Final Fantasy XVI is finally here, and after years of waiting, fans can finally explore Valisthea. While I do miss turn-based combat in this franchise, I’ve come to accept that this is just the way things are now. However, any fears I had about it were obliterated quickly. Ryota Suzuki is a name that I trust for action combat, especially after Devil May Cry 5. I’m a sucker for a tragic story, too, and that’s the vibe I got from the game even before I dove into it.
The world of Valisthea is vast, and there are so many excellent stories to experience and battles to take part in. While I miss having a party to control, Clive Rosfield is seldom alone. If nobody else is there, his loyal hound Torgal typically is. For this style of action gameplay, I think controlling one character was the right choice.
Final Fantasy XVI is the natural evolution of games like Final Fantasy VII Remake and Final Fantasy XV. Without a doubt, Square Enix has delivered the greatest action RPG this franchise has ever seen.
Final Fantasy XVI is a whole new experience for the classic franchise
The story for Final Fantasy XVI takes us to the world of Valisthea, a land that is slowly being corrupted and eaten by something known as The Blight. Political tensions are high, and it feels very much like a Cold War-era world. Each major power has access to a Dominant, which summons an Eikon.
These are essentially summons from previous games. However, they become the Eikon themselves instead of simply commanding the elemental entities in Final Fantasy XVI. This isn’t the only tension in the story worth mentioning though.
Final Fantasy XVI follows Clive Roswell, First Shield of Rosaria. His purpose is to defend his younger brother, who commands the power of Phoenix. However, tragedy strikes early in the story when Joshua Roswell perishes in battle.
The main story revolves around The Mothercrystals - massive crystalline structures that, according to legend, bless the land with the power of aether. Through aether, certain people can command the powers of magic. Meanwhile, others must use crystals mined from the body of the Mothercrystals.
Things aren’t quite what they seem in Final Fantasy XVI though. The truth is never what people think it is, and I love the twists and turns experienced in this game. I won’t spoil anything about the plot, though. I can promise that it’s a mature, dark story that won’t let down fans of serious fantasy like A Song of Ice and Fire.
Final Fantasy XVI’s combat is more accessible than previous entries
The thing that may have people worried is the combat. The combat for Final Fantasy XVI is more fast-paced and intense than any game in the franchise. When people compare it to Devil May Cry, it’s accurate.
The combat is flashy and it’s very easy at first. You’ll only have access to a handful of powers, thanks to the Phoenix. You have a main attack button, a spellcasting button, and the button for your Eikon’s ability. You’ll also have a parry/dodge button on R1.
The special attacks that you unlock have cooldown timers, and each has unique properties to consider. You can access knock-ups, knockbacks, and combo abilities together with little effort. You can even combo using Torgal! He can knock people up so that you can start devastating air combos.
As you progress through these battles in Final Fantasy XVI, you’ll gain AP. This is used to unlock more skills, or master the ones you already have.
As the trailers have shown, Clive Roswell gains access to more powers, though we won’t discuss how that goes down. What that means is eventually it can become quite overwhelming to pick which skills to use.
Thankfully, Final Fantasy XVI is excellent for accessibility. You have an accessory to equip that creates auto-combos for you, based on your equipped skills.
While this is great, and it’s definitely handy all throughout the game, it’s not always very smart. Several times, I’d activate a power, intending to use it, and it would swap me to a different power that I was saving for later.
That doesn’t change how useful and great this accessory is. You also have one to make dodging easier, and one to make Torgal’s commands automatic. That is also blended in to the combat accessory though, so you don’t need both.
I cannot praise fight mechanics enough though. The only issue with Final Fantasy XVI’s combat is that the more particle effects that are on the screen, the harder it is to dodge perfectly. Even with that, I got pretty good at it. There are simply so many incredible combos, and the combat is fast, frenetic, and best of all, fun.
You don’t have to grind in Final Fantasy XVI, at least, not in the main story. I fought almost everything until I unlocked the ability to ride a chocobo. From there, I fought way less, and found myself overleveled in most battles.
I also want to point out that I didn’t see any particular frame rate dips or drops while I fought. I recall maybe one singular moment where a cutscene leading into a fight slowed down for just a second, but that’s all that stood out to me.
What else is there other than the main story of Final Fantasy XVI?
Of course, there are side quests in Final Fantasy XVI. The game does tell you which quests will give you new features, plans, or weapons - these have a Plus symbol in them. You can also take part in Notorious Hunts, where you’ll be hunting down powerful monsters with only a vague hint on where they are in the world.
I cannot stress enough that you need to do the side quests. There are some incredible storylines there, and some deepy unsettling looks into the world of Final Fantasy XVI. There were one or two quests where I genuinely had to step away and take a break. This isn’t an insult, mind, I was just overwhelmed by what I saw.
Both of these grant you Renown after a certain point in the game. You can get some pretty incredible rewards by speaking to one of the citizens in your main hub. Other than that, you can also collect lore moments. As you sit in cutscenes, you can hold the guide button, and it will pull up a list of topics that are relevant. If there’s a red dot near it, this is new, or an addition to previous information.
You then take it to Tomes, another of your allies, and he compiles all of the data together. It’s just a really fun way to get into the lore of this world. Final Fantasy XVI is a rich story, with plenty of things to know. This is one way to learn more about the world of Valisthea.
One of the best parts of Final Fantasy XVI though is the Hall of Virtue. You can try out new skills and practice combos in this place. You can also work on dodging/parrying. There’s also the Arcade Mode, where you can replay important stages again and get scored, based on how well you played.
I also appreciated Stage Replay as a way to replay an area, but with your current level. It was just a neat addition, and a way to potentially do some level-grinding if you really want to.
The visuals and graphics of Final Fantasy XVI were super
I have to say that the visuals of Final Fantasy XVI were sublime. The world itself, the way outfits were designed, the way the light shone off of the water, everything was wonderful. Even down to how soft the linen fabrics looked, there was real effort put in here.
Many of the NPCs or less-important characters weren’t quite as stunning, but I appreciated the work there; the enemies had varied and fantastic looks as well. Soken’s compositions for this game were also exactly what I hoped they would be. There were plenty of references to previous songs in the franchise, and hearing them fllled me with joy.
There were some brief instances where the audio sounded hollow, or echoy. I feel like this was something fixed in the patch, but it didn’t happen often. It definitely stood out to me as the only real flaw of the game, and likely something that has since been corrected.
Final Fantasy XVI is a masterpiece - one of the best action RPGs I’ve ever played. The combat felt perfect, and the story was dark and mature. Some of it was a little predictable, but that’s RPGs for you. That said, there were some moments that sincerely caught me off guard, and I loved it.
There is one major problem I had though - Final Fantasy XVI was a bit white-washed. I understand that they wanted to make a European story, but this choice simply made no sense. The closest we came were the Dhalmekians, who were tanned from living in the desert.
This choice confused and disappointed me, but it’s the only problem I had with the game overall. I loved every moment of the title, and I’m looking forward to NG+ and Final Fantasy difficulty. If you loved DMC, and want that kind of action in a compelling, dramatic story, you need to play Final Fantasy XVI.
Final Fantasy XVI
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5 (Code provided by Square Enix)
Platforms: PlayStation 5
Release Date: June 22, 2023
Developer: Creative Business Unit III, Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix