In Final Fantasy XVI, divine beasts clash in the skies while magic wielders called bearers submit to the will of their oppressors. Fans eager to become absorbed in yet another Final Fantasy game will be pleased to know that many of the franchise’s staples remain, even if the traditional gameplay format has been abandoned for a more action-centric focus. Larger-than-life battles rule the realm while the player uncovers the hidden secrets behind Valisthea. And at the center of it all? Clive and his motley crew.
Though the story is easy to follow (particularly with help from the ATL), some moments hinder the overall impact of the developer’s narrative goals. Some character motivations don’t align, some characters are too simple, while some are fantastic. It’s a mixed bag that works most of the time, but when it doesn’t it leaves me confused. The main female party member, Jill, is a sweet, fierce, yet compliant character. However, she was given to the Rosfield family as a ward when an invasion against them had failed. Why then is Jill so agreeable with the protagonists? Was her life at the duchy better than it had been with her family? An extra layer of complexity would have brought more depth to the character. Unfortunately, the female characters are not very deep. The good ones are agreeable, and the evil ones are either crazy or pure evil (I’m looking at you, Benedikta, and Anabella). Odd that, because Clive exhibits a lot of emotional complexity throughout the adventure. Despite this, the good guys are all still likable and enjoyable. Cid, Gav, Jill, and everyone at the hideaway round out a good cast and won’t be easily forgotten. It’s just unfortunate that the blacksmith has more emotional intricacy than the main female character.
In one breath I thought that the quest writing was amazing, and in the next, I wondered who thought the next quest was a good idea. There are some great side quests in XVI, but some awful ones as well. Even the main storyline has the player doing a fetch quest at one point. Some feel lazy, while others may bring you to the brink of tears. Quite an odd combination, though I wish there was someone who caught the imbalance. While the side quests could be a mixed bag, the beast hunts were a great distraction and a nice way to hone your skills and engage in the best aspect of the game.
The technical aspect of the game is mostly pristine, with some frame rate drops being the main offender. Otherwise, the visuals are wonderful, particularly the gorgeous vistas and massive Mothercrystals. The combat effects are gorgeous, and the cutscene animations are great. The load times are fantastically short, I would find myself fast-traveling to a town I was already in because the load time would be shorter than my on-foot travel. Creative Business Unit III took advantage of the hardware, from the SSD to the DualSense implementation—XVI makes the PS5 sing.
The oxymoronic title indicates pumping lifeblood for the long venerated franchise. Final Fantasy XVI is anything but a final entry in this long-running saga, and it’s a great pivoting point for action-based iterations in the series’ future. When I finish a Final Fantasy game, I look forward to the next iteration, but I would be happy to see more from Valisthea. XVI lives up to most of its potential, offering memorable iconic clashes with spectacular visuals and audio. Though there are many more moments I wished had been explored (like the massive fight between Ifrit and Phoenix and any strife between their dominants), the game covers almost all of its bases and ends in a way that feels right for the story. Final Fantasy XVI may not be perfect, but it’s a great entry into one of the longest-running franchises in the video game industry and a thrilling action game in its own right.
Objective Assessment: 8/10
Bonus: +2 for gorgeous visuals and fantasic audio. +1 for massive story with world-shifting events.
Penalties: -1 for uneven side quests. -1 for not satisfyingly convincing me that bearers would not simply use their powers to kill their oppresors. -1 for not fleshing out the primary female characters a bit more.
Nerd Coefficient: 8/10
Posted by: Joe DelFranco - Fiction writer and lover of most things video games. On most days you can find him writing at his favorite spot in the little state of Rhode Island.