Review | Final Fantasy XVI
"The newest Final Fantasy title is everything but a Final Fantasy title – It maybe has the summons, it maybe has the music; but it also has under-developed NPC’s/characters and real pacing issues. It’s still a good title, and an even better action-paced product. Morbol"
Final Fantasy XVI – a franchise with 30+ years of development
We usually have to wait for 5-7 years approximately to get a new main FF title. This one was no different – and after maybe the worst game in the series, Final Fantasy XV, it has a tough job. I’m aware that FFXV has its fan base, but I’m not one of them. On the contraire, I dislike it very much. I think it’s one of the worst, unfinished games that saw the release light in recent history – with the most boring, uninspiring side content ever.
Square Enix knew they had to bring their A game players in this game, so they hired the producer, Naoki Yoshida, known for his producing and directing role in popular MMORPG FFXIV. His role here - also the producer! Alongside with him, we have Kingdom Hearts team joining for the combat part of the game, plus Devil May Cry battle designer veteran, and couple of Platinum games members. Let’s not forget the main director Hiroshi Takai, known for his work on the SaGa series and The Last Remnant. Pretty decent setup, eh? Considering FFXVI is now action-based RPG (do not call in JRPG anymore, Joshida will get offended!), this development team with Yoshida steering is a trace of light in the newer FF franchise. I have so much to say, so let’s start with formalities and quickly dive into the game.
First part of the game - awesome! Then pacing issues. Then around 7-10 hours in - hooked. Then pacing issues all over the place. The story of FFXVI is not bad at all, but personally the pacing and the lack of character development ruined my experience. Still, nice game!
I wanna play the game! But where?
You can play the game on the PS5 starting from June 22, 2023 as a timed exclusive for six months, after which you can also play it on your PC. That is good news for sure!
The game comes with 2 modes – as usual the performance mode where we expect 60 fps but somewhat worse resolution, or the graphics mode where we enjoy the resolution but at cost of lower fps. I’m not really sure what happened with this game – it’s not that it’s the best-looking game out there, and yet the performance mode is almost unplayable. It’s not fluid, from times to times it performs worse than the graphics mode, plus it gets blurry which I couldn’t stand. I was playing on the other mode, and that one proved more stable, although it also had issues, but much less, and to me it felt like 60 fps. The problem is the motion blur on every rotation of the camera – which can initiate motion sickness among some people. There will be a day one patch that will fix some performance issues, so make sure to update your game to avoid all what I just talked about.
I can’t say the other side of technical “picture” has its downsides – I had 0 bugs, 0 problems, not even 1 major fps drop. I never got stuck somewhere, nor did the game “forgot” to advance a quest or something else. I respect that part.
If you want to experience haptic vibration and use of PS5 controller haptic feedback – you can easily live without it here. Nothing special, not even worth mentioning it, to me this just feels like a regular vibration, although I remember the flying parts as cool parts.
Some cutscenes look incredible! In-game graphics vary from mediocre to awesome; some sceneries will always stay ingraved in my brain. Too bad the exploration of these beautiful landscapes is a little underwhelming.
My advice is to play the game with English VA – the lip sync fits, while it doesn’t with the Japanese VA. It’s like they really want to push this game as a RPG for the western audiences. The English VA is decent, but there are many cringe moments and the worst part of it are the emotional parts where I felt ashamed by just listening to Clive (the protagonist). The problem for me personally is the British pronunciation, and weird grammar which made some sentences unnecessarily complicated.
To sum things up: Bad performance mode, polished game overall, English VA.
Miscellaneous stuff I disliked:
- Constant pointers even in linear corridors
- Clive’s movements. They feel like you’re on ice.
- No running when you need it the most.
- Motion blur when rotating camera (really weird)
The World of Ivalice… I mean Valisthea
For all of you that are maybe expecting the “fantasy” parts for the locations in the game – you may be disappointed. This game is more of Ivalice type of visuals (FF12, FF Tactics), which I also like, but there are some ifs that I will talk about a bit later.
The world of Valisthea is divided by two continents, Ash and Storm, and between 6 nations who hold power through access to magical Crystals and Dominants, humans who act as hosts for each nation's Eikon. The regular people who can cast magic via the crystal (Bearers) are exploited heavily, and the curse of the over usage of crystals is turning them to stone. Dominants, on the other hand, don’t need the crystals to use magic. As the Blight is spreading through the kingdom, the nations will start a war. You can only imagine what chaos awaits when legendary Eikon beasts start destroying everything around them.
You start as young Clive – Joshua’s Shield (your brother). Joshua is a Dominant, and his power is Phoenix. The concept of the game is to guide you through Clive’s past, recent events and the present, and Clive's unique powers that comes with a pretty cool story twist. Both past and recent events are both couple of hours long, so the main part of the game is present. There aren’t any jumps between the past and the future (that was a good choice), so the pacing is good – well, only for that part. I think the concept and the main idea of the story and the world of Valisthea is pretty good, but the pacing, the characters (almost everyone), and the linearity of most parts is what brings the game down, a lot. There are some master-class moments in the game, but they fall behind the countless hours of running around, talking with the most boring NPC’s seen in a long time, without any sense to explore the world. Pacing killed my will to advance, I lost the interest in the story part of the game – which is maybe the best part of the game. That says a lot. It’s pretty awesome up until Garuda fight, that is where the game just clicked with me, and almost never again that happened afterwards. I feel like the main characters are poorly characterized, under-developed, and that they try too much at moments.
How can anyone be negative when you see Hellfire in 4K? Or Chocobos? Or having party companions (from which you can only control your dog Torgal with D-pad)? The formula is here, but the formula without a controllable party can be double-edged sword.
Imagine Game of Thrones Final Fantasy game – that is exactly what this is. A dark, mature FF title with some plot twists and couple of solid written characters, maybe 2 cool antagonists, and a sea of generic ones that lack any kind compassion from your side. Even Clive feels empty, and Jill even more. I'm really sad about Jill, I think that they could've done a much better job with her. My problem was that the conversations takes too long, without a point. And the constant wars and killing everyone in the world – I don’t know, I felt like a butcher who cries in every scene, and often I felt overwhelmed with the whole plot and nations.
Of course, there is a fantasy part above the Game of Thrones parts. It’s meh.
Story bits and pieces I dislike:
- The pacing
- The characters
- The music in most areas
- Constant crying
- Benedikta and Hugo? Really?
- Woke stuff with Bahamut character (I don’t mind, I just don’t see the point)
- Complicated war topics that require some serious focus and reading
- Weird grammar and weird conversation dialect
- When Clive meets with his dog after so many years, there are no emotions, just “This is my dog”. I mean… Man…
- Jill is a flat line character
The exploration of corridors
You all remember FFXIII right? Remember that the game is one, long corridor? Yeah, this one starts exactly like that. Thank god it changes later, but every story dungeon is linear. On top of that, the game uses pointers to guide you. Yeah, like I don’t know I have to crawl underneath the only tree that is in front of me. Mostly you just go forward and fight, and then fight the boss. Every story dungeon. Every. You love finding chests and getting cool items? Not here. Just go straight and fight.
When the game does open, I though it's the end of the linearity. I don’t mind the linearity, but here it’s simply bad. There is no reward for exploring. There is no point in exploring the open areas. Every quest (except the hunts) is marked, you can’t miss anything even if you wanted to. When you do explore some big, open areas (that are present in every kingdom you go through), you will not be rewarded in any way. Maybe you find 10 Gil, maybe x20 crafting items you have 300 already… Maybe you will just follow the pointers and don’t ever bother exploring areas. I know I did.
Even with gorgeous views (the desert waterfalls are my favourite) the exploration falls short. I don’t even know what the main guideline for having fun here is, but it’s definitely not exploring the map. The only fun part was finding a random sword and some stones that present some challenges later on. Disaster. And the game is huge! Really huge, I dig that, but it's just empty.
Entering locations can be done via the world map - traveling entered areas goes by foot, by chocobo or teleporting in between the obelisks. Even with the fast travel, there are so many times you must run between couple of locations without the ability to run fast. Of course, everything is marked on the map, so you cannot really miss anything even if you wanted to.
When you unlock hunts it gets more fun, but only to notice that hunts are re-skins of tougher enemies. Yeah, this game likes to re-skin everything. Variety in combat? Screw that, who needs it. Oh yeah, and you fight Morbol during the prologue (bloody Morbol, it’s called Malboro guys). Like you can beat Malboro early in the game… Someone needs to learn the FF lore.
The highlight is definitely having a chocobo – your white fluffy companion for fast traveling. Cool stuff, not more to say. Although, fast traveling is done via the main map overview and by selecting any of the visited obelisks. I wish you can fast travel to more locations in the game – it would shorten the time needed to walk in between some areas 20 times during quests (slowly, without a possibility to run when you’re away from the areas with enemies in the open parts).
I don’t know, this felt boring and I never felt rewarded for exploring. In a 60 hours game this sucks, especially in a RPG game. And espeically in a JRPG game.
Bad stuff for exploration:
- Unrewarding open areas
- Unrewarding, boring linear story areas
- Markers everywhere, kills the joy of exploration and finding things on your own
- Treasure chest contents (when you find one)
- Limitations of area edges
- All settlements looks the same
Combat of Final Fantasy
It’s not turn-based. Who cares, right? Well, I do, but I fully embraced the action-oriented approach they wanted to present here. And when I sum everything up, the combat is the best part of the game. There is a but, of course.
The whole game is ridiculously easy. Up until the final few boss fights I never even used a healing item. And mostly I just mashed my way into victory. When you dive deeper a bit, you will see there are good, fast combo moves, special eikon moves (every eikon you get grants new powers) – overall it’s awesome. You can equip some combat helper rings that you get at the start – for automatic combos, auto-dodge and auto-companion attacks. Do not use that.
Keep rotating eikons and learn to fight with each. That will make the game fun, plus the visual effects when you use Diamond Dust with Shiva is simply a must-see-and-do. The fan service of movesets is awesome, and Odin is my favourite guy out of 7.
I can simplify the combat and enemies in a short sentence; regular mobs are boring and stupid, stronger foes are sponges with a stagger bar, and boss fights are cool but also sponges. Deplete the stagger bar to open a window of freestyle attacks. That is the winning formula for each fight. I can remember couple of really awesome fights, but I can also recall the ones that felt like other regular fights.
Although there are not much customize options under the menu and your characters, the combat feels good. The problem is that the game lacks proper tutorials and you can end up missing all the cool moves. If only they introduced more unique combat challenges to show the player how to fight - most of the game can feel like a masher because the game is really easy. But the combat is deeper, especially with all different eikon skills.
You remember the Eikon battles from trailers, the most epic piece of gaming history, or so they say? Yeah, the first one is “go left, right, and press the button to attack”, the rest are “3 buttons and dodge”, and the other few – the same. I do liked the ones where you fight Titan, minus the music part. Eikon fights feels good, when controlling your Eikon you feel its weight. It’s nice, but why would anyone replay these I don’t know.
Don’t even get me started on the QTE events – both in regular or Eikon fights. Press R1 or press the square button – yep, only 2 buttons, you have 30sec to press it, and it doesn’t add anything to the fight. Utterly misused concept.
Combat, the bad stuff:
- No elemental weakness'... I just don't understand how can I take the same amount of damage with fire skills to bomb enemies compared to ice damage. There are no elemental differences in this game, I just can't understand this.
- Too flashy in some moments, you can’t see anything on the screen
- Too easy during your first playthrough. You can’t experience the combat in this way, you just end up mashing buttons
- Lack of basic combos
- Enemy re-skin
- No progress with your character, you can just go through the game without even collecting anything
But the side content is good, right?
It’s really bad. First, let me present the concept of the game. The main plot point is your hideaway. It’s like a base, a camp where you gather allies and forge plans. It’s a central place for checking out the lore, the hunts, quests and other stuff. When you progress the game, you gather more people and some quests even change the look of some areas inside. I love that.
But, you know, what’s the point of having a camp where you don’t care about anyone? That goes for quests as well. Quests are really bad, and EVERY single one of them is the same – go there, talk with someone, and go back. Or, go there, kill some enemies, and go back. I’m not even kidding. The only positive side here is that some quests actually feels like they have a purpose in this world – couple of them felt like the main story bits and lore expansion, they even have animations and such. The problem are the NPC’s. In every region you complete, you meet “important” characters. They all feel generic, I almost hated them. What do you get from doing quests for such characters? A boring time. I don’t know why they went with this western generic NPC approach, it killed the overall impression.
I can say that the side content is almost like in FFXV, generic and boring. Some quests are ok-ish, but most of them felt like fetch quests, which the developers said it will not be present.
Chronolith Challenge stones (combat stages where you need to perform combos to add time, and finish the stages before the time depletes) were maybe the only real challenge in the game. Quests do bring more to add to the lore, but I just didn't care. Most of the NPC's are forgetable and the conversations are boring. Hunts are cool, but they just reskin monsters and give them more abilities.
What about the RPG part of the game, where you level up and learn skills? Basic skills you start with, and eikon skills you level up. Leveling some skills up change they execution animations (I loved that). Leveling in this game feels generic though – there wasn’t a single moment where I had to grow stronger. I never, not even once, levelled up somewhere. The same goes for equipment – you don’t even have to bother, except getting new swords (which looks cool as hell if you ask me).
I miss the fun RPG character system jobs from older games. This is not even a RPG, it’s an action game. Too bad, really too bad.
There is a Final Fantasy difficulty unlocked by completing the game, but after 70 hours I feel tired and need a break. No more re-skins and sponges, please.
Overall, FFXVI is a better game than FFXV, better in almost all aspects than FFXIII, worse than IV-X, and XII. That is my opinion. The OST is good, but I had this major problem with the music – whenever they remixed some of the older FF themes I could never ever join the visuals with the feelings the music brings. The tone of the game felt off when combined with some melodies, even though the melodies stand firm on its own.
This game doesn’t feel like a FF game (which shouldn't be a bad thing at all), so the music that represents some of the best FF moments here feels like a flat line. I liked more the parts where the music is only related to FFXVI, but overall, I don’t even remember the music anymore. Big disappointment. Choice of some tracks during certain moments felt off, it just threw me further down the disappointment side. Note that this is maybe just my problem.
Clive, maybe better to call him Cryve
If you want a fast-paced action game with a dark, and mature story, this one is for you. Just don’t expect anything revolutionary in any aspect of the game – I never, not even once, found something I could praise above other games. It’s still a solid experience, just not at the level for GOTY if you ask me. I can honestly say that I've enjoyed more while playing Chained Echoes - a game developed by one person only, than this FF. Clive, stop crying man, you don’t even know how to cry.
"A game that should've been called something else, with dull sidequests, really easy to beat, and without any exploration satisfaction. It's pretty yeah, but it seems like the FF titles just gets simpler and simpler."
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