Final Fantasy has been a household name in the world of gaming for far longer than I have graced this earth. I can’t say for sure about their earlier titles, but Square Enix always seems to try its best to change up the core gaming formula of FF titles between main releases. I am sure you are aware that FFXVI is no exception to this. Dropping all notions of previous combat mechanics and adopting a purely action RPG hack ‘n’ slash approach instead. But does it work? Does it feel right? Is this truly a Final Fantasy experience? Here are my thoughts on Final Fantasy XVI.
Phoenix – A Series Reborn
So, let’s get this part out of the way first. If you are a fan of older FF games with turn-based combat, then you may be disappointed with this game. I myself am not a big fan of turn-based combat, and vastly prefer those seen in action RPGS; so, I was more than happy with this approach. There is no changing the combat style as we saw in FFVII Remake, and there is no hybrid approach as we saw in FFXV. Final Fantasy XVI is the first in the series to fully utilise a fighting style reminiscent of that in games such as the Devil May Cry series.
Another decision made for this game was the separation between playable characters. This time around, you will only get to control Clive. Whilst this is not as big a revelation as the entire fighting mechanic changing, it does mean you won’t be switching control of party members during combat, or even customising their equipment.
Ifrit – The Fire In Its Belly
There are of course things that fans of Final Fantasy will find familiar. Whilst the setting of the game is more medieval than fantastical, there are still some familiar facets. The main one of these of course is the inclusion of the Eikons. You know them, they have been called everything from Aeons to Espers. You already know this of course as the Eikon battles are smattered across all the advertising material released for the game. And they are undoubtedly the stars of the game. Being able to embody Ifrit and battle the other elemental gods we have become accustomed to over the years is brilliant. These battles are all highly cinematic, engaging and heart-pounding.
I really love the character designs in the game too. Considering we are used to all kinds of characters in FF games such as anthropomorphic animal people, clown things with big tongues, shadowy creatures with hats too large for their bodies etc it is somewhat refreshing to have a cast of all very well-designed human characters. Even if I do miss the varying races that we are used to.
The game features an incredibly innovative way of handling difficulty. There are certain rings that you can equip that will tailor the game to your liking. If you are struggling with dodging, there is a ring that will auto-dodge for you. If you are dying often then there is a ring that will use a potion for you when needed so you can dedicate your attention to the fight at hand. I think this is brilliant. More games should incorporate simple ways like this to tailor difficulty, instead of just changing the amount of damage you and enemies take.
The story is also well-written, albeit a bit predictable. Sometimes all we need out of a fantasy-esque game is a downtrodden prince hell-bent on a tasty slice of vengeance. The interest comes down to the surprisingly in-depth politics of the world. Each area of the world has its own monarch and usually has its own Dominant to keep the power balance in check. A dominant is what you are, someone who can embody one of the titular Eikons. The world as it stands is in turmoil as there is some sort of rot that is spreading in the world and destroying all fauna and flora in its wake. This causes the different factions in the world to invade each other for viable land in order to survive. Instead of you know, simply helping each other. But hey ho, it becomes your job to save the world and restore it to its former glory. Of course you are saving the world. This is an RPG! With that in mind... you know what it is time for, don’t you? That’s right, something I haven’t done since my review of Tales of Arise back in March last year…. It's time for…
… Another Rapid-Fire RPG Checklist!
- Male and female main characters are obviously written as love interests. Check.
- The cute pet puppy in the backstory clearly survives to the present day. Check.
- Stupid fetch quests that you feel obligated to complete. Check.
- Features a ‘they’re dead, no they aren’t, yes they are, no they aren’t’ storyline. Check.
- Idiot low-level enemies that rush you blindly even if you are massively overpowered compared to them. Check.
Trying to figure out what the heck a moogle’s place is in this world considering no other races made the cut for this game, and why only you can see it, and why it seems like it only cares about sending you on hunts, and why doesn’t Clive ever mention it to the master archivist who seems inexplicably determined to collect information. Kupo. Check. Wait, what!?...
Garuda – The Wind Up It’s A**
So, there is a lot to love in Final Fantasy XVI. It is clear that a lot of love and dedication went into creating the game. But as with each and every game, there are of course things that don’t quite work.
Now, one of the things that the game was criticised for in the lead-up to its release was the lack of diversity in the game. This is because every person in the trailers (both main and background) where seemingly white. To clear this up, there are actually people of colour in the game, they just live in another area further south. Make of this what you will, but for me, the letdown was the lack of diversity of races in the game. My favourite FF game is (and still is) FFXII. That game had a grand total of 12 intelligent races: all totally different in design, religion, philosophy etc. Along with even more races that are at least capable of speech and communication. In FFXVI there are humans and one single Moogle: there seemingly only for novelty’s sake.
I understand the need to iterate game designs, especially if there are dozens of games in the series, but some things feel missing. For example, the blacksmith and shopkeeper are there, but they don’t really serve much purpose. The blacksmith has a new sword, and a new accessory of each type (of which there are only 2) for you to craft after every story mission or so that slightly improves upon the one you have. And the shopkeeper replenishes your potions – of which you can count on one hand the amount you can carry at a time. No more 99 of all kinds of potions in your equipment.
There is also the present issue that I found was prevalent in Hogwarts Legacy too. You get loot, that you do nothing with. You sometimes need some of it to craft your next sword, but nowhere near as much as you will end up with in your inventory. You could sell it for gil, but then you have nothing to buy, so what is the point? There is not much point in exploring the beautiful world because all you will possibly get is more of the pointless loot.
One further thing to note that I feel is a missed opportunity was that there are no enemy weaknesses. If you are fighting a bomb for example (a literal ball of fire) using fire-based attacks causes the same amount of damage as wind-based attacks, other elemental-type attacks etc. I feel like this is something that should be present in that game but isn’t.
Titan – A Testament Of Power
It is clear that I have my gripes with FFXVI. Whilst it sells itself as an action-based RPG, there are certainly a lot of actual RPG mechanics that seem missing. But that does not deter the game from standing on its own merits. The game is still great. Its highs stand tall above its lows. It is simply something that games have failed to be of late – fun. I can see this game marking the cornerstone of the games to follow in its wake. It is a formula that will no doubt lead the charge into a new era of Final Fantasy games.
FFXVI is a call back to a time when games were what they were and didn’t try to be something more. It is a game whose story has been crafted around the desire to simply pit big elemental behemoths against each other for us to enjoy. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The game is great fun and any fan of action or story-driven games will feel right at home with this one. I definitely recommend checking out Final Fantasy XVI.