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Final Fantasy XVI Review

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Final Fantasy XVI Review

Order of the Phoenix... 

Well, here we are. Final Fantasy XVI promises to be one of the biggest turning points for the franchise and its illustrious history, with an integral campaign that poses a polarising disparity for purists of the entire series. It is without question, a new chapter and the next step in progressing Final Fantasy past its archaic roots, sending off traditional turn-based RPG elements, in favour of the Action-RPG open-world features, which are now commonplace for the genre itself. However, you may find that this won’t be what fans question in Final Fantasy XVI’s overall motif. Striving to have the entry feel as standalone as it possibly can, the role-playing saga continues to implement subtle trademarks of its predecessors, just enough to fit in with Final Fantasy’s namesake and universe. It may stray from recent entries in a cosmetic delivery, but feels as if it was written to tell a tale of a Final Fantasy of yesteryear with a modern overlay to hook its audience.

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Understanding its lineage, this is Final Fantasy finding its roots and paying homage to the aesthetic of its bearings, recalling the very first entry to its longstanding history, right from the Warriors of Light circling the Kingdom of Coneria, to a modernised and critically acclaimed narrative that bought us the overwhelming universe of Cloud Strife, Avalanche and of course his nemesis, Sephiroth. All these experiences amalgamate into what Final Fantasy XVI delivers, an emotional tale of brotherhood that’s quickly turned vengeful, an escapade that takes an overthrown monarch to the darkest reaches of his mind, a memorable cast of lovable characters, and an immense display in action-adventure that truly raises the bar for not only its own genre, but a plethora of others that share distinct facets that were once unfound within this very franchise, but is now proving to be a staple of its core fundamentals – Final Fantasy is evolving, and once again becoming the biggest Role-Playing franchise in gaming, period.

The Fire Rises...

Final Fantasy XVI follows our protagonist Clive Rosfield, the firstborn of the Archduke of Rosaria and the appointed protector of the Phoenix, his brother Joshua. The power of the Eikon, Phoenix was wielded by their father, but had skipped Clive and was passed onto the youngest of the pair after Clive was unable to awaken the power within him. Without bearing the Phoenix, his own mother rejected Clive in favour of Joshua, while their father treated both sons as equals regardless of Joshua becoming his immediate heir. As a teenager, Clive had already trained to lead the town’s military, becoming the First Shield of Rosaria. While he was not adorned by the Phoenix’s power, he was blessed with inheriting minute abilities from its arcana, allowing Clive to utilise moments of its strength to his advantage in battle.

While the youngster trained, he was occasionally accompanied by both his brother, and their friend Jill Warrick, who had been the carer of Clive’s pet pup Torgal, rescued after being separated from his family within the northern wilderness. After their father returns to Rosaria, he asks Clive to meet him in the throne room for a private discussion. The outskirts of Rosaria had been facing an invasion from an army of goblins, to which the Archduke would need the aid of his men, including his son’s leadership to defeat the horde. While the Archduke, Clive and his men head toward the dark, dank and dreary swamps just outside the village, his wife plots to overthrow her husband while using her son Joshua, as a pawn in her deception.

During celebrations with the returning Archduke and his men, treason occurs with a portion of his army turning on him leading to his untimely demise. With the death of his father, Joshua is left traumatised and covered by his own father’s blood at the hands of their countrymen. Distressed, the heir summons his Eikon, “The Phoenix”, which begins to reign a fiery terror upon everyone in its sight. Meanwhile, Clive and his mentor Murdoch fend off as many invaders and traitors as possible, not before realising that some men were of their own town’s militia. Clive and Murdoch make haste toward Joshua and the Archduke, not before spotting The Phoenix, obliterating the kingdom and its patrons. In desperation, Clive begs Joshua to stop his frenzy, but experiences an apparition of a hooded male whispering something his way, not before a second Dominant is summoned from out of nowhere.

Appearing to be forged from the fires of hell, the beast collides with The Phoenix while Joshua’s conscience tries to control his Eikon form. The two behemoths trawl through depths of the Earth, plundering through its underground in their God-like state, not before resurfacing in the middle of Rosaria. The altercation ends in a cataclysmic event that destroys the town, and many of its people. It’s believed at this point that Joshua was murdered at the hands of the Fire Dominant, with Murdoch succumbing to a fiery blaze while Clive survived the explosion. In her merciless act of betrayal to her family and their townspeople, Clive’s mother orders one of her men to execute Clive while the teen laid unconscious within the rubble of the Eikon’s war-torn aftermath, however upon second thought, she spared her son in favour of using his skill to defend a reformed Imperial army.

Final Fantasy XVI proposes a new foundation for finding a masterclass of perfection in action role-playing, and cements a prime legacy founded on past iterations, capitalising on a formula that's seen inarguable successes throughout its years in this medium, and has promulgated an establishment of extravagance that will indeed be hard to surpass.

Years later, a lord no-longer, Clive is stripped of his Rosfield crest and is renamed “Wyvern” by his commander. Still suffering from the events of his past, Clive’s personality shift sends him on his own personal quest to avenge the killer of his brother, while dealing with the demons of his past. Who was once a loving, nurturing and caring individual, leads a stark contrast in showing heart, emotion or compassion. It’s likened to how Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud Strife was once a bubbly youth, turned stoic SOLDIER. The “Wyvern’s” path to redemption pits his loyalty to the imperials or his past upon an altercation with a captured Dominant. Clive defeats the empowered being, not before recognising her from his childhood. After he and his commander are the only survivors of their party, he is placed in the difficult choice to follow his leader’s ruling, or face him in combat.

Wyvern overcomes his commander, not before defending the Dominant and shielding her from a ravenous army that seek to take Clive out. An anomaly occurs, with lightning striking down from the clear blue skies, taking out the militia. A stranger known as Cid, arrives to aid Clive and the Dominant, flanked by a “noble hound”. Making the connection between the Dominant and her pet, it was then surmised that she was indeed Clive’s best friend Jill, and the hound was his own dog Torgal, both he had not seen for thirteen years. Cid leads Clive and Jill to safety, with Clive detailing his intention of finding the Fire Dominant, acting out his revenge and finally letting his brother’s soul rest in peace. Now, that’s only the beginning of this tale and there’s so much more that could be said, but right there was a minor – and I’m kidding – synopsis of Final Fantasy XVI’s initial events before its plot truly skyrockets.

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Now that we’ve explained a brief recap of its tale – yes I’m being funny – Final Fantasy XVI’s extraordinary forty hour campaign takes you through an insanely gorgeous universe, that’s almost unconditioned for a modern entry into the franchise. A deviation so sharp that it may jar some fans. I personally had to double-check at one point I was actually playing a Final Fantasy title, by exiting out to the home screen, but surely enough, Final Fantasy XVI is so spectacularly different, that its differentiation is quite possibly its biggest appeal. The medieval archetype, melded with the familiarities of a arcane-riddled reality, sets an unconventional precedence on what may potentially be its best chapter yet. 

Getting to know and love Clive, can be hard given the fact his appeal comes from the players compassion toward his own life events. A fallen lord can be tough to appeal to, however experiencing the traumatic events that led to Clive’s incredulous circumstances first-hand, is what evokes a cause of empathy from us as the audience. With Jill by his side, we tend to see Clive open his heart, expressing his regret for failing his father, and his brother but she reassures him that the events of Rosaria were out of his control. He carries the burden of that fateful night, regardless of any circumstance that may have altered its course. 

It’s emphatically heartbreaking, but encourages the player to seek out Clive’s mission with unequivocal resolve. Noting characters of Final Fantasy XVI, we’re fortunate to meet a litany of relatable personalities along the way, with the aforementioned Cid, otherwise known as Cidolfus. A former right-hand of the Waloeder Army that went rogue, in an act of defiance against his King’s disillusion of grandeur. The cigar smoking, raspy toned warrior has a renowned history with patrons across the land. His connections help Clive throughout his escapade, whether it be searching for clues, commuters, citizens or just for a floor to sleep on at night. Cid’s endearing demeanour is that of a rebellious leader, entailing a heart of gold in hopes of helping others. His act of kindness is question multiple times, but is never quite made clear by the man himself.

First I was afraid, I was petrified...

SOLID POINTS

✔️ Square Enix’s greatest achievement in this franchise’s illustrious history.

✔️ Proposes a renewed evolution in FF’s longstanding formula.

✔️ A graphical marvel. Quite possibly the best looking game out on PlayStation 5, thus far.

❌ Some control scheme issues that may confuse players.

So let’s talk gameplay. Final Fantasy XVI’s sublime demonstration in fluidity in swordplay is extravagant to say the least. While its expertly crafted to insinuate combination strikes, aversion, head-on collisions and adapting arcane strikes of multiple ilk, its levelling system streamlines the experience exponentially for players without thought. The base structure of its fundamentals are prepared for those that aren’t acquainted with prior entries, but are well adjusted and presented for those that are all too familiar with the action role-playing genre. Duking it out with swarms of enemies will reward Clive with Gil drops – the Final Fantasy in-game currency – that can be spent on items such as swords, charms and armour that upgrades his offense, but also improves his defence. 

A skill-tree unlocks new abilities that are connected to your Eikons. These are unlocked through points earned in combat or by completing side-quests – the traditional fetch quest or delivery are just minor examples of such that can be quickly grinded to be rewarded. Anything else you may collect will end up in your inventory to sell off to merchants for more Gil. When shopping around for weaponry and items, the UI will display if the item for sale is within your favour to purchase as it could potentially upgrade your attack or defence attributes.

Exploration is at Final Fantasy XVI’s forefront, with its vast landscape being travelled by foot or quickly by selecting the map in your pause menu, highlighting the location and fast-travelling toward your next stop. However, this is mainly done to speed up the campaign without having to traverse a ways out for your next objective. But while in-mission, a marker is shown on screen toward your mission goal but can be quite convoluted while flanking the ranks of an imperial fortress crawling with guards and other warlock-like deities. With Torgal by your side, you can command your noble hound to direct you the right way by pressing down on R3, to which the camera will direct Clive toward the next intended pathway. Item drops are littered everywhere, so there shouldn’t be a shortage of Potion pickups along the way.

It’s quite simple to initiate combat with enemies by sneaking up and attacking the closest one. With your Phoenix Eikon, you can expeditiously attack a herd of angry overgrown wasps by pressing down circle, to which will teleport Clive toward the nearest foe. Basic swordplay is executed by tapping down on square, while leaping can be done by pressing cross. Triangle will deliver a basic arcane blow, whether its a fireball or any other ability you unlock further into the campaign, but holding down on R2 will allow you to land Eikon specific offensive manoeuvres, catered for larger altercations, or to make quick work of random fledglings out in the field. L2 will swap out Eikons, and allow two other arcane-like blows that are again available upon holding R2. A compilation of Eikon abilities become available over time in Clive’s skill-tree, and can be assigned to either square or triangle via the pause menu.

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Also within the menu, you may see your attributes laid out, from HP, Attack, Defense, Strength, and Stagger, along with your current level, the EXP needed to level-up, and Torgal’s own attributes that include Pedigree, attack level and lifting attack. Torgal’s commanding attacks are assigned to your D-Pad, which became a concern when having to replenish health during the heat of battle. Shortcut buttons to use your inventory are also assigned to your D-Pad and can get quite confusing during overwhelming moments of an encounter. You may accidentally be using up all your potions with the intent of calling upon Torgal without toggling the controls to the intended shortcut menu. To swap between shortcut menu’s you have to press Left on the D-Pad, then select Up, Right or Down to choose an item, or direct Torgal respectively. It’s my main gripe out of the entire control scheme in the game and can be quite annoying.

Gear can be swapped out, but to be fair you’re not really going to see much of this menu as it’s already accustomed to automatically equipping your best sword, belt, bracelet or any other item needed. Then there is abilities which houses the skill-tree like unlockables that can be attained through earning points. It’s as easy as holding down on R3 to unlock the preferred power, rather than having to sypher through a litany of branches. While you have that option, the game does it for you – mercifully. For the gameplay loop itself, there are stoppages that tend to happen, but this depends on which type of gameplay you’re looking to experience. The title screen will give the player the option to choose from Action or Story. I chose to take on story here, as it also gave myself the chance to understand more of Final Fantasy XVI’s lore while dabbling in its exemplary knight-like combat.

There are cinematics aplenty, but are connected through gameplay and are all rendered in real-time. A title that looks this magnificent can only be presented with some of greatest in aesthetic and design. Final Fantasy XVI demonstrates quite possibly the greatest visuals ever seen in its franchise’s history. The refinery in its lush environments had me at complete awe. I immediately played comparison to that of an Uncharted entry, as Clive and Cid explored the muddled depths of a forest. For a moment I gasped at how realistic the landscape looked. It’s artistry had me gawking at its beauty. This is where Photo Mode is at its best, when you can take a snap at the appropriate moment, with the light hitting the lens just right. The lighting and shaders in this are remarkable to say the least, including particle effects from fiery moments that make it all so mesmerising.

All this accompanied by the illustrious works of in-house musical composer Masayoshi Soken, orchestrating some of Square Enix’s greatest including Final Fantasy XIV’s cavalcade of entries over the years, cultivating each action sequence into memorable moments with justification through melody. We then have an insanely talented cast that back our characters, including Ben Starr showing his enormous range in voicing both adult and young Clive, while the Wyvern’s younger brother Joshua is backed by the familiar vocals of Logan Hannan, those familiar with A Plague Tale: Innocence and Requiem will recognise him as Hugo from the title. Cid’s cigar-riddled voice box is toned down by Ralph Ineson (Diablo IV, Assassin’s Creed), While Jill is portrayed by Susannah Fielding who portrays Forza Horizon’s most popular DJ, Amy Simpson.

Final Fantasy XVI is the series’ magnum opus, and that’s just putting things lightly. Placing a tour de’ force label on something pre-emptive can be presumptuous, but proving to be without a doubt the next evolution in Final Fantasy’s epic continuance through singular, independent chapters in its long-running saga will forever display some polarising disparity in each entry, regardless of its fandom. No Final Fantasy entry is ever the same, and that’s what makes this franchise one of the greatest of all time. Final Fantasy XVI proposes a new foundation for finding a masterclass of perfection in action role-playing, and cements a prime legacy founded on past iterations, capitalising on a formula that’s seen inarguable successes throughout its years in this medium, and has promulgated an establishment of extravagance that will indeed be hard to surpass. Final Fantasy XVI is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and fans from all walks of life will undoubtedly cherish it.

Final Fantasy XVI Review

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Final Fantasy XVI is an upcoming action role-playing game developed and published by Square Enix. The sixteenth main installment in the Final Fantasy series, it is scheduled for release on June 22, 2023 for the PlayStation 5 as a timed exclusive.

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Story
10
Gameplay
10
Presentation
10
Sound
10
10

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