Final Fantasy XVI takes the RPG series into incredible action territory

Final Fantasy XVI takes the RPG series into incredible action territory

Final Fantasy XVI takes the RPG series into incredible action territory

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Each numbered main Final Fantasy game tells a new story in a new universe, giving each upcoming entry a powerful mystique. This sentiment is particularly strong with Final Fantasy XVI, which has been teased with spectacular and overwhelming trailers since 2020.

The PS5 exclusive lands on June 22, and developer Square Enix lifted the curtain at a preview event in New York with a playable demo version of the game earlier this month. Acting as producer is Naoki Yoshida (AKA Yoshi-P), the charismatic figure credited with reviving the massively multiplayer online RPG Final Fantasy XIV. He and his team gave us a taste of the story and the world before letting us try the game for the first time.

world at war

This RPG takes place in Valisthea, a world divided into six nations that depend on giant magic crystals – one of the recurring elements of Final Fantasy – for energy. At the start of the game, this energy is severely depleted and a conflict is brewing between the nations of Valisthea.

It’s more of a Cold War due to the existence of Dominants – humans with the power to summon huge magical creatures known as Eikons. Like the dragons in Games of Thrones, the Eikons are essentially this world’s weapons of mass destruction. Except that all nations have them, and they act as a deterrent to open war.

You play as Clive Rosfield, whose younger brother Joshua controls the powerful Phoenix Summon. After the tragedy, Clive is bonded to another fiery Eikon, Ifrit, and sets out on a quest for revenge. This causes the Eikons to clash for the first time, upsetting Valisthea’s delicate political balance and creating much collateral damage.

The Phoenix Eikon is central to the game’s epic story.


Clive’s journey will take him through the seven nations of Valisthea – which are divided into segmented open areas rather than one large open world – with a changing group of AI-controlled allies as backup (he doesn’t there wasn’t much exploration in the preview section though). You’ll also be able to dive into Valisthea’s story as much as you want, localization manager Michael-Christopher Koji Fox told CNET.

“We have a character that gathers knowledge; he’ll tell you what’s going on in the game – the characters, the locations, the story, things like that,” said Koji Fox, whose previous Final Fantasy projects include IX. and XIV. “It does not affect the story, it does not affect the gameplay, but for players who want to delve deeper and find out what happened 200 years ago, why these countries hate each other, you can go and do it .”

Dominate the Dominants

The playable section of our demo saw Clive and his ally Cidolfus Telamon (Cid from this game, a recurring name in the series) climb a dark tower in search of Benedikta Harman, a spy from a rival nation. Cid is Ramuh’s dominant, who summons lightning, while Benedikta is tied to the terrifying wind elemental Garuda.

Cid has beautifully styled hair and his voice will probably sound familiar to you – he’s voiced by Ralph Ineson, who appeared in Game of Thrones, Chernobyl And willow and imbues his character with an impressive gravity. The fiery Benedikta is by far the most striking character design in the preview, and you know she’s a villain because she drops the f-bomb.

Benedikta is a pretty intense rival for Clive.


These Dominants humanize political conflict, and their differing statuses within their own realms hint at the different cultures and attitudes across this world. This section occurs a few hours into the game, though there’s also a tutorial where you play as a young, fresh-faced Clive to learn the basics of combat.

The Dark Tower wasn’t exactly a visual showcase for the first Final Fantasy PS5, which will let you choose between performance and loyalty modes in the finished game. However, this location offered plenty of opportunities to explore the game’s real-time combat system as goons leapt around every turn. Contrary to Final Fantasy VII Remakeyou don’t control your entire party directly – just Clive and his trusty canine companion Torgal (whom you can pet).

Adapt your battles

The basic combat fits nicely into the action-RPG mould, with Clive able to employ a mix of melee, magic, dodge and block attacks. Final Fantasy XVI battles move much faster than those older games, however, and combat director Ryota Suzuki drew on his experience developing the lightning-fast action game Devil May Cry 5 for this evolution of series.

“The most important thing for Final Fantasy XVI was to create a system that was accessible to many different types of playstyles; more technical, sleek, and for players who aren’t too action-oriented,” Suzuki said via translator. “So we didn’t want it to be overwhelming.”

Torgal is an exceptionally good and useful dog in a fight.


Adding to Final Fantasy XVI’s accessibility are “Timely” accessories, which you can equip to simplify certain aspects of combat. These can let you pull off Clive’s most awesome combos by pressing the same button (instead of learning specific inputs), allow for easier dodging, and have buddy Torgal auto-fight.

You can customize this item based on which ones you equip, giving you the flexibility to learn different parts of the combat system at your own pace. The attack had the most obvious impact, as unequipping it reduced Clive’s attacks from visually stunning Devil May Cry-style aerial ballets to basic thrusts and chops – you’ll have to learn a bunch of combos to pull off his most elegant movements normally.

Elemental Eikons

Your magic combat abilities are defined by the Eikon you have equipped, with Phoenix Fire, Titan Earth, and Garuda Wind were available in the demo, but it looks like Clive is absorbing or copying them from others Dominants when he encounters them (it is likely that Garuda’s powers were unlocked early for the demo version). Gaining experience allows you to unlock or upgrade Clive’s elemental skills.

You can channel Eikons to use elemental attacks in combat.


You can also switch between Eikons in battle, essentially allowing Clive to switch character classes on the fly. It’s an evolution of the beloved job system that got its start in 1992’s Final Fantasy Vin which you assign roles to characters and they learn these job-specific abilities as they level up.

“It was my wish to take this working system and somehow replace the workings with Eikons, and recreate this system in a full action setting,” the game director said. Hiroshi Takai, who worked on the fifth entry in the series, through a translator.

“Making it something very customizable and individual for each player…the Clive they have at the end and the palette they use in that final battle is different for each person.”

Garuda looks great throughout the intense boss battle.


Switching between these elemental powers became more and more natural as the demo progressed, with the shuffling of these and the satisfying dodge system making the boss battle against Benedikta and his Eikon a joy to enjoy. play. Smooth transitions between gameplay and cutscenes peppered the experience with this classic Final Fantasy melodrama without taking control away for too long.

Battle of the Titans

The final section of the demo took place a few hours later in the game, with Ifrit taking on Benedikta’s Garuda in an epic Godzilla vs. Kong– style confrontation. It’s the kind of sequence that would have been a cutscene in older Final Fantasy games, but XVI makes it completely playable and hugely fun.

This battle was completely different from a normal fight, conveying an awesome sense of primordial power as the Eikons laid waste to an isolated part of Valisthea. Ifrit uses a mix of beefy melee moves and fiery explosions against Garuda’s fast hits and wind-based attacks. Projectiles also neutralize each other, which is a particularly cool touch.

The Eikons are a force of nature, and their clashes make a huge mess.


The developers noted that the gameplay for these Eikon clashes will vary, hinting that you’ll have to fight each differently based on their elemental prowess, unique attributes, and Clive’s relationship to the character controlling them.

Even with the shift to action-driven battles, Final Fantasy XVI feels like an emotional rollercoaster in the series’ grand tradition. Speaking through a translator, producer Naoki Yoshida wants players to feel thrilled and hopeful after completing the game.

“When those end credits roll and players get the full story, I want them to feel like they can move forward into tomorrow no matter what happened today,” he said. .


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