Final Fantasy XVI was revealed to a bit of criticism surrounding how it will move forward from the previous mainline game Final Fantasy XV. Luckily, the team behind Final Fantasy XVI is the same team behind the current team working on the world-acclaimed Final Fantasy XIV. I was unsure of how Final Fantasy XVI would do but got extremely interested once I tried out the demo.
Game Name: Final Fantasy XVI
Platform(s): PlayStation 5
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Developer(s): Creative Business Unit 3
Release Date: June 22nd, 2023
The story of Final Fantasy XVI starts with you in the shoes of Clive Rosfield, the son of a baron over the land of Rosaria. His brother, Joshua, was chosen to become the Dominant of the Phoenix. A Dominant is someone who can utilize the power of something called Eikon. Eikons are commonly known as summons in previous Final Fantasy games. Even though the Phoenix didn’t choose Clive, he has magic powers. People who have the potential to use magic without crystals to amplify aether are called Bearers. Bearers are generally taken early after birth to become Branded. Branded are essentially used by higher class citizens for bodyguards or even soldiers.
One night a disaster strikes, and Clive’s Father and brother are killed, while Clive survives the disaster and is then forced to join the Imperial Army as a Branded. As Clive, players will spend their time trying to figure out the significance of the night his family is torn asunder, and it takes him throughout the entire region of Valisithea.
Mastering the Elements
Clive starts Final Fantasy XVI with access to the blessing of the Phoenix. The Eikon blessings he receives and accumulates change the abilities he can access. While in Combat, Clive starts pretty basic. You have an attack button that can be used in a normal four-hit combo. You also have a spell button that can be held down to charge your spell, which can deal more damage. There is a dodge button that evades moves and can be used to not get hit by large abilities if used at the right time. As you progress in the game, you’ll acquire more abilities called Eikons, which are like Summons from previous FF games. You can have up to three Eikons equipped with two abilities, each equipped to those Eikons. When you start to experiment with your combos, it makes combat more and more satisfying. I loved using Garuda to bring enemies close to you and using the Phoenix to do AoE damage directly afterward.
A lot of Final Fantasy XVI is spent traveling from one spot to another. There is some incentive to explore areas outside the beaten path, but it generally gives you mostly side quests or craft materials. I would try to get a lot of material when I could since some are limited in the basic shopping area. Meteorite in particular is difficult to come by in the later sections of the game and is used heavily for upgrading your equipment. When I got to a new town that would have a store or merchant, I would try and see if those shops had crafting materials. It is not an open world, but there are open areas you can look at that has a variety of towns and locales. I prefer this idea to be honest as it let us see the areas meticulously crafted and made with a lot of variety with each new location. There is some sadness that you don’t get to traverse in the bigger cities except in big story sections that get locked after the story section is over.
About 60% of side quests in Final Fantasy XVI are more or less fetch quests, but the other 40% are ways to flesh out the world and other characters in the game. You will have a variety of time skips that take place and the best way to get a feel of how the world has changed since the last time you were in control of Clive is to complete side quests. In my opinion, 40% of these side quests make trying to do all of them very worthwhile. Sure you may get a stinker or two, but that special piece of exploration of the world and some of the special voiced moments will make you reflect on the actions of the main narrative that much more.
Beauty of Valisthea
The greatest strength of Final Fantasy XVI is its visual fidelity. You have two modes to play the game in, Performance and Graphical modes. Performance mode is mostly just uncapped framerate. It doesn’t do a consistent frame-per-second rate, except in combat. Combat goes to a consistent 60FPS, but exploration is very similar to Graphical but gets rid of the frame cap. Some might find it jarring to go to a 40-50 FPS experience that varies based on the textures and effects on the screen. This makes it easy to recommend the Graphical mode to those unsure of where they fit.
Every part of this Final Fantasy XVI looks beautiful in execution. There are a lot of clothing types that all look realistic to our clothing material. The outfit designs may still have the Final Fantasy aesthetics, but they used the textures of the actual clothing material to their benefit. Items such as gauntlets and armor plate armor all look and sound metallic and look like they are hard. Leathers all have a unique look, and even cloth gets shown in a very realistic way. There is even a variety of different types of gloves that show up, all with their unique look and material.
Creative Business Unit 3 made sure to give the game a ton of locales and set pieces in Final Fantasy XVI. In the game, you will face many bosses, which are located in very unique places, and they look phenomenal. You will fight giant monsters and even Eikons in the game, which will be more cinematic than a boss fight at times. You will get cinematic clashes, strikes, and dodges to change how certain events play out. Mess up too many of these cinematic events, and you will lose the fight, dying in the process, and will have to start over. The farther you get into Final Fantasy XVI, the better the fights get and the more climactic they become. You will fight a boss character in the sky or an Eikon in literal space with quick and amazingly paced sections.
Alongside these epic boss fights, the cinematics themselves have a lot of love in detail and pacing. Final Fantasy games have always had very cinematic scenes and shots. Look at Final Fantasy VI, X, or XII for some of the biggest examples of the series overall. Final Fantasy XVI is no different, and not only is the game steeped in loving crafted cinematics, but they are heavily inspired by high-budget movies and television series. They do have some very cool shot compositions with blur effects and the rule of thirds. You can tell they got someone talented in cinematography to work on these scenes.
A New Era of Final Fantasy
Even if I was one of those big cynics of the new reveals for Final Fantasy XVI, overall, I loved playing this game. The characters were very endearing and had some of the best arcs in Final Fantasy history. The boss fights, and spectacle of the cinematics made me tear up at times with how beautiful and well-done these scenes were. The voice direction was amazing, with a lot of consistency in accents and dialects. The combat was extremely fun and engaging and made me want to start on the Final Fantasy mode that increases enemy aggro and overall levels. Doing side quests can make the story beats a little too easy because it becomes easy to over-level yourself in fights.
I would recommend Final Fantasy XVI to anyone who enjoys the story and adventure of previous Final Fantasy games as well as anyone who enjoys action combat. A lot of love is poured into this title, and it is shown in spades as you play the game.
Final Fantasy XVI is currently available on PS5 and is contracted as a console exclusive until January 2024. What happens once January 2024 hits? Square Enix hasn’t said.
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Final Fantasy XVI is a new change to the highs of the Final Fantasy series with fleshed-out characters and fantastic set pieces. It can get bogged down due to its linearity and being unable to go back to certain locations but overall it is a masterpiece.
- Voice Direction is fantastic with many moments of great voice acting
- The best this series has looked
- Engaging combat and enjoyable mechanics
- Cinematics inspired by great movies
- Can’t visit big cities or set pieces once the story section is done
- Performance mode is not consistent in performance
- Doing side quests offset the balance of the story sections.