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The Comenian

‘Final Fantasy XVI’ Review

The Apex of Spectacle
Photo Courtesy of Square Enix
Photo Courtesy of Square Enix

Final Fantasy XVI, released on June 22nd, 2023, defies all expectations of what I could have expected from the game since it was revealed only a few short years ago. As a seasoned veteran of the franchise, I can happily say that XVI has earned its place alongside the other knockout Final Fantasy games I’ve learned to love. It has stood out to be one of the most unique gaming experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of exploring.

FFXVI is an action role-playing game focusing on the grief-stricken protagonist, Clive Rosfield, as he learns to cope with the usurpation of his home kingdom and the death of his brother, Joshua. As Clive fights for his life in pursuit of the one who brought ruin to his old life, he not only reaches new heights in his physical and magical strength but also learns that there’s more to life than simply chasing a grudge.

While the story is focused on Clive’s journey, he’s accompanied by interesting and personable characters to help carry his burdens. Each character that gets to share the spotlight with Clive has unique moments and brings something unique to the narrative. A few standout characters that battle against all odds alongside our protagonist would have to be Clive’s childhood friend and closest confidant, Jill Warwick, the witty Cid Telamon who’s words are arguably more shocking than the lightning magic he wields, and the unforgettable down-to-earth scout, Gav. 

An absolute fan-favorite character from the game isn’t another human, but the lovable, and equally as vicious, frost wolf Torgal. Clive’s furry buddy accompanies him through the entire game and helps him through each battle, proving to the world that this cutie-patootie will mess you up. If having a huge wolf hang out with you isn’t exciting enough, the game does in fact let you pet the dog, so if you need a serotonin boost after finishing a soul-shattering story mission, Torgal’s your pup for the job. 

FFXVI’s detailed storytelling accompanies its unique combat system, which makes up the majority of the gameplay. Unlike many of the games found in Final Fantasy’s past, FFXVI strays away from its turn-based past in replacement of a Devil May Cry-esque combat system. The player can weave swordplay and spells together in rhythmic succession as Clive dances across the screen to obliterate his foes. There’s even a degree of verticality to the combat as well, as Clive can throw enemies up into the air and keep his combo rolling as he continues his onslaught against any foes that dare stand in his way.

Remember Torgal? He also helps Clive beat up his foes, and when I say beat up, I mean pummel. The rhythm of combat shines through when you add Torgal to the gameplay loop, as you can be juggling enemies with your usual combo loop, but you can call your furry friend in between your attacks to keep enemies suspended in midair or to keep the damage rolling. With a push of a button, you can have Torgal do a literal 360 in midair while you’re dropping a 100-hit combo on some poor goblin who was just trying to get something to eat. 

One of the most unique set pieces used in FFXVI’s story and combat is the presence of elemental gods called Eikons. People who are chosen to essentially become demigods who wield the power of these Eikons are called Dominants. Through Clive’s special ability to absorb Eikonic power from these Domiants, he’s able to wield basically every magic ability in the game, whereas other characters are usually only able to utilize one. 

This leads to an exciting progression system throughout the game in which you can mix and match new Eikonic abilities that best suit your personal playstyle, and eventually, you’ll be able to find the perfect combinations of abilities to dish out maximum destruction against your foes. 

Clive is able to wield three different Eikons at once, each with two ability slots per Eikon and a special ability depending on the Eikon selected. I spent plenty of time testing out new ability combinations to maximize the amount of damage I could do in one burst, and once I found the perfect combination that worked best for me, I was unstoppable… and it felt great

Although the story and combat are both very entertaining, I believe that the area where this game excels the most would be the spectacle that it manages to put on. Literally every single major boss fight encounter that the game builds up utilizes the Playstation 5’s insane graphical capabilities to put on a show straight out of a blockbuster film. 

These astounding scenes usually happen during another part of the game’s combat, which is called Eikon Battles. This is when the Dominants that I mentioned earlier in the game transform into super-sized gods and duke it out with each other. Flashing colors, larger-than-life attacks, bombastic dialogue, and most importantly, exceptional music accompanies these fights to create an experience unlike any other video game has ever created. I’m not lying to you when I say that every time an Eikon battle began, my jaw hit the floor and stayed glued to the floor for its entirety.

Did I say spectacle was where the game was at its best? I wasn’t lying, however, I would also say that this pedestal for #1 best quality is also shared by the game’s masterful soundtrack. The game’s lead composer, Masayoshi Soken, is an absolute genius. His work has already been critically acclaimed during his time making music for Final Fantasy XIV and he transferred his expertise into XVI without fail.

I would argue that there is no bad track in this game. His battle themes get your blood pumping, his more peaceful tracks played in towns or scenic locations lull you into the beauty of the world, and the way that they all accentuate the narrative with each new track being played is nothing short of beautiful. 

A few tracks that I would recommend to you all would be Away and Find the Flame for two of the most iconic battle themes in the entire game, and for a more relaxing experience, Lovely, Dark, and Deep and Jill and Clive are two beautiful tracks that will show the more peaceful side of the game. 

Personally, my favorite pieces in the whole game are Ascension and Titan Lost, which are two boss themes against the draconic Eikon of light, Bahamut, and the massive Eikon of earth, Titan. Trust me when I say that these songs had me falling out of my chair when I heard them for the first time. 

While I have more than enough praise for one of my favorite games of the entire year, I do still have some criticisms for people before they decide to pick up the game. These criticisms are relatively minor but they are worth pointing out. 

FFXVI’s story, while being very exciting and immersive, has a small issue with pacing after large story beats. You’ll finish beating a big bad or doing an insane boss fight, and as a cooldown period, you’ll have to spend some time building up to the next major conflict or journey in the story. These lulls in the game are needed from a narrative standpoint, however, playing through them does leave some more action to be desired. 

These lulls usually unlock new side quests as well. I will say that while many of these side quests may be fetch quests requiring you to go from point A to point B, slaying some monsters along the way to achieve some petty goal, all of these side quests are insanely relevant in helping the player learn more about the world around them. 

On top of doing some lovely character building for the side characters of FFXVI’s world, you do find yourself getting tons of experience points for leveling up as well as cool new extra pieces of content, such as ultimate weapons, a rideable Chocobo mount (which are large birds that function as horses in the Final Fantasy franchise), and unlocking more Hunt quests, which are optional minibosses for the player to tackle.

Despite some of its flaws, I still believe that Final Fantasy XVI has lived up to the hype that’s been following it since its reveal. It has an awesome story, amazing characters and music, blockbuster movie-quality visuals, and most importantly, it’s so much fun

As someone who’s gotten every achievement for it and beaten it’s new game plus version, I can wholeheartedly say that this game will always have a special place in my heart as one of the greats. I hope that many others will have the chance to share the love that I have for FFXVI, but until then, I’ll continue to live vicariously through Clive Rosfield’s unforgettable adventures.

My Score: 9.5/10

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