Being on your feet during a boss fight is always a good sign, and Final Fantasy XVI surpasses all expectations. Square Enix’s latest installment in their iconic series grips you from the very start and refuses to let go. The stakes remain sky-high, and the visuals constantly take your breath away. Moreover, the combat system is nothing short of brilliant—whether you’re battling bees in a sidequest or facing off against the formidable Titan. Undoubtedly, this is the most exceptional mainline entry in the franchise since the PS1 era.
The Story of Final Fantasy XVI
Final Fantasy XVI unfolds in the enchanting realm of Valisthea, a medieval-inspired land reminiscent of Westeros from Game of Thrones. In this captivating world, rival nations vie for supremacy and control over the Mothercrystals. This intriguing concept pays homage to the 8- and 16-bit eras of the series, where precious gems determined the destinies of humanity.
Our protagonist, Clive Rosfield, once a nobleman turned mercenary, is consumed by a thirst for vengeance after a calamity strips his family of power and claims the life of his brother. His quest propels him into the path of Valisthea’s Dominants, gifted warriors who wield the formidable power of legendary creatures called Eikons.
The journey is a thrilling roller-coaster ride that spans 40 hours of action-packed adventure. Unlike sprawling epics that take an eternity to unfold, Final Fantasy XVI wastes no time, catapulting players into the heart of the action within the first 20 minutes. The game pays homage to the early Final Fantasy titles with its rapid plot twists, betrayals, and a relentless sense of urgency that would be impossible in an expansive open-world setting. While seasoned fans will delight in discovering numerous Easter eggs and references to previous games like FF4 and FF6, newcomers can fully immerse themselves in the experience without any prior knowledge.
How this is different than anything the studio previously put out?
Producer Naoki Yoshida envisioned FF16 as a more “mature” Final Fantasy, and indeed, the game delivers on this promise. It embraces a darker and more intense tone, featuring violence, coarse language, and mature themes. Overall, these elements are handled remarkably well, adding depth and complexity to the narrative.
However, the game stumbles when it comes to its portrayal of women. The character Benedikta Harman suffers from unfortunate missteps in attempting to create a Cersei Lannister-like figure, resulting in a portrayal that leans toward a caricature of a reality TV villain with inappropriate sexual undertones. While this is disappointing, the majority of the game’s other characters shine brightly and make a lasting impression.
The Visuals in Final Fantasy XVI
As expected from Square Enix, Final Fantasy XVI continues the tradition of pushing visual boundaries to new heights. The game truly shines in its show-stopping Eikon battles, capturing the spotlight with their extravagant and psychedelic pyrotechnics. Each Eikon battle offers an awe-inspiring experience, where the influence of the God of War becomes most evident. Players are treated to breathtaking displays of brutal yet visually stunning violence. The combination of Square Enix’s artistic prowess and the influence from other successful franchises ensures that Final Fantasy XVI delivers a visual feast that players won’t soon forget.
Character designs are another standout. Final Fantasy XVI spans three eras in Clive’s life, encompassing roughly eighteen years. We see numerous characters grow and change over that time, getting new outfits, new hairstyles, and sometimes new scars. Naturally, pretty much everyone is ridiculously good-looking and has amazing drip.
Gameplay and Combat
Final Fantasy XVI introduces two significant changes to the core formula of the series. First, unlike most previous titles where you can control multiple party members, here you only control Clive, the main protagonist, and have simple inputs to control his loyal hound, Torval. This streamlined approach is likely a result of the game’s other major change, which completely moves away from the traditional turn-based spell-slinging combat to a combo-driven system. The new combat style draws inspiration from games like God of War, Devil May Cry, and even Yakuza.
Throughout the game, Clive gradually gains new Eikon abilities, allowing players to customize their playstyle. The options are diverse, including slow and powerful blows, swift strikes, ranged magic attacks, and traditional sword slashes. Players can mix and match these abilities to create a combat style that suits their preferences. However, this new combat system may require some adjustment. Especially, considering those not accustomed to managing parries, dodges, and ability cooldowns.
To make the combat more accessible to players, the development team implemented several accessories that automate dodging and combos. While this inclusion enhances accessibility, it comes with a trade-off. These accessories occupy valuable accessory slots that could otherwise be used for other stat or ability enhancements.
Final Fantasy XVI revitalizes the franchise with its boundary-breaking visuals, captivating character designs, and dynamic combo-driven combat. Despite minor trade-offs in accessibility, Final Fantasy XVI’s stunning aesthetics and exciting gameplay make it a worthy addition to the beloved series.