Final Fantasy 16 Review – Eorzean DNA

Final Fantasy 16 is an excellent action RPG that takes a lot from Final Fantasy 14.

Clive holding fire in FF16

Image Via Square Enix

George R.R. Martin may have been involved with Elden Ring, but Final Fantasy 16 is the game that is most inspired by his work, with a grand story that focuses on personal tragedies amongst an epic fantasy conflict. Alongside this is gameplay rooted in the studio’s other epic, Final Fantasy 14, resulting in an enjoyable action game with both the good and the bad from its MMO parent.

Final Fantasy 16 takes the series another step into the action game genre, resembling Devil May Cry more than it does anything released before Final Fantasy 14. Those who have played Final Fantasy 15 will find the gameplay more familiar – with agility, anime flash steps, and avoiding massive enemy AoE attacks being the order of the day. This is a game where flashiness is just as important as substance, with some of the most impressive-looking visuals of the current generation of systems on display in its world.

Final Fantasy XVI: Key Details

  • Developer: Square Enix
  • Platform: PlayStation 5
  • Release Date: June 22, 2023
  • Price: $69.99

Final Fantasy 16 Merges A Song Of Ice And Fire With Familiar Entities From The Series

Screenshot by Gamepur

Final Fantasy 16 is set in a world called Valisthea, home to warning nations claiming different mountain-sized crystals known as Mothercrystals. In Valisthea, the iconic Final Fantasy summons (Shiva, Bahamut, Odin, etc.) are all-powerful beings known as Eikons, who choose human hosts to manifest their powers in the world. These hosts are called Dominants, and they possess the magical gifts of their Eikons and the ability to transform into them if the need arises.

The story of Final Fantasy 16 follows Clive Rosfield, the eldest son of the noble Rosaria family, who have often had Dominants of the Phoenix Eikon in their bloodline. However, the Phoenix passed Clive over in favor of his younger brother, Joshua. The world is plunged into chaos when a new Dominant called Ifrit appears, killing Joshua and leading to Clive being enslaved by an enemy army, kicking off a years-long search for answers, where entire continents go to war and Dominants are called into the biggest conflict in history.

To say more about Final Fantasy 16’s story would involve going into spoiler territory, and this is a game where the plot is the highlight of the experience. It’s clear that the developers took a lot of inspiration from A Song of Ice and Fire and A Game of Thrones, with its much darker and more mature tone than previous Final Fantasy games, as well as a greater focus on political intrigue and exploration of its heroes and villains. The story in Final Fantasy 16 is among the best in the series, and it’s worth seeing through to the very end.

Special thanks also need to be given to the voice actors in Final Fantasy 16, who all provide incredible performances that elevate the game. Clive’s story wouldn’t be as impressive if not for the work these performers put into their craft.

The Final Fantasy 14 Influence Is Clear In Final Fantasy 16, Both The Good & The Bad

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A great story is all well and good, but what about the gameplay between the dialogue? Final Fantasy 16 was developed by the same studio within Square Enix that works on Final Fantasy 14, and boy does it show. While Final Fantasy 16 might be closer to a Kingdom Hearts game than something like Final Fantasy 6, it’s much closer to Eorzea than to Mickey Mouse.

You control Clive Rosfield throughout most of Final Fantasy 16, and while NPC party members often join you, Clive will be doing the bulk of the work in combat. Luckily, Clive is an extremely agile character who can rush in for sword attack combos or blast enemies from afar with basic spells. As the game goes on, Clive starts gaining the powers of different Eikons, which he can switch between in combat. These Eikons shake up his moveset in different ways, such as Titan giving him powerful stunning and counter-block moves, while Garuda lets you rip apart flying enemies or dive in for swift attacks against foes. All of the abilities are tied to a skill point system, where Clive can buy upgrades or new powers for his respective Eikon forms.

Final Fantasy 16 Combat is Too Smooth For A Challenge

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The biggest issue with Final Fantasy 16’s combat is that it’s too easy. This is especially true for action games or Soulslike veterans, with enemy attack animations feeling as if they’re in slow motion compared to standard Souls foes and with the player given ample options for evading/blocking attacks. It’s also possible to use healing items at any time by pressing the D-pad, and while there are limits to the number you can carry, the fact that there’s no animation or vulnerability tied to using them means you have a guaranteed way to survive enemy onslaughts, save for the longest fights.

There is a more difficult mode available in Final Fantasy 16, called “Final Fantasy” mode, but you need to complete the game once to unlock it. Final Fantasy 16 has several accessibility features that make the game easier, but it really could have used options to make it harder, like Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin did.

Luckily, the combat in the game is a lot of fun, even with the MMO DNA, as the combat essentially breaks down to managing the rotations of your special moves. There are also some harder challenges to seek out in the form of Final Fantasy 16’s hunts, with most of the easy fights involving the regular mobs that you meet across the map.

Final Fantasy 16 Side Quests Lack Deeper Purpose

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One aspect in which Final Fantasy 16 drops the ball is its side quests. It’s here where the Final Fantasy 14 DNA really comes out, as the bulk of the sidequests consist of pointless fetch quests and tedious combat encounters with the same mobs you’ve been meeting everywhere else. A few of the late-game quests are a little better, as they cap off the storylines of some of the major NPCs, but as a whole, they feel like busywork, and I’d much rather have a game with a few excellent sidequests than a lot of mediocre ones.

The crafting system in the game also leaves something to be desired, as it mostly feels tacked on. This is because, like Final Fantasy 14, the loot barely affects your character’s performance. The swords that Clive uses in combat look pretty, and they bring up big numbers, but that’s it. It’s only the very late-game items that you have to grind for that feel truly impressive, and by the time you unlock them, there’s not much left to use them on.

Final Fantasy 16 Might Be The Best-Looking Game On PlayStation 5

Screenshot by Gamepur

Outside of the story, the most impressive aspect of Final Fantasy 16 is its visuals. This game looks incredible on every level, from the character models to the game world to the colossal Eikons as they clash in the sky. This game is a technical powerhouse on nearly every level, as it does suffer from stuttering and frame rate dips during busier moments. These blips are forgivable, however, when a game looks as gorgeous as this.

The boss arenas also deserve a special shoutout, as they evoke the epic scale of the major story battles from Final Fantasy 14. The Eikon battles are also gorgeous to behold, acting as Final Fantasy Kaiju battles, where giant summon monsters tear each other to shreds. These fights are incredible to witness, and they’ll stick with me for a long time after the credits have rolled.

The Final Fantasy 14 inspirations also come out in the maps, though not in a positive way. While Final Fantasy 16 looks stunning on every level, there is also a distinct lack of exploration or puzzles in the game world. The dungeons suffer in this regard, with most of them consisting of a straight line with a few minor deviations, where you fight groups of enemies and nothing more. The overworld is more open, but there aren’t any interesting secrets to uncover or tasks to take part in outside the side quests and the hunts.

The Verdict

Image via Square Enix

Final Fantasy 16 works on many levels, with a fantastic story and addictive combat system that keeps you coming back for me, along with incredible visuals that bring the world of Valisthea to life like no entry in the series before it, and I’m including Midgar from FF7 Remake in that comparison. On the other hand, you also have some of the MMO traits that hold it back from being a true classic, with a lot of pointless side quests and a few underwhelming game systems that feel as if they’re designed to waste time, in a game that doesn’t need its runtime extended.

In a year filled with potential classics, Final Fantasy 16, in its current state, falls just short of reaching that lofty title, but it’s still an amazing game and well worth your time if you own a PS5. Clive’s story is one of the best in the series, and if that’s the most important aspect of a game for you, then maybe you will consider it worthwhile to stand alongside the greats of the Final Fantasy franchise.

Final Score:

8 / 10

+ Excellent story & voice acting
+ Amazing visuals across the board
+ Eikon abilities are a ton of fun to use and experiment with
Combat can be too easy
Side quests can be repetitive
Crafting system feels redundant

Gamepur team received a PS5 code for the purpose of this review.