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Final Fantasy XVI Review

Final Fantasy XVI Review

As much as I love Final Fantasy, I was worried about Final Fantasy XVI. After all, you’re never sure what to expect from mainline instalments. I wasn’t massively excited at first, but then I saw the trailer with the Eikon battles, and I knew: I had to get this game. Once the demo was released, I played it immediately, and I had never been so blown away. My expectations were higher than they’d been for a while, and once it was released, I spent all my time playing it.

The best thing about Final Fantasy XVI was that I was able to go into it completely blind. Personally, I think that’s the best way to enjoy this game. However, if you’re reading this, I can assume you’ve either a) already played it and want to hear what others think, or b) you’re thinking about buying it, but you want to read a review first. If you haven’t played it, I would like to say that you might want to stop reading now. There will be spoilers ahead. So, carry on reading at your own risk.

Ifrit and the Phoenix face off at the beginning of Final Fantasy XVI

When Final Fantasy XVI was being advertised, it focused on the theme of revenge. The demo solidified that, as it focuses on Clive’s search for the Eikon of Fire who killed his brother. Of course, Clive was said Eikon, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s this battle between the two Eikons of Fire, Ifrit and the Phoenix, which is our first introduction to the Eikon battles.

Personally, I’m used to fighting Summons such as Ifrit while still as a human character. So it actually felt great to be able to take control of Ifrit and the Phoenix to fight. They always brought the boss fights to a new level, and they always got better and better. This was one of the first games where I was actually excited to battle the different Bosses instead of going through a sense of fear and trepidation that I was going to die horribly. So, props to you, Final Fantasy XVI! I have never had so much fun fighting each Eikon.

Clive and Torgal heading to the Hideaway following Cid and Jill.

Now, I’ve done my gushing about the Eikon battles, but let’s talk a little about the actual world and narrative. When we meet Clive, he has the mark of the Branded. The Branded are Bearers of magical abilities who are essentially slaves. Clive was made a Branded after the death of Joshua, was a part of a band of assassins, and went under the name of Wyvern. However, when they are sent to eliminate the Dominant of Shiva, Clive discovers that she is actually his childhood friend, Jill. So, he chooses to save her, and he is then reunited with her, and he even comes across his childhood Hound, Torgal. Clive’s group weren’t the only ones who went to search for Shiva, which is where we meet Cidolfus, the Dominant of Ramuh, and the man who found Torgal in the years following the Phoenix Gate Incident.

It is an intense beginning to the game, and it’s clear that Square Enix threw themselves into their Mature rating. There’s blood, nudity, and a lot of swearing, and all of these swears are incredibly relatable; after all, Clive has the exact sort of reaction that I have when facing other enemies, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Even the dialogue is really enjoyable, and I loved to travel around Twinside — which is the realm where the game is set — and you can travel to each place with the help of your handy map. While people who enjoy open-world games may feel like they have been restricted, I appreciated a return to some linear gameplay. I have a firm belief that open-world games are only truly enjoyable when they are utilised and that not all open-world games are good. As someone who enjoyed Final Fantasy XV, the open-world road trip wasn’t the best experience.

A screenshot of a section of the world map as it appears in XVI.

Naturally, you get to visit new areas and travel back and forth depending on where you can go. You typically start the game with a focus on the Main Quests, which are shown by red exclamation marks. However, you will get more access to Side Quests as you progress through the Main storyline. Personally, I don’t believe that Final Fantasy XVI works well without the Side Quests; I’m aware that some people may not enjoy doing them, but I think that they are essential in understanding the wide cast of characters you can meet throughout your journey.

Now, before I go into more optional features, let’s talk a little bit more about the characters. While there is a lot going on in Final Fantasy XVI, it is easy to understand by using the Active Time Lore function between cutscenes. If you’re confused about who a character is or where you are, the Active Time Lore can be accessed by clicking on the PlayStation 5 touchpad, and then you can read about whoever is relevant to that cutscene. It’s an incredibly useful feature, especially as there is such a vast amount of world-building in the background of the game.

The active time lore in action in Final Fantasy XVI.

There are several warring kingdoms, including Rosaria, Sanbreque, Dhalmekia, and Waloed. However, Rosaria is having a bad time and is more of a casualty of the Empire of Sanbreque. The main enemies you’ll be dealing with are in Sanbreque, Dhalmekia, and Waloed, but while you’re also battling the soldiers in their armies, you’ll mainly have to worry about the Dominants who are working with each country. At the beginning of the game, you will already have two Dominants on your side: Jill and Cid. The enemies you fight will include Benedikta, the Dominant of Garuda; Hugo, the Dominant of Titan; Dion, the Dominant of Bahamut; and Barnabas, the Dominant of Odin. However, defeating the Dominants is only part of your mission.

Drake's Fang, one of the Mothercrystals Clive's goal is to destroy.

Cid has a mission to destroy the Mothercrystals, which are giant crystals that are revered by the people of Twinside. They are worshipped and are also the main resource which supplies magic to the people of the Realm. By destroying the Mothercrystals, there is a chance to free the Bearers from the curse of their magic and also the Dominants. However, unbeknownst to Clive, this is all a part of a much bigger scenario. In the background of all of this, the Dominants are all being swayed by the forces of Ultima, a Fallen God. Naturally, to anyone who has ever played any RPG, you know that you will have to fight God. It’s a staple of the genre, and I for one, will always be here for that.

Of course, not all the Dominants are swayed by Ultima’s plan. While Dion is an enemy you’ll have to fight, he’s certainly one of the Dominants who I have the most sympathy for. Mostly because he and Clive have the joint dissatisfaction of having to interact with Clive’s mother, Anabella, who is definitely one of the worst mothers in Final Fantasy. I think we can all agree that Anabella was a character I disliked from the very beginning, and for good reason. I mean, what kind of mother throws their son into slavery? Anabella, that’s who.

Anabella, truly, the worst mother in Final Fantasy history.

With the number of issues that Clive has, it’s a surprise that he is nowhere near as angsty as the trailers portrayed. He steadily became one of my favourite all-time protagonists in Final Fantasy. But he is supported by all of the characters. None of the characters seemed out of place, and you learn more about them as the story progresses as you do more Side Quests. I absolutely adored the Blacksmith Blues Side Quests, and I actually appreciated that there was a purpose to all of them. Of course, it’s not only Side Quests you have.

After a five-year time skip, you will get access to the Hunt Board and many more Side Quests throughout Twinside. The Hunt Board is ranked from D- to S-Rank monsters, and they offer a great challenge between the Main quest lines. I would even say that I found the S-Rank hunts more difficult than the boss fights, but they do offer a great incentive. By doing Hunts and Side Quests, you will earn more renown throughout the realm, and with it, you will get more items, Gil, and soundtracks for the Orchestrion.

A closer look at the Hunt Board in XVI.

The Orchestrion was a fun addition to the Hideaway. You can either buy the songs from vendors, or you can find them in Treasure Coffers, which are hidden away around different areas. However, other Orchestrion soundtracks can only be found by getting renown. Personally, as someone who adores the soundtrack, and someone who adores Masayoshi Soken’s music generally, there’s no way that I could ignore these little additions. If you buy soundtracks, you’ll find them pretty expensive, and you may be thinking of saving your Gil for a rainy day. Unlike other Final Fantasy games, XVI limits the number of items you can equip in your inventory to use in battle. You need to think about which items you want to use, and even when you maximise your inventory for potion space, you’ll find that you’re only allowed a select number. If you’re used to hoarding healing items, you’ll be having a rough time. However, I liked that a lot, as it meant that I had to be careful of how I used each item and when.

The menu in Blackthorne's shop, The Black Hammer, where you can craft new gear.

You can also find gear and other items in the Treasure Coffers. Your gear includes wristlets, belts, and swords. While you can get it from Blackthorne the Blacksmith or buy them from vendors like Charon, the gear is overall easy to unlock. At the end of each Main Quest, you can go to Blackthorne to get new ones, so the crafting elements of the main game do leave a little to be desired. However, there was a little bit more challenge towards the end of the game, especially if you’re interested in unlocking Gotterdammerung, which requires three Orichalcum to craft. Now, Orichalcum is not a metal you can easily find, and in fact, it’s one of the rarest metals in the game. You will need to find S-Rank hunts and defeat them, which provides a fun challenge for any player, regardless of difficulty.

You can either play Story Focused or Action Focused on your first playthrough. With Story Focused, you’ll have two items that are equipped immediately, and the enemies will be easier to fight. While Action Focused is essentially the normal difficulty. You can then unlock hard difficulty or Final Fantasy mode by beating the main game, regardless of whether you chose Story or Action Focused.

A screenshot of the skill tree, where you can adjust your Eikon abilities.

Personally, I found that you could adjust your level of challenge based on how comfortable you are with the combat system. The good news is that the combat system is absolutely delightful. Clive’s abilities include absorbing the power of other Dominants, so you can base your special attacks around which Skills you unlock, and you can mix and match and play with them as you unlock them. You can also use specific gear that will make the game easier for you. For example, I personally liked to use the Ring of Timely Focus. I’m not a big fan of the Automatic ones such as the Ring of Timely Evasion, and the Ring of Timely Focus can slow down time to give you the opportunity to dodge your enemy attacks. If you’re not confident in your combat abilities, then, they’re really helpful.

Of course, there are other accessories you can use to amplify Clive’s Eikon abilities. Unlike other games, you don’t have to worry about controlling your party. However, there is one member you can occasionally control: The Phoenix, who can reach enemies that Clive can’t as Ifrit on land. In the Eikon battles, you are also able to have cinematic encounters, and I can’t lie: they were phenomenal. These Eikon battles are when Masayoshi Soken’s soundtrack shines more than ever. If you’re a fan of FINAL FANTASY XIV, you will absolutely adore the music for each boss fight. I was so excited about each fight, and it was truly an adrenaline-pumping experience. I have never had more fun than when I fought each Eikon, but even outside of these fights, I loved to learn more about the world and characters that surrounded Clive.

Of everything, I loved Clive’s relationship with all the other characters, especially Jill and Gav. Naturally, I don’t have to say how much I loved Torgal, who you can pet many times, but the relationship Clive builds with others makes Final Fantasy XVI so much more emotional. I was rooting for Clive and Jill’s relationship throughout the story, and it makes the entire final sequence so much more emotional. This is a game that consumed me emotionally, and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried many times. By the end, I was a sobbing mess, and I wanted to re-experience the whole story for the first time. I wish I could play Final Fantasy XVI again without any knowledge of what happens.

Clive during one of the Chronolith Trials you can challenge.

Even if you’re not a fan of the storyline, the combat is brilliant, and you can take advantage of the different features, such as Arcade Mode, or challenge yourself in the Chronolith Trials, where you can only use specific Eikon abilities depending on which of the Trials you find. It offers a consistent challenge, and you can even go back to your favourite battles all over again.

With that in mind, I would happily recommend Final Fantasy XVI to others. If you’re not normally a fan of Final Fantasy, I would suggest you give it a go. With dynamic gameplay and a truly phenomenal story, there’s no doubt that this will be classed as one of the best games in the franchise. From Masayoshi Soken’s soundtrack to the voice acting and dialogue of the cast, this is a story that will continue to stick with me, and I will be happy to play this again and again.

9.50/10 9½

Final Fantasy XVI (Reviewed on PlayStation 5)

Excellent. Look out for this one.

Overall, Final Fantasy XVI is a phenomenal gaming experience that I enjoyed from start to finish. With dynamic gameplay, amazing characters, and an emotional storyline, new and old fans alike will love the latest entry in the franchise.

This game was purchased at retail for the purpose of this review
Bex Prouse

Bex Prouse

Staff Writer

Writing about all sorts like a liquorice allsort

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