top of page

Final Fantasy XVI Review

Initial release date: June 22, 2023

Platform: PlayStation 5

Engine: Proprietary Engine, Unreal Engine 4

Composer: Masayoshi Soken

Developers: SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD., Creative Business Unit III

Genres: Action role-playing game, Fighting game, Adventure game

Mode: Single-player video game

"Review Copy Provided By Square-Enix"

When we first got word of a new Final Fantasy being made back in September 16th, 2020 during the PlayStation 5 Showcase for the upcoming PS5, we were shown a trailer for Final Fantasy XVI and it was one of the best trailers I had ever seen for a Final Fantasy and I’ve been around long enough to be a fan of the franchise for the last 30 years. Fast forward 3 years later and in that time we had gotten several trailers and developer commentary videos along with a Pre-Launch Event that I got to attend by way of an invitation from Square-Enix; and now here we are with the release of the 16th mainline entry in the Final Fantasy franchise. To give you a TLDR; yes, the game is absolutely phenomenal from the gameplay to the graphics to the story and more. For those who want more meat on the bones, then let’s dive into this review of Final Fantasy XVI!

The story of Final Fantasy XVI is insanely layered which shouldn’t be a surprise if you’re familiar with CBU3 or Creative Business Unit III which is headed by Naoki Yoshida better know by fans us fans of Final Fantasy XIV as Yoshi P. CBU3 is responsible for many things, chief amongst them being turning the failed FFXIV into the number one MMO in the world and for having what is considered by so many as the greatest Final Fantasy story to be told; With the genius of Yoshi P and CBU3, the story of FFXVI is in safe hands.

FFXVI is set in the land of Valisthea and centers around a tale of two brothers; Clive Rosfield and his younger brother Joshua Rosfield who are of sons of Duke Elwin Rosfield and Duchesses Annabelle Rosfield of Rosaria. Clive is training to become the shield of Rosaria’s Dominant Joshua who is to eventually take the throne. Despite Clive being the first born, he dis not inherit the power of the Fire Eikon Phoenix and thus Joshua became the Dominant. The people of Rosaria revere Elwin and the Rosfield brothers yet loathe Annabelle for the outward cruelty and disgust that she openly showcases towards her eldest son Clive as she views him as a failure and ultimately as worthless because he did not inherit the power of the Phoenix Eikon. On one fateful night, tragedy befalls Rosaria as Elwin is killed as are all of the knights of Rosaria due to an ambush from the Empire which triggers the awakening of the Fire Eikon Phoenix within Joshua triggering a transformation as well as the awakening of the dark Eikon Ifrit within Clive. Following the tragedy and a 13-year time skip, Clive embarks on his journey of revenge for the death of his brother Joshua whom he was forced to watch be murdered by the dark Eikon Ifrit whom he believes was activated by a mysterious hooded figure.

Because of how deep and engaging the overall narrative is, this is as far as I will delve into it as I encourage you to play the game for yourself to experience this masterpiece. The story is so well written and executed that it’ll have you hooked from start to finish. The emotional range that I experienced from playing this game went the full spectrum from being excited at the sense of adventure to feeling the very rage, anguish, and helplessness that Clive felt upon witnessing the death of his brother, to the feelings of wanting revenge on any and all who brought harm to Rosaria, and finally being moved to tears for every heartfelt and heartbreaking moment that occurs as the story unfolds.

When I say that This is the best none MMO Final Fantasy that we have experienced in decades, I mean that sincerely as I haven’t played a Final Fantasy that has been this good since roughly 2001’s Final Fantasy and the spiritual successor to Final Fantasy being Lost Odyssey from the creator of the franchise, Hironobu Sakaguchi. If you’ve felt Final Fantasy lost it’s identity with FF12, 13, and 15; then FF16 will be the game that brings the series back to it’s origins. If you enjoyed Game of Thrones, Berserk, Vinland Saga, or Attack on Titan and Kaiju movies, then this is everything you would ever dream for.

While this game not only honors its heritage and legacy with many call backs to its humble beginnings such as seeing scarecrows that resemble Vivi from Final Fantasy IX, but this entry does also go fully into the action RPG genre instead of the traditional Turn-Based genre that it has always been known for. This decision was for many, a deal breaker and to a louder vocal minority viewed as a betrayal of what Final Fantasy is. This topic has caused the game to have to deal with 3 years of people claiming that it isn’t a “true” Final Fantasy because of it’s action-based nature along with these same people calling the game a soulless God of War/Devil May Cry rip-off. Do keep in mind that these claims are hypocritical given the fact that these same fans are insanely hyped for the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Rebirth as well-loved Final Fantasy VII Remake. Adding to that is the fact that Final Fantasy has in every entry since the original game in 1987, sought to evolve the combat systems in its games of which were usually a result of the limitations of the hardware it was on and since the introduction of the ATB or Active Time Battle system that went on to become a mainstay for decades, has increasingly been seeking to remove itself from the Turn-Based format and sought to delve further into real time action.

The other thing of note is the criticism lobbied at this game for being a European themed dark high fantasy instead of a futuristic cyber punk dystopia as well as claims that the game doesn’t have diversity in it’s cast nor showcase any real-world issues given the “skin color” of its cast. Bollocks all of it as this game, just as FF14 did and continues to do, delivers one of the best and most introspective social commentaries I’ve ever seen which includes commentary on discrimination/racism/slavery, sex slave trades, trauma and abuse, psychology, class and caste systems, being born to circumstances not of your choosing, dealing with societal enforced norms, the price of freedom and poison of revenge, and ultimately of life and being enslaved to Fate itself. This game dives into so many topics that hit home that it’ll have you pausing to reflect on them.

Gameplaywise, FF16 delivers incredibly strong by being one of the best action games out there with a combat system that is so fast and naturally fluid that it stands right next to the likes of Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, God of War, and Ninja Gaiden as one of the best easy to learn yet difficult to master games. You have an attack button that via later upgrades can lead to charged attacks as well as a magic attack that can also be charged and interchanged mid combo with the attack button. There is also a jump button, dodge button, Eikon Shifting and Attack Modifying button, as well as a special ability button as well. Being able to intermix any and all of these actions during combat can result in some of the most fluid and fun combat I’ve experienced in years. You can use Clive’s basic sword swinging combos and then intermix them with a magic hit after every swing or mix them up with a special ability such as Garuda’s Dark Embrace or Titan’s Shield Arm or even dodge at the last minute of an enemy attack which activates a bullet/witch time like slowdown of time around Clive allowing you to get in some serious hits on your enemy. The possibilities only end with you and your capability.

The highlight of gameplay for me is most definitely the Eikon battles which operate basically as Kaiju or monster fights reminiscent of Godzilla movies and even the popular Attack on Titan manga and anime. Clive will transform into the dark Eikon Ifrit and take on the other Eikons such as Garuda, Titan, Odin, Bahamut, and more and will engage in one of one colossal battle that are truly a cinematic spectacle. You’ll find during these battles as well as normal ones that QTE’s or quick time battles will occur which will result in you needing to press R1 to dodge an incoming and sometimes fatal attacks or press Square to attack an enemy for critical damage or mashing the Square button for deadlocked attacks to end a stalemate. Some may not enjoy these occurrences, but I personally don’t find any issue with them at all.

Outside of combat, you’re able to explore towns and inns as well as shop at the various merchants and even make use of the blacksmith to craft new weapons and gear as well as upgrade existing ones into stronger forms. Outside of the main storyline quests, there are numerous side quests that you can undertake to that’ll net you various items, weapons, armor, and materials that can often be essential to crafting new gear and weapons. These quests are timed however and will be inaccessible once you go beyond certain points in the story, so make sure you make time to do them as they basically are the keep to constantly getting new and better gear.

There is a skill-tree system which allows you to gain new abilities and attacks as well as allowing you to upgrade them further to improve cool downs and various effects of mastery Allowing you to build out Clive however you want to in a form often seen in games like Diablo and the like.

There isn’t an open world for you to explore and get lost in, yet that hasn’t been a staple in the franchise since Final Fantasy IX. You have an overworld map that allows you to move your cursor around and select a location to go to in a similar way to Final Fantasy X. This doesn’t limit your ability to explore the world as every area has numerous nooks and crannies for you to explore.

Another interesting mechanic brought to this game is called ATL or Active Time Lore which allows you to dive deeper into the lore of the characters and world of Valisthea. All you have to do is hold dow the TouchPad of the Dual Sense control and then select one of the hovering icons and you’ll be met with a bestiary of information of what’s going on currently in the plot as well as the characters and things you’ve learned up till that point. There is also an actual bestiary in the game located in Cid’s Hideout which allows you to talk to a records keeper who has information about everyone and everything in the game. This makes getting refreshers on characters, locations, and events much easier and engaging if you’ve taken time away from the game.

The audio in this game is simply astounding as everything from the sounds of the environment’s flora and fauna, characters voices, and the soundtrack are all in a league of their own. Whether you are running around the various fields and towns, or engaging in battles, the attention to detail given to the audio such as the sword of the steel of a sword clasing with armor or the sound of boots hiting various pavements to the sounds of the environment being destroyed and bones and flesh being broken and cuit to the exasperation of exhaustion in the characters voices is all there. If you have a decent pair of headphones or speakers, then I urge you to listen to the sound when you engage in an Eikon Kaiju fight as it’s simply amazing.

The soundtrack is some of the best in the industry as SOKEN just simply delivers on every track of this game. If you want music to make you cry, it’s there. If you want music that’ll make you want to take up arms and fight, it’s there. If you want to hear a boss battle theme that flows from grand symphony highs to a triumphant battle hymn all the way across the spectrum, then you’re in for a treat. There isn’t a bad song on this soundtrack and that’s thanks to the brilliance of SOKEN.

The voice acting is the best I’ve ever heard in this franchise and in gaming. The wide range of accents, the varying tonal shifts in line delivery, to the weight of emotion in moments where a tragic event occurs is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Ben Starr is one of the absolute best voice actors in the industry today as his portrayal of Clive should earn him an award. He absolutely nails every line as the 15-year-old Clive we start the game as to the broken and battered killer that Clive becomes as an adult. The one line that Ben delivered as Clive that immediately sold me on the game was when Ben with the heaviest of emotions delivered the lines of “I’ll kill you! I’ll FUCKING KILL YOU!” at the end of the first act of the game. I rarely can connect with many characters in video games now or feel sympathy to the situations and journey's that they are on because the characters feel like characters and not living breathing people. Ben as Clive is one of the few times, I’ve ever legitimately felt a character become a fully 3 dimensional being. I felt the gravity of every word Clive said, I felt his emotions, his anger, his hurt, and especially his grief at losing loved ones; this would not have been possible if not for Ben’s performance. Not to give Ben the sole credit for an awesome voice over, the entire cast for this game delivers an Oscar worthy performance. Each and every one of them should win an award, especially the voice of Cidolfous.

Graphically, FF16 is stunningly gorgeous with a mix of realism and detail that bring this dark high fantasy world to life. I am astounded at how beautiful this world and these characters look as you can see so many details from the blemishes on their skin, crease lines on their faces, strands of hair, and more. This truly feels like a next generation game, and I am glad that it was built for the PS5 and not forced to be a game that needs to be on the last generation of consoles as well as this one.

The performance of the game is great with next to no load times and rarely any performance hiccups. There are occasional framerate dips where the game in Performance Mode can go from 60fps down to 54fps and lower while Graphical Mode allows for 4K hyper detailed characters and environments capped at 30fps with occasional dips to 24fps. There are occasional instances where textures of characters clothing and the environments will look pixelated as well as enemies far off in the distance moving at below 20fps. Square-Enix have publicly stated that a day one patch will be released to correct all of these issues. Aside from the above listed, I haven’t experienced any issues with my time with the game.

In wrapping up this review, Final Fantasy XVI is simply one of the greatest games I’ve ever played and has brought back my love of Final Fantasy and its origins. Before this game came out, I felt that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was the only real game to be the Game of the Year in a sea of remakes and remasters and so few original releases. While I think ToTK is a great game in and of itself, Final Fantasy XVI is just, in my opinion, a superior game in all aspects and continues to keep you hooked all the way to its final hours. FF16 delivers a story that’s so strong and emotionally impactful while also delivering fast and fluid fun combat, and state of the art graphics that finally gives us a reason to own the PS5. This is my GoTY and is one of the greatest games to come out in all of gaming. I look forward to Yoshi P continuing to be at the helm of all Final Fantasy games going forward as he has more than proven himself capable of delivering the best stories and gameplay in the series’ 30+ year history! If you have a PS5, then buy this game as it’s that damn good. If you don’t have a PS5, then this is the perfect reason to buy one.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page