Whenever we think of role-playing games with a significant impact on the games industry, no conversation goes without mentioning Final Fantasy from Square Enix. The series has constantly released games that iterated its core elements and tried to push boundaries with experimentation in the RPG genre. And while some attempts at being different have fared better than others, Final Fantasy XVI is an example of the series using its legacy to help push forward into new territory. The result is an amazing experience that hits all of the right marks at the right times, despite maybe being a little too different for long-time fans of the series. On top of that, Final Fantasy shows a tasteful maturity in this sixteenth entry by daring to go to places with its story that will surprise and shock you, yet keep you invested in this new world and cast of characters within it.
One of the biggest things that stands out with Final Fantasy XVI is the step away from the series’ tradition of turn-based combat and heavy RPG elements. And while Final Fantasy XVI still has a hefty dose of Japanese role-playing game characteristics, it doesn’t become burdened down by them and instead takes steps towards being something unique. This goes for both its gameplay and plot, which still feel like another evolution of the series as a whole. It’s not the Final Fantasy of years past, but rather a new entry of the Final Fantasy series that continues what its predecessors have done before. Take the series in a new direction that can give players something interesting, beautiful, and memorable.
The story of the game is set in the world of Valisthea, with its two continents populated by cities. Here is where kingdoms are constantly at war with one another over control of the Mother Crystals, which allow people to use magic. In these skirmishes, the kingdoms use individuals called Dominants that are able to use the power of Eikons, which are the traditional Final Fantasy summon monsters we know. It’s an interesting setup that uses legacy elements of previous Final Fantasy games in a creative way, giving a unique narrative explanation for why and how we see these famous creatures in a different setting. The same can be said for many of the monsters and enemy creatures littered throughout the game, finding a place for everything from the Malboros to a Chocobo. There’s even a Moogle in here with an interesting backstory that lets some of the cuter sides of the series join the fray, despite this being a grim tale.
Speaking of grim, this story follows Clive Rosfield, a young man born into the kingdom of Rosaria. Clive is forced into a life of hardship after his brother Joshua is murdered at a young age and he is thrown into military service. Clive’s mother is responsible for this after Clive’s father is killed in a major event, setting into motion much of the conflict seen throughout the game. Due to these tragic events, Clive finds himself as the Dominant for the Eikon of fire, Ifrit. It’s from here the story follows Clive on his long quest for revenge for his brother’s murder and justice for his family and the kingdom of Rosaria.
Final Fantasy XVI is the most mature and boundary-pushing story that the series has seen to date. While other Final Fantasy games have delved into plot points and heavy subject matter from time to time, this is the first game to really commit to the idea of a mature story. Everything from murder, conspiracy, sex, trauma, and slavery is but a portion of how far the story is willing to go to tell Clive’s tale. But the game does this in a tasteful manner, where none of it feels gimmicky or forced into the story. Dialogue between characters, details of the world, and the overall production value are given a weight that isn’t played for laughs or cheap tricks. It’s the same type of tone and approach to writing one would find in fantasy shows like Game of Thrones or The Witcher, but with Final Fantasy aspects that make it feel authentic. How Clive’s story unfolds isn’t always as bright as many other Final Fantasy plotlines have been in the past, but it definitely feels heartfelt and real in many ways.
One of the best things to be included in Final Fantasy XVI is the Active Time Lore menus. These are extra menus you can pull up at any time during any cutscene or gameplay section to help give you details about the story happening. This is such a helpful feature that can be a real asset to anyone that might be lost in the story or forget a detail the game glances over. A lot of the story in Final Fantasy XVI is very heavy-handed with details about the world and relationships between characters, so having this reference available at any time is a big plus for everyone.
Even better is how all of the information included can be accessed later on in a location Clive goes to if you haven’t been using Active Time Lore for a while. There’s a lot of information that Final Fantasy XVI throws at you, but it never lets you lose or miss out on any of it throughout the whole experience. For many players, this will be something they want to see copied and used again in future Final Fantasy games, let alone other role-playing series that can benefit from it.
What about the gameplay itself, both in terms of combat and exploration of this new world? Does Final Fantasy XVI have enough good things happening in its gameplay when compared to previous entries? Much of this experience feels more like an action game in both speed and openness of combat. Clive can gather powers from various Eikons throughout the story, allowing him to use different attacks and abilities that open up a wide range of combos and attack strings. Fighting groups of enemies lets you show some style by linking together attacks and controlling the area, and it’s easy to do so the more you get into battles. Things can look super flashy as you get the hang of using attacks in various ways, switching between Eikon powers and elemental attacks to dish out big damage.
For some, it’s easy to make the comparison to games like Devil May Cry and even Kingdom Hearts. The similarities between them and Final Fantasy XVI are very easy to spot. But Final Fantasy XVI still manages to implement the series’ RPG battle characteristics with things like staggering enemies, elemental weaknesses, and even status effects. They aren’t always as obvious in the heat of battle, but you can definitely spot them if you take the moment to look. The game even displays the name of incoming enemy attacks, from groups and bosses, in the same fashion box and text as classic Final Fantasy games. Often this will give you a heads up of when to dodge and counterattack enemies, which is very key to dealing massive damage and building up stagger against tougher enemies.
Although you have allies with you often in combat, most of the time it’s Clive taking point in nearly every battle with his faithful dog companion Torgal. You can issue commands to Torgal to continue combos and follow-up attacks, as well as heal when things get dire. Other allies that fight with you can still hold their own, allowing you to fight without worrying about them. You can’t order or control party members with you other than Torgal, but that also means they can’t be defeated in battle either. Some people might find this to be a negative, but others won’t have an issue with it. Some Final Fantasy games prior to this have done similar things with party members to varying degrees of success, and in here it’s not a hindrance to the experience.
The fighting can get challenging at times, but it’s never impossibly hard. Clive has access to ring equipment that helps give buffs and extra boosts to make combat easier, but they’re completely optional. You don’t have to use them, but you aren’t penalized for doing so. In addition, Clive can gain new abilities from his Eikons and utilize various equipment and items. Leveling up and winning battles gives ability points to spend on new attacks and upgrades, which opens up new attacks for varying levels of combos to use in combat.
For some, these role-playing elements are much lighter than previous Final Fantasy games and lack much customization for Clive. You also won’t be spending a lot of time upgrading equipment as much as you might think, especially when you find a solid weapon and equipment early on to keep on hand. Though this is where Final Fantasy XVI leans more towards action game than RPG, it more than makes up for it with everything else around it. Combat can be a spectacle to play through and feel very good to control, before and after you open up many upgrades for Clive.
The game also has some incredibly over-the-top boss battles that live up to the big battles from previous Final Fantasy games. Eikon battles are like giant monster battles that let you control an Eikon at various story points, letting you get involved with crazy fights that are almost earth-shattering. These battles do end up having many quick time events with button presses, as do some major battles with Clive in the story, but add to the spectacle playing out on screen. Often quick time events are criticized for taking away control from the player at different times, but they can also add to the excitement and tone of cutscenes playing out. The quick-time events in Final Fantasy XVI never become an annoyance when they appear, even during the big battles. There are still a lot of moments where you’re in full control and fighting bosses, so they aren’t overshadowed by the quick time events when they appear.
Exploring the world of Valisthea is a time-consuming activity. There’s a lot of open space to traverse and visit multiple times throughout the main story and side quests. The main quests you have will take you throughout the entirety of the two continents, while side quests will allow you to spend a little more time in the spots you glance over.
Unfortunately, side quests in this game aren’t as interesting to do in comparison to many other RPG titles. Often you’ll be running around to get items for specific people or clearing out locations from monsters or bosses, and it can get repetitive. Most of them also don’t always have much lore or side story to tell other than someone’s small trouble with something. But luckily, rewards from side quests can be very helpful and great for improving Clive’s abilities.
Traveling around isn’t always done on foot since you can unlock a Chocobo mount and fast travel points to use when jumping between locations. These will become really helpful tools when you’re going from one area to another, especially during side quests with multiple steps. Certain points of the story will prevent you from doing anything else but the main quest line, but eventually you open up the freedom to do and go where you please. And when you’re done with the main quest, there’s more to see and do, including a new game plus feature that changes various elements while carrying over all of your progress. You’ll definitely be busy for a long time if you want to see everything in Final Fantasy XVI, and putting the time into it will definitely yield many great rewards.
Final Fantasy XVI is a fantastic experience that will take you to dark places, but also let you experience incredible heights of emotion in the best way. It’s a fresh take on the series that has many more successes for every nitpick that one can point out. Not only does it have an intriguing story with a mature tone that will keep you engaged, but it also comes with incredible visuals that will leave you in awe at the majesty that the series continues to uphold for all these years. For some, this game will be a big departure from what they’ve come to know, but for everyone else, it’s a good step in the right direction that is in the spirit of the series’ legacy. Final Fantasy XVI is a grand spectacle that you need to experience.
What do you think of Final Fantasy XVI on PlayStation 5? Will you be playing the game anytime soon? Tell us everything down below in the comment section!
Final Fantasy XVI
This is a mature story that pushes the limits from what has been seen in the series beforehand, to great success. The combat and exploration is very well done and looks fantastic. The characters are interesting and layered, and the world is very intriguing. Side quests are not as interesting as the main questline, but they do not take away from the spectacle of the entire experience. This is a game you will spend a lot of time with for the main story, but even more after when the credits role.
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