Final Fantasy XVI Review: The Lovechild of Game of Thrones & Devil May Cry

Alternatively: “Racism – The Video Game”.

Final Fantasy XVI is the latest mainline entry in the Final Fantasy franchise. After the success of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Square Enix saw that it was time for another mainline entry. While Final Fantasy XV had a lot of issues that literally forced the game to go from a spin-off of Final Fantasy XII to a mainline entry, the original director left the game and made another director take the helm which effectively restarted development, so much cut content that they turned the last bit of DLC’s into a book, it still garnered a massive fanbase that made them try the other Final Fantasy games.

Final Fantasy is a series that has been around for a long time now, and you can start with any Final Fantasy game as your first. Personally, I started with Final Fantasy X. Didn’t finish that one though, but I did finish the original Final Fantasy on the PlayStation Portable. And that is amazing to think about, knowing that you can jump into this series without any prior knowledge, besides it’s a series full of anime characters defeating evil with the power of friendship.

If this is your first Final Fantasy game, then you are in for a treat. If you’re an avid Final Fantasy fan, then you are also in for a treat. This game is nothing short of fantastic, in every sense of the word. From the graphics, the story, to the combat, this game is an experience one must play to remind everyone that triple AAA gaming can be good.

However, there are some issues that definitely affect this game and the genre it’s trying to be. But enough about that, let’s start with the game’s story, shall we?

A Rollercoaster from Start to Finish

Clive and Jill in Final Fantasy XVI.

The story in Final Fantasy games vary in quality and opinions. Some people praise the story of Final Fantasy VI and IX as the best in the series, and some view Final Fantasy VII and X as the most overrated ones. Again, it’s all varying in quality and opinions. One can look at the franchise as a whole and see that despite these games being in the same series, each entry has their own cult following that praises it, and Final Fantasy XVI has its own fans that love it.

I am one of those people, and as someone who has watched Game of Thrones (not completely), it does give me the vibe that the people behind the story were watching Game of Thrones when they were writing the story from this game. Hell, they even got a Game of Thrones actor, Ralph Ineson, to voice the series regular, Cid!

The world of Final Fantasy XVI is filled with beautiful landscapes with a sad story accompanied by it. You play as Clive Rosfield, a royal prince turned soldier due to his kingdom falling apart after an incident with the Eikon of Fire, Phoenix, and a second Eikon of Fire, Ifrit. Being branded with a mark on his face, Clive experiences discrimination as a Branded, as Bearers in the world are looked down upon by society.

The main protagonist, Clive Rosfield in Final Fantasy XVI.

The game features many moments that will make you feel a variety of emotions. Happy, sad, anger, hopeful, hopeless, etc. That’s how you know a game’s story is good when it elicits emotions out of you as you pay attention. And you don’t even have to play the main story to experience that, because the side quests in the game are so wonderfully written, that I recommend you to not skip them.

Yes, some side quests are no doubt boring and repetitive, but a majority of the side quests pay off near the end of the game. It would be a disservice to yourself if you skip them because you will be missing out on character development from not only the main characters, but to side characters as well, and that is an incredibly hard thing to pull off.

The Characters Actually Feel Like Real People

Blackthorne, the games blacksmith and one of the many side characters in Final Fantasy XVI.

The trouble with developing a story-driven game is that you need to have the people in your game actually act like people. That’s a struggle a lot of games go through. Forspoken, the Saints Row reboot, even going back as far as Mass Effect Andromeda. Writing and directing characters to feel real is a challenge, but it’s no challenge for Final Fantasy XVI.

One of the many reasons why people love Final Fantasy XV was that the main cast felt real. The boys actually felt like real people, struggling with the burdens of losing their homes and the people they love. In Final Fantasy XVI, the main cast, as well as the supporting cast, all feel like real, genuine people with whom you can feel emotions towards.

It’s one of the many reasons why I did the side quests because these people all feel real. The emotions that happen during these side quests are displayed so well in the voice acting.

Clive accepting his role as the second Dominant of Fire in Final Fantasy XVI.

But the one that actually steals the show throughout the whole game is none other than Clive Rosfield’s voice actor, Ben Starr. All throughout the game, Ben delivers gut wrenching lines that makes you feel for Clive and his anguish. Not to say that the other cast aren’t good, because they all are. Characters like Cid, Gav, Benedikta, Hugo all deliver fantastic performances that really makes one say “I feel like I’m watching a movie”.

One can maybe give thanks to the heavy inspiration of Game of Thrones on the game, as the performances in Game of Thrones are nothing but fantastic as well.

The Best Looking Current Generation Game Right Now

One of the many places you can visit in Final Fantasy XVI.

Games like Resident Evil 4 Remake and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor are all fantastic-looking games, but none as good-looking as Final Fantasy XVI. One can assume that this game was made with the Luminous Engine or Unreal Engine 5. Surprisingly? It’s not. The name of the engine is currently unknown, and Square Enix has said that they made the engine for the development of this game.

If this is true, then Unreal Engine may have some competition right now, because Final Fantasy XVI is the best-looking game right now. It’s a mix and match of realism and that Final Fantasy anime style that a lot of people love. Together, along with the engine they used for this game, crafted a game so beautiful that I wasn’t even sure if the game was using CGI cutscenes or not.

A pre-rendered cutscene using the in-game engine in Final Fantasy XVI.

Take this image for example. Believe it or not, this is not a CGI cutscene. It is a pre-rendered cutscene that uses the in-game engine. There are so many moments in the game that made me go “Is this pre-rendered or in-game?” because the quality of the in-game cutscene and the pre-rendered cutscene are barely noticeable. The only way I could tell it was pre-rendered because the weapon on Clive’s back is a different weapon that I have equipped.

Square Enix has developed an engine that makes their game look good, whether you are using the Performance mode or the Quality mode, you can be sure to get a great visual experience (though I do recommend using Quality mode when playing for the first time to enjoy the game at full graphics, then using Performance when playing New Game +).

Combat is Fun, Fast, Epic, & Stylish

Fighting a Gigas in Final Fantasy XVI.

When people think of hack-and-slash games, almost everyone will refer to the Devil May Cry series. The franchise is known for its stylish, but also complex, combat that allows players to perform the craziest combos that can leave viewers shocked that they even managed to do that. However, Final Fantasy XVI’s combat is not on the same level of Devil May Cry 5. More like Devil May Cry 1.

In combat, you have three ways to attack your enemies: the basic melee attack, range attack, and Eikon abilities. Like with every beginning of a hack-and-slash game, you will start off with the basics. You’ll only be able to do basic combos that will get the job done. But if you progress more into the game, you will soon unlock more abilities that will help you defeat enemies faster.

Abilities you can unlock in Final Fantasy XVI.

These abilities range from upgrades to your current abilities or new abilities that you can purchase. One such ability that you can get is the Lunge ability, which is an amazing ability to have when you need to zoom in close to your enemies. Or the Downward Thrust, which allows Clive to slam flying enemies into the ground.

These abilities and attacks are both functional and stylish. Due to the engine of the game, you can find your screen full of special effects that will practically melt a Victorian-era child worker’s brain into mush. This can be a bit of a downside to your eyes because I myself would sometimes cover my eyes or squint because of how much is going on on the screen.

Clive performing Zantetsuken in Final Fantasy XVI.

Now let’s move on to Eikon attacks. These abilities can be unlocked with every Eikon you get. Each Eikon will have a special ability that you can press with the Circle button, and then four other attacks that you can unlock. Two will be initially unlocked, while the other two will require Ability Points to unlock. Take note that the super attacks for each Eikon is at the bottom of their skill tree, which you should unlock as soon as you can for extra AoE damage.

But don’t think you can spam these attacks all throughout the fight. These Eikon abilities all have cooldowns (except for the Circle ability), and the cooldown varies per ability. Some have short cooldowns, others have longer cooldowns. Finding out which abilities to use first and which to use last is crucial if you want to win a hard fight.

RPG Mechanics Are… Just There

The Gear system in Final Fantasy XVI.

Now let me explain what I mean when I say that they’re “just there”. When you play an RPG game, you will focus on crafting and acquiring new gear that will help you become stronger. Final Fantasy XIV, an MMORPG, does that. Ghost of Tsushima does that. Even Forspoken does that. But with Final Fantasy XVI, the RPG mechanics feel tacked on.

Yes, you can change your gear and accessories. But compared to other Final Fantasy entries, including mobile ones, there’s not a lot of items that allow you to customize your character the way you want to. Want to have a glass build that focuses on all damage? You only get three accessories that increase damage, but only an insignificant amount. All defense build? Have fun with two accessories that ups your defense.

The game feels like it could be done without the gear and accessories, which says a lot about the work that was put into it.

Eikon Fights Are a Blast

Ifrit finishing a fight in Final Fantasy XVI.

Final Fantasy XVI features Kaiju fights. Yes, you control Ifrit to fight other summons in epic battles. And by the Crystals, are they glorious… These fights are visual spectacles that blesses your eyes with the epicness from the fight, as well as the banging soundtrack that floods your ears as you go head to head with Garuda or Titan or Bahamut.

It’s like watching Avengers: Endgame all over again, but you get to take control of the fight with your controller.

Titan fight in Final Fantasy XVI.

And don’t think that the Eikon fights slowly lose its charm. It does not. Whenever you finish an Eikon fight, you will think to yourself “the next one cannot top this fight”, only to be proven wrong. Each fight will have you on the edge of you seat as you fight them. My personal favorite is the Titan fight, and I will only give you the image above as a sneak peek. You will need to play the game to find out how good this fight is.

Dog? Instant Game of the Year

The best boy. Torgal, in Final Fantasy XVI.

Like every Final Fantasy game, you will have party members as you play through the game. Some come and go as you advance the story, but there is one party member that remains by your side throughout the whole thing: Torgal.

This good boy is Clive’s bestfriend and companion throughout the entire game. When other members like Cid and Jill leave your party, Torgal will remain by your side as you do side quests or explore the world. Talk about man’s best friend, huh?

Final Fantasy XVI Review

Elijah Hernandez

RPG Elements

My Final Rating & Recommendation

Final Fantasy XVI is a fantastic story driven game that will clutch onto you from the start. You will find yourself glued to your seat to see how this epic tale continues as you play the game. But due to the really bad RPG mechanics, primarily on the gear side, it pains to only give this game a 4.4 out of 5.
I really wish I could give this game a perfect score, but the RPG mechanics really bothered me from start to finish. But that doesn’t mean that this game is bad, because I fully recommend anyone who is even remotely interested in Final Fantasy to pick up this game, full price.
I normally recommend people to wait for a sale, but Final Fantasy XVI is that one game that everyone needs to experience as soon as possible.


READ MORE: Final Fantasy XVI – How to Change Armor Appearance Outfit


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