Final Fantasy XVI Review – A Mature Turn for the Legendary Franchise
The release of Final Fantasy XVI signifies the culmination of an extended period of anticipation for its fans. As a franchise, Final Fantasy boasts a rich and storied history, maintaining its status as one of the most beloved JRPGs. The series has consistently strived for innovation with each new installment, making Final Fantasy XVI’s shift towards a more action-oriented approach less surprising. The game was developed by Creative Business Unit 3, led by Hiroshi Takai, known for his work on games such as The Last Remnant. Naoki Yoshida, the game director of Final Fantasy XIV, took on the role of producer for this latest installment.
Final Fantasy XVI arrives over seven years after the previous mainline game, marking a long interval for the franchise’s fans. The game departs from the contemporary fantasy settings of its predecessors, opting for a more medieval, dark fantasy ambiance. Drawing inspiration from prominent Western fantasy series like Game of Thrones and games such as God of War, it delivers explosive action and dramatic set pieces. The narrative is exceptionally dark, positioning it as one of the most mature and darkest Final Fantasy games I have experienced to date.
Final Fantasy XVI opens with a straightforward prologue set several years before the main game’s events. Players assume the role of Clive Rosfield, the elder brother of Joshua and a member of the ruling family of Rosaria. The game unfolds in the fictitious world of Valisthea, where Mothercrystals serve as the magic source for many users via the utilization of aether. Concurrently, a curse known as the blight is spreading across the land. Individuals capable of controlling an Eikon referred to as Dominants in the game, are accorded significant importance. This prologue was also featured in a demo released ahead of the game. Clive serves as a protector for Joshua, who wields control over the fire Eikon, Phoenix. However, when the Rosaria empire falls under attack, it loses its leader and Joshua, while Clive narrowly escapes. The narrative then pivots towards vengeance as Clive embarks on a quest to find the person accountable for his brother’s demise.
Final Fantasy XVI does not hesitate to deliver a hard-hitting narrative. As I mentioned earlier, this is one of the most mature Final Fantasy games in recent memory, and it does not shy away from depicting violence or sexual content. The opening scenes depict several characters meeting a gruesome end without flinching. The story is also laden with societal and political undertones, highlighting the power struggles among the various empires in this world. The main draw of Final Fantasy XVI lies in its epic fantasy action and dramatic set pieces, with boss fights that are truly Eikonic. Each boss fight introduces a unique gameplay aspect, ensuring minimal repetition. Final Fantasy XVI feels more akin to God of War than the recently rebooted series did.
I have nothing but admiration for Final Fantasy XVI’s combat system. It blends the action-centric combat of Devil May Cry with a hint of Bayonetta. Even on the action difficulty setting, the game never felt overly challenging. However, I did encounter an issue with the resilience of the enemies. They require numerous hits to defeat, and the rewards for battling them don’t seem commensurate with the effort. The experience points gained from fighting enemies throughout the world are inconsistent and unbalanced. Defeating them yields some materials, but the crafting possibilities are limited.
In its quest for action, it seems that Final Fantasy XVI has strayed from its RPG origins. Clive can modify some abilities using upgrade points, which are earned by defeating enemies or bosses. The ability tree is restricted to the Eikons that are gradually unlocked or the upgrades that Clive can acquire by default. However, beyond that, the game offers no significant customization options. Clive’s level increases over time as more enemies are vanquished, but this typically coincides with the progression of the story. As I previously noted, the distribution of experience points is uneven, so even if you bypass most of the open-world fights, you should fare well by the game’s conclusion. This isn’t necessarily a downside, given the game’s top-tier combat. Utilizing accessories that provide shortcuts, such as auto combos and dodges, might make the gameplay feel repetitive, but manually controlling the action is incredibly enjoyable, and I never found it monotonous.
I also appreciated the profusion of cutscenes in the game. There’s a surplus of them, and most are well-directed, offering high-stakes action and dramatic story moments. However, the quality of these cutscenes can be inconsistent, as the regular story moments seem to suffer. Engaging with an NPC related to the story typically triggers a minor cutscene with limited animation and subpar camera work, which stands in stark contrast to the main story scenes.
The game doesn’t feature an open world; instead, it presents a world map with traversable points of interest. The loading times are impressively quick, so moving between different sections of the map never feels burdensome. There are large, interconnected segments, but an open world is absent. This isn’t a significant issue, as it allows the developers to concentrate more on the design of each area.
While Final Fantasy XVI demonstrates considerable potential, it stumbles towards the end. The storyline takes an unfavorable turn, and it’s uncertain how other fans will respond to it. It’s worth noting that the game starts on a high note, but the conclusion seems to contradict the game’s purpose. The character development in the game is among the best I’ve seen in recent games. Paired with its excellent action-oriented gameplay, it’s a Final Fantasy game that will be remembered for years to come.
Final Fantasy XVI Game Information
- Price: $69.99
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Creative Business Unit 3
- Platform: PS5 (Reviewed)
- Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher