HomeNewsFinal Fantasy XVI Review - A Journey Well Worth The Wait

    Final Fantasy XVI Review – A Journey Well Worth The Wait

    Developed By: Square Enix Creative Business Unit III

    Published By: Square Enix

    Platforms: PlayStation 5

    Reviewed On: PlayStation 5

    Review Code Provided By: Sony Interactive Entertainment Singapore

    For as long as I can remember, gaming for me has always not just been about the amazing experiences that they offered, but rather the poignant memories the escape gifted. A brief respite from real life where I could travel to distant imagined worlds and immerse myself into this amazing tale of adventure. As I’m sure the same goes for a lot of gamers out there, there will always be a few games that will forever live on as a romantic reminder of nostalgia.

    The Final Fantasy series is my constant that I look forward to because it was also the very first RPG that made me love the genre not only because of how interesting it’s multitude of gameplay systems was but how the imagined worlds were fantastical, the stories were hopeful and heartbreaking, and the memories gained lived forever seared in my mind; the one great adventure I took comfort when times were tough.

    Thanks to the amazing folks at PlayStation Asia, we were granted an early review code for the latest entry in the series, Final Fantasy XVI. Childhood glee rushed back, the anticipation of unpacking this brand-new world and setting off on this brand-new adventure was palpable. There has been a lot of discourse on the direction the series has been taking moving more and more toward a full Action RPG rather than a traditional one and the demo that came out further fuelled discussion on it. Some doubled down on how the series felt so different now but there were some doubts that were completely quashed that this new exciting direction is in safe hands.

    I must admit the demo did cause me a little concern as it felt almost too guided and the new battle system felt good but left wanting for more. After spending quite a significant amount this past week doing everything the game offered, my conflicted feelings on it dissipated with time and when the credits rolled I felt that familiar sense of comfort as to why I love the Final Fantasy series. This will be a spoiler free review only because it’s a tale that deserves to be experienced and I can’t wait to read about how players enjoy their journeys with it.

    O Mia Lost Elan. Tu Isag Elythe

    Final Fantasy XVI tells a rather ambitious but very dark story of a land in constant turmoil with the ebb and flow of political manoeuvring, devastating wars fought, and the collateral damage human nature inflicts upon itself. The land of Valisthea is divided into two continents; Storm and Ash and both continents house massive Mothercrystals that are the source of practical magick. These mined crystals produces fire, water and other practical applications that are so ingrained in the everyday lives of each kingdoms it’s only natural that such great power needs to be controlled by any means necessary. What exacerbates the wrestling of control is the encroaching Blight that leaves large swathes of land completely destitute, only being held back by the power of these Mothercrystals. Each kingdom confidently marches to war due to the ace that each of them hold, the power of the Eikons; powerful beings that are only controlled by the Dominants.

    Players take control of Clive Rosfield, son of the great King Elwin of Rosaria tasked with being a Shield of Rosaria for his younger brother Joshua, the Dominant for the Eikon of Fire; Phoenix. As players experienced during the demo, a tragedy engulfs the kingdom and Clive is lost in the shuffle of the moving machinations of the world. Players will slowly journey and unravel what led to the events of the tragedy, how political motivations shape the larger picture, but most importantly how everyone in the realm is affected by the collateral damage from institutional bias, personal vendettas, and more.

    The overarching story in Final Fantasy XVI is very ambitiously layered, more so as with the very helpful addition of the Active Time Lore feature which fleshes out characters, locations, and events with critical information that provides valuable insight into the constant shifts that happens in the world around.

    Luckily, the journey that Clive embarks on feels quite fresh as even though he is the central character the balance struck between providing a believable progression in his own personal journey as well as the overarching narrative between multiple kingdoms is handled with an impressive amount of attention. There are so many side characters like Jill, Cid, Torgal, Gav and more that have their own fleshed out stories that were such a delight to experience and brings so much added value to the world building. Of course, my own personal preference was for a few narrative threads to be handled much differently but still I really enjoyed the entirety of the journey.

    Words Are Immortal, They Live On In Others

    When it comes to the graphical prowess of Final Fantasy XVI, this game really looks magnificent almost all of the time. The character models in the game have a staggering amount of detail and the art style present in the world presents a familiar medieval aesthetic but a gorgeous one. My only slight gripe with the game is how its kind of a shame its not a flawless experience. The game has two graphical options, Graphics & Framerate. The former presents the game at 1440p upscaled to 4K resolution but at 30fps and the latter afford the player with a 1080p image scaled up to 1440p targeting 60fps. I played the bulk of the game in performance mode because the graphics mode has some weird shimmering surrounding characters and also, I wanted a smoother experience. Unfortunately, even though most of the time it is smooth, there are a lot of moments in certain locations or even cutscenes where you can feel the framerate dropping. Almost bizarrely, there is input lag as well at certain areas in Caer Norvent and even the menu screen where there is a noticeable 1-2 second delay.

    The soundtrack and sound design also has high marks from me due to how divine some tracks are and the placement in critical moments almost pitch perfect. Battles with bosses are accompanied by flashy and strong sound effects and the tracks that play during each battle successfully hypes up the confrontation effectively. There is even a slight nod to some comments about the Devil May Cry style battling with some Eikon battles where the music switches from grand orchestral music to bopping beats but it’s all just sublime. There are so many call backs with new variations to familiar Final Fantasy tracks that warms the heart and I really loved listening to them.

    Load times on the PS5 is also incredibly quick with no noticeable load times in scene transitions except from fast travelling which takes around 4-5 seconds or less. The implementation of the Haptic Feedback also adds on to the immersion but when it comes to the Adaptive Triggers, I suppose its serviceable. Pushing doors and etc adds a bit of immersion but it’s also weird that you cannot pre-empt the input but rather have to wait for it to show up then it registers. There is 3D audio as well and it was implemented quite well for those anticipating an exciting listening experience.

    Final Fantasy XVI is incredibly impressive with its level of polish and presentation and I only wished that the Performance mode was immaculate which would have provided a flawless experience.

    We Are Men, Why Must We Die As Less

    There is a lot to do and experience in Final Fantasy XVI but let’s start with the most progressive change; the battle system. If the new action focused battle system was teased with Final Fantasy 7 Remake, here it is expanded into a full experience with good and (for me at least) not so great sides. The standard attack configuration is square for sword attacks and triangle for magic attacks. Clive also has access to Eikon abilities as shown in the demo when holding down the R2 button transforms the square and triangle buttons attacks to Eikon ones which when used refresh on a timer. Battles will play out fast and furious with a varied array of enemies to deal with as elite units needing an extra layer of strategy to take down. The elite enemies have stagger bars which will need to be whittled down to stagger the enemy for a short amount of time to be able to deal a significant amount of damage to their health bars.

    What is really great about this battle system is there is almost always an element of timing and positioning to do the most damage to an elite enemy taking as less as possible in return. Chaining successive Eikon abilities for massive damage is immensely satisfying and most times players will feel very powerful. What is not so great is some of these abilities really require proper positioning and timing so if you miss it because the enemy is a very mobile adversary, then you have to wait for it to refresh to attempt again. What’s also not so great is magic (which is a major part of the Final Fantasy series) is relegated to an almost minimal/non-existent level. Most of the time any element (like fire) is used just for kiting the stagger bars down from a distance. This also means that enemies have no weakness to a certain element, its all brute force. You will also have companions like Torgal who add on a minor assist in enemy engagements but it’s really not a game-changing assist at least in my experience.

    More skilled players will take advantage of the parry, counter system for flashier battles but for players worried that it might be a difficult game, rest assured the battle system is perfectly serviceable even using the starting abilities until late game. There is one particular fire/shield ability which is hilarious all of the time as it juggles enemies endlessly around you while you just stand there.

    There is another element to battling and that is Eikon battles. This is where Clive will transform into his Eikon form and do battle with an opposing one and these are grand set-pieces which only escalate with each battle. As a spectacle the battles are amazing, however some of these Eikon battles can also feel like they go on for way too long with one in particular evoking the same feeling when I watched Fast and Furious 6 with the never-ending airport runway. The move-set you gain access to as an Eikon also feels quite basic so it becomes just a battle of attrition for the most part.

    When it comes to Valisthea, the open world is separated by regions which are Rosalia, Dhalmekia, Sanbreque, and Waloed. Each region are interconnected zones that players can traverse in and along the way there are fast travel points that can be activated. These zones range from tight corridors to sprawling open spaces occupied by enemies. What’s good is enemy types do not scale with your level so for those who require farming to level up you can do so.

    Players will also have access to the Hideaway which is the primary hub for purchasing/crafting equipment, and the Arete Stone to replay levels. There are also side quests that will slowly unravel to the player but the quality on them is hit and miss. There are basically two types of side quests with one rewarding gil (currency) and renown and the other rewarding the same with the addition of upgrades to Clive like potion capacity and etc. There is quite a number of side quests which provide meaningful progression to side characters you meet along the way with very satisfying conclusions to their individual arcs. Unfortunately, I was still subjected to the standard fetch quest variety and most of these quests involve going to a location to kill enemies to retrieve something. There is a side quest hub of sorts called Alliant Reports that compiles any active quest in any region but what really baffled me about it was instead of being like a quest board of sorts in which you can just pick up the quest and knock them out simultaneously, you are still required every single time to teleport to the quest giver to initiate and submit the quest. Some quests are really worth the experience, but a lot of it is quite throwaway.

    This somewhat extends to the Hunt Board where you are able to view new bounties but any information about them can only be viewed on the board itself so I had to resort to my own note taking in case I forgot where they are hinted to be at or are actually located at. At least the battles themselves are fun and the material gain to create new powerful equipment is worth it.

    To be fair I really enjoyed the gameplay loop in Final Fantasy XVI but there are so many quality-of-life changes that should have been implemented but aren’t and it just confounded me. There is a lot of unnecessary time wasting for really not so important quest lines. Even in the hub area or towns you visit, sprint is disabled so especially in the hub area its just much faster to just use fast travel to get to a central location faster than running back.

    What I Absolutely Loved

    • Story – As a whole I really loved the ambition to tell a very grand overarching tale that had wide reaching repercussions but also feeling very familiar to the best Final Fantasy journeys. The addition of the Active Time Lore also really fleshed out important information that players really should pay attention to.
    • Characters – I grew to love not just Clive but the whole cast of characters (which is a whole lot) with almost all of them having their own individual arcs and growth.
    • Graphics – The character models itself is astounding and the natural escalation towards the end just kept topping itself with epic set pieces and glorious moments.
    • Eikon Battles – Epic battles of titanic proportions. The spectacle on display is always such a delight to experience.
    • Gameplay Options – The new action focused gameplay is quick and snappy (when there aren’t issues) and the amount of options afforded to players is quite significant. I can’t wait to see how more skilled players just slap around bosses like a boss.
    • Difficulty – I appreciated the fact that even on the Action Focused difficulty the game did not provide any hard walls to overcome. For some they might consider that to be too easy but for me the difficulty should not hinder the enjoyment of finishing the game.
    • Replayability – The inclusion of the Arete Stone was really good for players to replay levels of their choice. Not to mention the New Game+ and Final Fantasy difficulty mode will provide a more challenging experience.

    What I Wished Was Better

    • Performance Mode – I really wish this mode was flawless but its not. I can only hope in time and with future patches this can be ironed out.
    • Camera – The camera really can get in the way at the wrong time but thankfully it’s not too often.
    • Pacing – This may or may not irk some players as the pacing in the game can feel slow. Things like Chocobo riding feels introduced too late.
    • Side Quest Quality & Alliant Reports Hub – The Alliant Reports hub feels completely pointless due to how its implemented and although there are very nicely bookended side quests, players will still be subjected to not-so-great fetch quests.
    • Eikon Battles – Grand spectacles but battles can feel draggy and a little too guided with obvious QTE sections.
    • Magic & Weaknesses Taking A Backseat – I know that there is some magic implementation but I felt slightly sad to see most of it relegated to just minor supplementary effects. It feels a little limiting in some ways due to enemies not having obvious weaknesses and also buffs like Haste and etc not existing. So far, the only buffs are enemies buffing themselves with spells like Protect and Warcry from certain spell casters but its feels very throwaway as well.

    A Farewell To Fate

    It feels almost bittersweet having to summarize my entire experience with Final Fantasy XVI. The first few hours were just a lukewarm experience but it won me over the more I played it. I must admit because of those first few hours I did feel like maybe this was too much of a shift for the series but I came to the realization that my problem was it was just a matter of perspective.

    All the classic Final Fantasy tropes are in Final Fantasy XVI its just presented in a slightly different manner. The story is strong and ambitious, the characters are varied and loveable except for one or two weirdly grating ones (sorry Vivian), the battles are grand spectacles of power and might, and the journey is incredibly memorable.

    I resonated on a personal level with Final Fantasy XVI due to one of the themes presented; a gift that can also be a curse. Never in my wildest dreams I imagined myself being able to review a numbered Final Fantasy title being such a huge fan since my childhood but here I am today. It can feel somewhat like a curse being a reviewer as with time constraints, having the will to push through and sacrificing time to be able to play the game to completion. But it is also an immense privilege to be able to do so as when my wife sits down together with me and is invested in the story as I am (which is rare), it reminds me of that wonder I had growing up and why I will myself in what I believe in. This is why I love Final Fantasy XVI.

    Final Score – 9.5/10

    Jashvir Sandhu
    Jashvir Sandhu
    Proud barbarian to her monk, Wondrous Peashooter to her Sunflower, Blue Yarny who will never let go of his Red Yarny, Loving husband of Cadet Cuddles. Also on PSN known as ZDKilljoy

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