tweaks HDR Mode

Wander of the Rift is possibly even lighter on story than Trials of the Dragon King. At some point after completing Bahamut's trials, Gilgamesh travels to Jack's reality, bringing an unwelcome element of chaos to Jack's plans. Resolved to deal with the situation, Jack and his companions travel to the Rift Labyrinth to confront Gilgamesh himself, not knowing that the dimensional wanderer already seems to be acquainted with a man named Garland. Over multiple confrontations, Jack will learn more about Gilgamesh and the purpose behind the wanderer's journey to his world.

As mentioned above, the Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin - Wanderer of the Rift DLC is extremely light on story. There are only a handful of voiced cutscenes involving Gilgamesh, and they are simple dialogue scenes with little to no action that, while suggesting that there's a much bigger reality outside of Jack's world, do not move the Strangers' story forward in any significant way.

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin - Wanderer of the Rift is also very light when it comes to actual new content. The only new location, Cordelia Bridge, isn't even entirely new, as it did appear in a different form in the base game and only serves as the background for the fights against Gilgamesh, who is also the only new proper enemy included in the expansion. He is definitely well-designed, as his moveset is expanded with each encounter, and he proves to be a real challenge in the final battle that closes the expansion.

Even if the Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin - Wanderer of the Rift DLC doesn't offer a whole lot in terms of new areas or enemies, it is still packed with new features and mechanics that even those who aren't into maximizing their builds can enjoy, although only these players will make the most out of them. For starters, the DLC, whose content can only be accessed after completing the Trials of the Dragon King expansion, adds a new difficulty setting called Gilgamesh, allowing players to increase the mission level to level 500. Outside of enemies being more powerful, this difficulty mode introduces Chaotic Monsters, more powerful monsters with altered movesets that are very difficult to beat. Bosses are obviously more challenging than ever, but the jump in difficulty felt a little smaller compared to Bahamut difficulty, probably because I had some solid builds to begin with that did not need much tweaking to work properly in the new difficulty.

Alongside the new difficulty, the main addition of the Wanderer of the Rift expansion is the Rift Labyrinth which adds elements inspired by roguelike games. In this Labyrinth, players will need to complete a variety of short challenges set in the base game's locations to obtain Dimension Points. Once certain thresholds have been reached, players will move to higher floors, unlocking more difficult challenges and fights against Gilgamesh that move the story forward. At the lower floors, challenges aren't particularly difficult, not counting the occasional Chaotic monster that can put players' skills to the test, but things become more difficult quickly enough, with some challenges featuring mandatory Trials of the Dragon King as well. Additionally, in the Labyrinth, enemies can reduce Max HP by hitting Jack and the other Strangers, and the only way to restore it is by using Hi-Potions, which are introduced alongside a variety of other new items in the Labyrinth. They can be purchased in the Labyrinth's main hub by spending Gil, which is only obtained inside the Labyrinth itself. These items aren't the only exclusive feature available in the Rift Labyrinth, as players can also train and summon Monsters to aid them in their quest. All monsters come with a set of side missions that can add some very beneficial effects, such as better item drops, improved stats, and so on, so picking the right monsters is extremely important to make the journey through the Labyrinth a little easier. Players, however, need to be careful while traversing the new location, as they will lose all additional items, Gil, and monster training progress upon defeat. As the buffs obtained via monster training are extremely important to complete challenges on higher floors, the loss of progress essentially forces players to start over from lower floors, which is extremely punishing and not particularly fun.

Another feature exclusive to the Rift Labyrinth is the ability to fuse equipment, which was a long overdue addition. Thanks to this feature, it is now possible to fuse two gear pieces together, transferring not only abilities but also Job Affinities, making it much easier to create the perfect build, cutting down grinding time considerably. Fusing equipment is not free, as it requires resources found inside the Rift Labyrinth, but this doesn't matter too much, considering how easy it is to gather them in the first place with thorough exploration. Gear abilities have also been expanded with Summon's Blessings, blessings from spirits such as Ifrit, Shiva, and Sylph, which grant stat bonuses depending on the blessing value. As such, those who want to maximize their builds for the ultimate level 500 challenges will be able to do so with ease and a little bit of grinding.

The Wander of the Rift DLC expansion also adds the Blue Mage job, another staple of the Final Fantasy series, which makes Instant Abilities, the monster abilities that can be stolen from enemies by blocking them with Soul Shield, way more effective. Unfortunately, the expansion doesn't add a new weapon type, so the new Job seems a meager addition as it also doesn't feature any new ability for existing weapons. The Evoker, Pilgrim, and Summoner Jobs were much more interesting additions.

At the end of the day, not being all that interesting is the main problem of many of the additions included in the Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin - Wanderer of the Rift expansion. While good on paper, they do not do much to make the experience feel fresher, and only those looking to delve deeper into already-established mechanics will find them a good reason to return to the game. Personally, after over 90 hours, I needed something else than just collecting more items and fighting powered-up versions of monsters I have already defeated by the hundred to be hooked up again.

PC version tested. Review code provided by the publisher.

Deal of the Day