Strangers of Paradise DLC is a lesson in how not to design DLC for your game

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How is DLC designed for a game? With Stranger from Paradise: Final Fantasy OriginIt seems like it should have been an easy task; some additional story, some new levels inspired by other Final Fantasy games of the past (maybe some spin-offs, this time?) along with some new boss fights and a new class or two. On paper, the #1 DLC for the game, Trials of the Dragon King, delivers on these ideas, which is why it’s so surprising how out of place the whole experience feels, actually playing through it.

In particular, one of the highlights of Stranger of Paradise’s release was the inclusion of multiple difficulty modes, ensuring that anyone, regardless of skill level, can eventually beat the game. This also meant that players who wanted to challenge themselves could continue to do so, especially by completing the game’s campaign and unlocking the additional Chaos difficulty.

However, while I quite enjoyed the gameplay of Stranger of Paradise, I have to say that I was even more in love with the story at the center of it all. Jack’s story certainly didn’t resonate with everyone who played the game, but he absolutely hit the mark with me, and I was far from the only one who found the story endearing. So when the trailer for Trials of the Dragon King hyped up the story content after the endgame, I was beyond excited.

Even before the DLC’s release, Square Enix detailed that the DLC would come with an additional difficulty mode above Chaos, but most gamers assumed it would simply be another option to play, especially seeing how the other recent Team Ninja releases They use much of the same framework, Nioh and Nioh 2, they did something pretty similar with their DLC releases. Instead, the way things work out with Stranger of Paradise is pretty weird. In a nutshell, the new Bahamut difficulty is not just an option, but a requirement to access the new DLC story content. Regardless of whether you came to the DLC for the story after having played the original game on the easiest difficulty, you’re forced to play the game at its finest in order to advance to the content that was showcased so prominently in the marketing.

Now, I have nothing against difficult games, but it’s hard to deal with the idea that a company would add additional content to a game that was never really about its difficulty, only to lock it behind some new and incredibly difficult difficulty modifier. Lasted. . You don’t even need to play on this difficulty to unlock the new content, which you do, of course, instead unlocking the new content requires players to replay the base game missions, perhaps with some modifiers attached, to grind. an arbitrary coin to unlock a fragmented dialogue that will eventually deliver the content you essentially paid for.

Almost like a bad joke, it seems that the developers themselves even realized that the current system was a bad idea, thus minimizing the chance that a player didn’t get involved with Chaos Difficulty at some point after the game’s release. games; the first mission of the DLC makes Jack completely immortal, and never allows him to drop dead, no matter how much damage he takes. Upon completion, players receive almost a full set of level 200 gear, to help him reach the item level for which Bahamut’s difficulty balances. This does nothing about job levels, which you’d have to upgrade to through specific Chaos difficulty missions, but it’s still a clear sign that the developers understood that many of their players might not have wanted to participate in the game. game over. , and simply wanted to see the new content included with the DLC.

At the other end of the spectrum is “Extra Mode”, which greatly increases Jack’s power level and grants him infinite MP. In this mode, he cannot earn “Dragon Treasures” which he can spend on certain upgrades, but he will still be recorded for earning them, allowing him to progress through the short story included with the DLC. While this “fixes” the main issue with the DLC, I’d say its existence feels more like a Band-Aid solution; there should have been a middle ground where players could play the game at the difficulty they’d already grown accustomed to, without having to resort to screwing up everything that got in their way.

Assuming players choose to attempt the DLC “on the level,” the difficulty spike that Bahamut brings is more than a little ridiculous. Even with a group of players who were all level 50~ above the recommended item level for a Bahamut difficulty quest, we were still getting attacks from a boss on a regular basis, and the amount of HP felt hugely inflated to begin with. I’m sure there are plenty of builds out there that will get you through this DLC, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that the main story content should never have been locked behind such a requirement in the first place.

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On the plus side, since launch Stranger of Paradise has seen a number of optimization patches on console, and the game as it stands now looks and runs significantly better than how things were at launch. This is good and fabulous; It pains me to have to talk about how much the DLC ultimately disappointed me, considering how much I loved the base game at launch. If you haven’t played the game yet I can’t recommend it highly enough, just maybe skip the Season Pass until we find out what the rest of the DLC will look like. As it stands now, I can’t recommend it to anyone but the most dedicated endgame grinders.

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