Final Fantasy XVI Brutally Honest Review

After a week of button smashing, I have finally completed Final Fantasy XVI and now is a great time to talk about the game and give my thoughts about it. This will be quite a deep dive into some story elements since those are the things I always want to talk about when it comes to this franchise the most. Thus there will be very much spoilers included here so if you haven’t played the game it’s not too late to bookmark this post and come back later.


Final Fantasy XVI takes place in Valisthea, a fictional world with two continents, Ash and Storm. These continents house Mothercrystals, magical crystals that provide aether energy and fuel civilization through shard mining. Bearers, humans who can use magic without crystals, face prejudice and slavery, gradually turning to stone. The Fallen, a sky-based civilization, collapsed 1500 years ago, scattering its remnants. Eikons, magical creatures bound to human hosts called Dominants, represent different elements but rarely clash. However, the arrival of a second Eikon, Ifrit, disrupts the balance, driving the main plot and endangering Valisthea.

I’m not exactly sure where to start since there are a lot of things to cover, but perhaps you should consider downloading the Final Fantasy XVI Demo, which gives you a rough idea of what this game entails in terms of combat and story (there isn’t a lot of other elements beyond that aren’t featured in this demo) plus your progression will continue towards the official game if you happen to buy it.

How Different Is FFXVI from Previous Final Fantasy Games?

For the long-term fans of the franchise there are probably fair questions regarding whether we should expect a game that is similar to other FF titles we have played in the past and in short I would say, this is probably the biggest leap out from title to label that the franchise has done since its inception. If you thought FFX or FFXV were extremely changing the franchise, I would argue they are still a lot more faithful than FFXVI to the core of what makes a Final Fantasy title, now I’m all for experimenting and trying things or two, but to a limit.

When we look at Tales & Persona franchises they really haven’t done drastic changes to the core gameplay, because it wasn’t broken and sales have been steady as well. Alas, let’s recap some of the things you won’t be expecting in Final Fantasy XVI, however.

  • No Airships (Not yet invented in the story, but there are ships)
  • Party Members cannot die (Allies can be hit by enemy attacks but that’s it)
  • Clive is the Only Controllable Character (No equipping items on allies either)
  • No Mana/Resource only Cooldowns (You can spam abilities and attacks very freely)
  • No Minigames (Theres only the combat in the game, no puzzles/platforming is included)
  • No Status Ailments (No poison, mute, zombie, or other statuses)
  • No White Magic (Technically there aren’t white magic spells in the game that you can use)
  • No Inns (You cannot rest and heal)

There needs to be an acknowledgment of the aspects that still persist or have made a return also to this game too, which includes the following.

  • Hunt Board (If you are familiar with the FFXII system, very similar to that)
  • Chocobo Riding (No Chocobo theme or racing included, but you obtain a mount via side quest that can be used to travel faster)
  • Recurring Classic Monsters (Goblins, Bombs, Coualt, Marlboro, and many other classics, excluding sadly cactuars and tonberries)
  • Limit Break (Works very differently, however)

Thats what I can think of right now top of my head, the big point being it feels different, and the only familiar aspects were the monsters, eikons, and some of the magic spells in this game.

Combat is well done, but its too monotone

I’m not one of those people who are super fixated on the turn-based combat system being the meta, but I wish it was something Square would embrace more often – all that being said when they tried this first with Final Fantasy XV I have to say it was a mess in terms of balancing and there were too many abusive methods you could do and it was really hard to die in that game. This time around the balancing of the combat makes sense and you cannot exploit it.

While the combat is balanced, it actually is easy. This is me saying after playing the game without using any of the Helper rings (that make the gameplay easier for normies who are used to turn-based combat only).

Now the devs made the statement that you should play the game after on newgame+ on a higher difficulty and my answer to that is FUCK DAT! Your core game should always be difficult, that’s why you made the rings to help out people who were struggling with the combat. Alternatively, you had the option to just enable the hardest difficulty from the start, but no… can’t have that.

This is not exactly a game that I would enjoy speedrunning because it’s not really designed that way, yes you can skip the cutscenes which makes things play faster, but Clive cannot sprint in towns and won’t sprint on command and you get the Chocobo only later. So what I’m trying to convey here is that even if you get some new items and more enemies on the NewGame+ it’s not enough incentive for me to get interested – this is not Dead Cells, Hades, or Diablo-style game after all. It is a mechanic that works better on Stranger of Paradise, to be honest.

So what makes exactly the Combat Easy? So there is only one attack button in the game which is and there is no separate heavy attack and this in itself is fine. The crux of the issue is that while you are attacking and especially under limit break these attacks also function as parries, so I can deflect enemy attacks by just going ape mode on them and this will create a cool slow-mo effect and you can DPS them for free hits here with increased damage.

Another aspect is that the dodging is very strong, since there is no stamina resource like in Souls game you have the ability to just spam dodge, and then you can spam your ranged black magic spell based on what Eikon you have equipped. Most enemies don’t have a blocking mechanism only very few do, which makes going ham much easier, and due to the parry effect, you aren’t often too punished for it.

Sir, why are you bored? The game is actually very long and since I already mentioned earlier that there aren’t other activities like minigames you are left with Combat and story cutscenes basically. You gradually unlock more Eikons as you progress in the story, however, in a lot of the early game you are stuck with two different Eikons (Garuda being the 2nd, which sucks IMO) it gets redundant that you aren’t exactly unlocking new abilities or techniques to play around with.

This is also exactly why I am against playing the game again because there isn’t a proper skill tree in the game and leveling is extremely slow even with accessories equipped that give a boost. So you are stuck with the same combat and enemies that are made just overtly tanky and you have to drop 6 ultimate abilities on them till they drop half of their health basically. It just gets redundant after a while – ironically being somewhat similar to FFXIII with its stagger system and spell spamming, you have way too long fights.

Muh Turn-Based Combat

If Creative Business Unit 3 would have considered allowing us to control other characters just like in Final Fantasy 7 Remake this issue wouldn’t exist and we could have nice variety instead. Also, I want to add if this game was turn-based it wouldn’t have magically fixed the other problems of the game, the combat was the highlight of this despite its design flaws, I also kinda went in thinking that I wouldn’t enjoy or care about the Eikon fights, but they turned out to be highlights of this game (Albeit a bit too long sometimes and dragged out).

The overall verdict is that combat is good despite the exploits, but they designed too few options and builds and they needed something more to spice it up further – I also wasn’t a very big fan of how limited the experience of upgrading the abilities was.

FFXVI is ripped out almost of any real RPG Elements

As I eluded earlier there are a lot fewer real RPG elements in the game. Your equipment for example is extremely streamlined after you progress through the game new sword becomes available and you buy it and sell the old one – in rare cases, you might upgrade them to have bonuses, then you have blacksmith which is more or so the same thing except some ingredients are found from optional bosses.

I Collected all the highest items in my playthrough and I never needed to go kill monsters optionally to get required items – at least could have added you need to buy stuff from vendors – which all got squished into one (so instead of having multiple shops you just have one with all wares possible which is like feudal Walmart experience I guess).

In short, the shopping/crafting experience is not engaging and the weapons especially don’t actually make a super huge impact on actual defense/damage outputs, so they fundamentally feel kinda weak (not a big fan of this design choice).

Side Quests do exist and guess we could classify them as RPG elements, but they are way too easy to find and the game tells you exactly where you need to go on the map. There isn’t much incentive to explore the world because all the treasure chests just give gil and crafting items that you don’t require, so it feels unrewarding mostly.

The towns & NPCs in the game just feel very dry and unimmersive for the most part and this was the case with FFXV too, your not being able to talk with them they only spam some lines when you walk past them – to me this has been very negative game design direction for square, they should look what Baldurs Gate III is doing for instance.

Quests however keep you up to the latest gear and levels, which makes the main story bit easier and more comfortable since you got a bigger level lead, but even with the best gear possible some bosses just took too long to take down for my taste. There isn’t any visual customization either in the game, only your Eikon abilities in your loadout are something you have power over alongside with the limited inventory system. Even FFX and FFXIII which were extremely linear games to an extent had a very high amount of customization in my opinion.

Graphics, World Design & Performance

The game runs pretty smoothly with the FPS mode that can be toggled on/off depending on your desires, there were perhaps 3-4 cutscenes where frames dropped and you could see that, but mostly I would say FPS actually held up and caused no graphical bugs or crashes. So in terms of optimization and loading times, I have to really raise my hat here, then again I would say this wasn’t a major issue with many Final Fantasy titles in the past.

Perhaps the most controversial take I will make here that people are going to disagree with me on is how the world looks. The art direction literally is this ultra-realistic Unreal Engine game with Final Fantasy-style SFX on top of it and a bit more Square-Enix-stylized NPCs from the norm. I could have been fooled to think from the footage of this game is like a monster hunter or something like Kingdom Come Deliverance because that’s how bland some of the designs were in this game (that’s not me shitting on the monster hunter franchise).

When FFXV came out initially I was very critical of its designs and realism, but looking back it still had some creative designs that didn’t feel like totally copy-pasted from elsewhere. When you take out the huge crystals from this game, it looks like almost any other Western RPG game done with free Unreal Engine assets. Very unimaginative art direction in all honesty and everyone in the main cast also is wearing mostly dark clothing from black to gray, with not much variety in terms of look.

Not to mention how all the NPCs look like they are models for Vogue or something, where are the fat and ugly people in this game? This is not realistic at all to me.

The Hyped Story of FFXVI

It’s no secret that this game had a lot of influences taken from Game of Thrones and you can see that in the format of the kingdoms of Valisthea. Now I’ve said plenty in the video above about the story so I want you to watch that instead, since I’m tired of writing more about this game currently. A long story short tho, the big expectation of FFXVI delivering some massive fantasy story is false.

This title really lacked a lot of that grandiose element that previous titles had done, yes there are some great massive Eikon fights that give some hope, but ultimately the creative decisions to create a feudalistic world with some magic in it, don’t spark a very high fantasy feel, which is a trademark of this series even on its Sci-fi esque titles.

FFXVI is filled with very shallow interpretations of class struggle and the portrayal of people’s struggles living without magic. This plotline isn’t actually new but would be better if it was like Unabomber manifesto-esque where the setting is about retreating back to nature and being an anti-technology group trying to take down the world’s electricity (if it was a sci-fi title that is). The idea of dominants also serving their countries and not going absolutely rogue is nonsensical too, I mean talked about in great length the logic of also making men fight titans on a field – it feels like the developers didn’t think about simple shit like this.

Characters are a weak point too in this story honestly. Clive isn’t exactly very multi-dimensional and interesting, he only has a relationship with Jill and Joshua basically and that’s how his whole character is defined, this is extremely monotone. Being the “chosen” guy is getting a bit old at this point too, I always liked more of the approach of Vaan/Tidus who are just guys who end up on this amazing journey out of a semi-accident of sorts.

I’m really hoping that chasing this nihilistic realism won’t be the direction of the next title and I really hope we depart from Medieval Fantasy too, because that’s being overused as of right now. Also, this idea of fighting gods is cringe, Sin was a great concept and so were Sephiroth/Kuja who are close to being like a demigod, but ideas of anything near omnipotent are just bad in all honesty.

Ironically I think my faith is now in the shoulders of getting more reboots and believing Kingdom Hearts will keep delivering on its story because those have been carrying the storytelling on Square in recent titles. There hasn’t been a good story sadly since FFX in the mainline franchise…