Home » Final Fantasy XVI – Review by someone who hasn’t played a FF since 2010

Final Fantasy XVI – Review by someone who hasn’t played a FF since 2010

After 13 years of abstinence from a Final Fantasy, I picked up the saga again with Chapter XVI: a novice gamer's review.

My fixed thought during the last 5-6 hours of play, before reaching the end credits of the new Square Enix-branded PlayStation 5 exclusive, was, “I can’t wait to write something about Final Fantasy XVI.” The reason behind this eagerness that I have not felt in quite some time is very simple: I have changed my opinion about the latest chapter of the Final Fantasy saga so many times that perhaps, I thought to myself, tapping my fingers on the keyboard would allow me to clear my mind.

As anticipated in the test of the Final Fantasy XVI’s demo, I haven’t played a FF since Episode XIII: I’m not a big fan of turn-based games and the action turn embraced by this new chapter, inevitably caught my attention (which was then one of the stated goals of the production to broaden to as wide an audience as possible). In the role of Clive Rosfield – the protagonist of Final Fantasy XVI – I explored far and wide Valisthea, losing myself several times in my ludic musings and wondering about the combat system and the role-playing component; about the exploration of the maps and the game world; and about a story that, while juxtaposed several times to GOT, for me it had nothing to do with A Song of Ice and Fire (If you are looking for something comparable, turn your eyes toward the usual Elden Ring).

Final Fantasy XVI: good story but it’s not GOT

I’ll open a parenthesis for a moment before going any further: in this review, you will not find the explanation of the whole plot of Final Fantasy XVI but I can safely send you on the fly to Wikipedia if you want to get an idea. With that parenthesis closed, I want to begin straightforwardly: Final Fantasy XVI is not Game of Thrones. True, I had been thinking the opposite while completing the demo of about two hours: betrayals, intrigue, sex, favorite children and non-preferred children. In short, everyone seemed ready to stab me in the back at the most opportune moment.

Certainly, that of FF16 is a decidedly mature writing (slavery is one of the main themes addressed) and there is no shortage of elements that are “inspired” by Martin’s fantasy saga: for example, a changing political landscape, a kingdom whose rule is contested by several warring factions – if you don’t understand what is going on, you can always view the Active Time Lore, a compendium that keeps track of all the events that happened, the characters and sides involved – with the different pawns on the Valisthea chessboard falling one after the other, thanks to the heroic and rebellious deeds performed by the one true protagonist of Final Fantasy XVI: the previously mentioned Clive Rosfield.

Final Fantasy XVI Review 1

From my point of view, the juxtaposition of FFXVI and GOT works very well as a smoke and mirrors: attracting as many players as possible through a particularly frenetic and immediate combat system and a fantasy story with multiple protagonists, comparable to the one written by George Martin and later launched on TV by HBO several years later. Instead, the narrative of Final Fantasy XVI, while attempting the path of choralism, will prove to be mostly clivecentric: the path of the hero with dormant powers who, as the adventure continues, discovers that he is the only one who can save the world.

A clivecentric story

It all begins with a wound in Clive’s heart so painful that it drives him on a quest for the most classic revenge that, instead of quenching his thirst for revenge forever, will uncover a bitter truth capable of psychologically breaking down even the strongest of leaders. And it is precisely at the most difficult moment to face that the other actors of Final Fantasy XVI set foot on the stage, who will attempt to shoulder some of the burden that the protagonist drags around with him.

We will be active viewers of a great fantasy epic that also packs a decent choral narrative: Jill for example, the character who will accompany us for almost the entire duration of the campaign, is a figurine put there to support us in game and about which I would have liked to discover much more than what is revealed to us in a couple of crucial junctures with strong emotional impact. The situation improves with the principal antagonistswe will face for the thirty-plus hours required to complete the work: I am thinking of Beneditka, Anabella Rosfield, and Dion Lasage, the latter perhaps, the most successful secondary character with the best story arc.

Final Fantasy XVI Review 2

The story of Final Fantasy XVI wins and hits the mark when it focuses on the rise of Clive Rosfield and his relationship with his brother Joshua:a touching relationship that breaks through at the very same moment we first meet the title’s true villain. A tale enacted through strong cutscenes with majestic direction, ready to pierce the screen and leave you breathless (too bad instead for the interlude dialogues).

Surviving in Valisthea

But how do you wield the sword in Final Fantasy XVI? The discourse is long and complex: I didn’t find so many similarities with Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, but I won’t hide that I still had a blast beating around the bush and dealing with the many bosses and mini bosses that tried to get in my way. Credit goes to the enemy stability bar which allows us, once exhausted, to fill it with bludgeons while maximizing the damage inflicted; to the dodge in the instant before an attack (the alternative to the parry) which is followed by devastating counterattacks; and to the Eikon, eight in all and equipable up to three at the same time, off-the-charts powers and abilities to be activated in battle (recharge time permitting). As I take notes for the review, a viverna appears.

I put together three dodges in a row and, to the sound of counterattacks, break the first half of the mini boss’s balance bar. Eikon’s switch to choose Garuda’s and thus exhaust what remains of his stability (the better Eikon if you favor a style of play focused on breaking guard). I switch powers again, and at that point, with the viper defenseless, I line up four special attacks from two different Eikons that cause considerable damage when boosted properly: Lightning of Judgment and Flames of Rebirth. In a few moments the mini boss goes down and the only thing you can shout at that point is “Destroyed! Destroyed!“.

Replicating this typical scenario does not require who knows what superior skill with the joystick. And it is right here the main point of Final Fantasy XVI’s combat systemeveryone can derive genuine omnipotence by a combat system made to meet the needs of both the more experienced players – jump on the mob’s head, quick attacks one after another, magic projectile charged and fired, change the Eikon in the air to use the one that attracts enemies to us and continue combos without having put a foot back on the ground – both to newbies, because the Eikons are really powerful and in fact, you only have to wait for them to recharge to be able to use them indefinitely.

Eikon’s problems

There are no typical stylish action evaluations at the end of each confrontation: the basic moves are limited, however, and one has to engineer quite a bit to concatenate attacks and thus give rise to spectacular combos for pure personal enjoyment, perhaps even taking advantage of an Eikon and the advantages it can give us on the field. It is also important to point out, however, how the game difficulty, with the exception of the final boss fight, is certainly not calibrated upward.

However, I had my moments of reflection post-fight because I could not guess how I wanted the opponent patterns. As a result, aware that I had ended a battle below my standards, I proceeded to the next area pissed off as a hyena and ready to regain my fighting rhythm. Over time, I realized the importance of AOE when the soldiers or wild monsters are many and favored instead Eikons with special attacks that inflict significant damage to the individual enemy, especially against the countless bosses.

So far, no problem you will think. Actually, the big limitation I found in Final Fantasy XVI’s combat system is the time it takes to open up to its infinite possibilities: there are at least twenty hours of play between you and owning a good number of Eikon and, once you have obtained at least five, you will still be more likely to decide to continue on paths known to you, applying the same strategy that has so far proved successful, rather than trying new combinations of special abilities, also because of an overall difficulty level that certainly does not entice experimentation.

Esploraring Valisthea

We have almost reached the end and yet, even with regard to the structure of the quests and the game world, there is no shortage of things to say. Imagine that you are within a marvelous territory to visit in all its boundless beauty. Well, now that you have imagined it, forget it: exploration is, in all honesty, stripped to the bone. When it comes to dealing with the main dungeons, think of it as a series of linear arenas that run up to the boss fight.

In the open map the situation is not that much better, in fact perhaps it is in some ways worse: Valisthea is empty and trying to get lost in order to reach an abandoned building that we spotted while moving from A to B, will not give those typical satisfactions of someone who abandons the main path to follow something mysterious that for some reason caught his attention.

Whether we’re talking about side quests or main quests (those that require some interaction with other characters), the quest construction is very scholastic: interrogate tizio, caio, and sempronio, retrieve the information, and proceed with the assignment.

The story suffers, mainly in its middle phase, from pacing problems and the overall design of the quests certainly doesn’t help: you would like to confront the behemoth that is about to destroy the world, but instead, to clear the way to your goal, you are forced to talk to several NPCs and solve rather mundane minor requests. The next step: why would I waste time with yet another secondary when I finally got to storm that city?

In addition, there is something strange about the writing of some quests that is also quite alienating in some ways: here is an example to give you a good understanding of what I mean. An important person we are looking for has mysteriously disappeared, so we must rescue him. We leave the city gates behind, walk a few meters to find him on a bridge, sitting, injured and struggling. Has anyone before me been able to spot it and identify it? Possible? At these junctures, there is some loss of immersion in the events: when Final Fantasy XVI decides to speed up, it takes your breath away and therefore, falling into a sincerely rather dated quest design leaves even more bitterness in your mouth.

Final Fantasy XVI: GDR yes or no?

Role-playing progression of the character who well or poorly finds swords and armor simply by completing main quests, accumulating money and materials from simple enemy killings? Music to my ears, I hardly have to do anything. In Final Fantasy XVI, I never had to type on Google searchstrongest weapon in Final Fantasy XVI” Everything is extremely linear, and while this did not prove to be a problem for me, I also understand those who would like to indulge in creating the build best suited to their play style.

Exploring or completing side quests then, as explained in the previous paragraph, is not likely to help much: rewards are cut to the bone and as a result, the first instinct is to waste as little time as possible wandering aimlessly because the urge to proceed in the story is so great. Difficult then that the equipment at hand is not more than enough to survive yet another battle – you need never have passed by the blacksmith to find yourself in such a situation – and, having completed the quest, we will almost certainly have found something useful to forge a new broadsword. I never had any money problems throughout the whole game!

Final Fantasy XVI undoubtedly has its imperfections – above all, the structure of the side quests and some main ones and the exploration – but it is also a great adventure, touching and well written, to be experienced with a lump in our throats as we try to bringing out the best in a combat system complicated just the right amount but that never flows into those DMC-like technicalities. For me, the ruolistic component is not a flaw but I also understand those who would have liked more. There was talk of a rebirth of the saga, like a Phoenix rising from its ashes: the beginning is certainly more than encouraging.


Andrea Baiocco

Amo la birra, il basket e i videogiochi. Sogno un'Ipa al pub con Kratos e una scampagnata con Nathan Drake. Scrivo su Lascimmiapensa e su Everyeye mentre provo a parlare su Freaking News.

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