How your feedback has improved STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGINWhat were the results of the first Player Feedback Survey, and how have they been used to improve the second trial version?
During SQUARE ENIX PRESENTS at Tokyo Games Show 2021, we announced that a second trial version for STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN is now live!
Available for PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, it lets you play through an entirely new area, the Refrin Wetlands, fight new bosses and more. It also includes the Chaos Shrine stage from the first trial version, and you can even play in online multiplayer with up to three other players.
If you played the previous trial on PS5, you may notice that things are a bit different. Dare we say…better. That’s due in part to the player feedback survey. Many thanks to everyone who completed it - the entire development team was impressed and flattered by the completeness and thoughtfulness of your responses - particularly since typing on a gamepad isn’t exactly the easiest way to type something!
The new trial incorporates features and improvements based directly on that feedback - it’s been instrumental in helping refine and improve the game further. Let’s take a look at some of what you told us, and how it’s been acted on so far.
Visuals have been improved
One of the most common criticisms of the previous trial was the graphics - fans wanted better, clearer visuals.
To be honest, the team was already aware that was room for improvement here and had a lot of internal discussions about how to enhance and polish the graphics.
Those improvements are still being worked on, and will continue to do so over development, but some visual enhancements have been included in TRIAL VERSION 2. Take a trip back to the Chaos Shrine (the area in the first trial is also included in the new one) and you’ll see for yourselves how much better it already looks.
The darkness has been lifted (a bit)
STRANGER OF PARADISE was supposed to be a ‘dark’ FINAL FANTASY game thematically… but feedback on the first demo revealed that many found it too dark—literally. There were some areas where people felt they were unable to see anything, and that was getting in the way of the gameplay experience.
So, for the new trial, the team fixed it. They paid more attention to the portrayal of light and darkness in each area, ensuring that players are able to see what they need to clearly.
At the same time, they didn’t want to make it over-lit - it was important to preserve those moments where the juxtaposition between light and dark adds drama and excitement to an encounter. The game now has dynamic lighting, so when you hit an enemy with an attack in a dark area, the area lights up with a bright flash, making it feel impactful and satisfying.
The new trial supports 4K
Some observant players who tried the previous trials noticed that the visuals were a little blurry overall.
You’ll be pleased to hear that the new trial looks much clearer and crisper. What’s more, the team put a lot of focus and energy into making sure that the game runs at a high framerate, even at 4K resolution.
Actions have been rebalanced
One element of the previous trial that was well received was the actions and abilities. The feedback survey was positive, with most players saying they enjoyed the various combat options available to them.
Even so, the team wanted to make them even better! As a result, they’ve put a lot of focus into making the actions stronger and easier to use. For some actions, these changes come in the form of small tweaks to things like responsiveness. For others, they’ve made much bigger changes to how they work.
A good example of this would be Lightbringer. This is an ability that Jack can activate at the cost of some MP and makes it easier for him to break enemies (stagger them and set them up for an instant MP-replenishing kill called a Soul Burst), while bestowing additional effects for different jobs, such as faster spell charging.
In the new trial version, Lightbringer is much stronger than before. It consumes more MP, but the effect lasts longer. There have also been additional changes - the amount players can chip away at the upper limit of an enemy's break gauge has increased, allowing players to deliver a finishing blow using Soul Burst more easily.
All these changes mean that using Lightbringer now encourages a more high-risk / high-reward playstyle.
The AI of companions has been improved
Back to some constructive criticism from the player survey - fans weren’t particularly impressed with the AI of NPC companions in the previous trial. No arguments from us there - it was still in the early stages.
For this new trial, the team has implemented ways to improve the behavior and effectiveness of the computer-controlled characters. It now feels much more like you’re fighting as a party - something you’ll likely notice when you play the new trial.
They’ve also added a new feature called Resonance, which lets you boost the strength of your companions for a limited period of time.
While Resonance is active, an AI party member will proactively use their abilities more, which opens up all kinds of strategy for the player. For example, using Resonance on Ash makes him draw the attention of enemies in the area, letting the player focus on casting magic.
Companions can now be customised
Your fellow party members are much better integrated into the game in this second trial - for example, you can now change the equipment and abilities of allies in addition to Jack.
This is good news - one complaint we received was that enemies dropped a lot of loot, and players couldn’t use all that equipment. Now that there’s a greater emphasis on being able to gear up allies, you have more use for that loot - to help your companions become stronger as you fight together.
What’s more, you can also change your allies’ jobs in the retail version, giving them new roles in combat. When you do so, their behavior will change to suit that job.
These additions, combined with the improvements to AI and Resonance feature, add an extra layer of strategy to encounters, making the player think about equipment, abilities, jobs, and experiment with combining these different elements.
Tutorials are less overwhelming
The first Trial Version went quite heavy on the tutorials, and according to the feedback survey, many players found it overwhelming. It was quite difficult to take all the information in at once.
For the second Trial Version, we’ve taken a different approach. This time the team implemented a world map, through which you can play the tutorial at any time - not only the beginning of the game. There are also now tutorials for each weapon! That means you can experiment with the mechanics at your own pace.
Difficulty has been adjusted
Finally, the game’s difficulty has been rebalanced to ensure it delivers a smooth, satisfying, and challenging experience for players.
The names of the difficulty levels have also been changed to ‘STORY’, ‘ACTION’, and ‘HARD’. That’s because we want to emphasise that STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN caters to players who care more about story than challenge, and players who want to focus on intense, challenging action alike.
As you can see, the feedback you delivered during Trial 1 has been gratefully received and acted on. The team’s still making improvements to the game, so expect more changes as we continue development, but you can partially see our progress in the new trial.
The trial is available now through October 11, 2021 7:59 a.m. (PDT) / 3:59 p.m. (BST) on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. So give it a go… and let us know what you think!
There is a second feedback survey, so please do send your feedback - positive and negative. We’ll use it to make the game better and better!
STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN launches for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC via Epic Games Store on March 18, 2022.
The game’s available to preorder now. Anyone who orders the Digital Standard and Digital Deluxe Editions of STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN will receive 72-hour early access to the full game (24-hour early access for PC version), as well as the Braveheart weapon and Lustrous Shield, and early-purchase bonus: the Rebellion weapon!
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