I haven’t beat a Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy 1 and 2. I’ve heard good things about the franchise over the years, but for a variety of reasons I didn’t play any of them other than Final Fantasy 15 (A game that I feel off of hard). However, the lead-up trailers and gameplay footage got me hyped to play Final Fantasy 16. People were saying that the story was giving them Game of Thrones vibes which made me all the more excited. Finally, the game came out and I couldn’t resist jumping into it. I’ve officially beat it and I have tons of thoughts so let’s dive into this Final Fantasy 16 Review.
Let’s talk about it.
“What I want is to build a world where it doesn’t matter what you are but who you are” This is a quote that sums up the general theme of the game. In FF16 you play as Clive Rosfield. A son of a Duke, who starts off the game getting into the groove of helping to protect his family’s territory, surrounded by friends and family, and some cool fire powers. One night things after some crazy events his life is forever changed. You follow his journey as tries to make this right in the world.
I talk about Starfield starting off strong and petering off as the game progresses and unfortunately, FF16 did the same thing. I was invested hard in the beginning, but by hour 10 the pacing of the narrative felt all over the place. It reminded me of watching The Walking Dead, where the seasons would open strong, have a good mid-season finale, and a good season finale. Nothing interesting would happen in the middle of those big moments. Final Fantasy 16 is a lot like that. Outside of the story beats around the boss fights nothing interesting happens.
By the time the end of the game came around, I felt uninvested in everything that was happening. This is partially the fault of the uneven narrative and the bland side characters that showed little personality outside of their relationship with Clide.
If you like hack-and-slash gameplay like Final Fantasy 15 and Devil May Cry then you are likely to like the combo-based action that Final Fantast 16 delivers. You can dodge, use magic, and of course repetitively hack your enemies until your party are the soul survivors. Just like Forspoken which was released earlier this year, your moveset in Final Fantasy 16 is based on elemental attacks that you can upgrade. These upgrades involve fire, lightning, wind, earth, and more. Each power comes with a variety of special moves that you can access during your combat. This allows you to chain together some wicked combos.
In the game, there is a world map where you can pick select areas of the world to explore. Each location features a semi-open are that you are free to explore to your heart’s content. Be warned a lot of these areas feel empty random enemies to fight in sparse areas and treasure that contains stuff you won’t need.
There is a slew of side quests for you to do. Some are consequential and others leave a lot to be desired. There are also optional bosses/bounties that you can take on. Each of these monsters is equipped with different moves that provide additional challenges for players.
When depicting heavy subject matter and themes, it’s hard to walk the fine line. Final Fantasy 16 tackles themes like racism, slavery, and free will with a soft approach that feels respectful. Nowhere near the best depiction of these themes, but it is a tough subject to approach.
The sound and score in Final Fantasy 16 is simply S tier. If someone claimed that this game has the best soundtrack of 2023, I would find it incredibly hard to dispute that notion. The music that plays during the boss fights is perfect to get you hyped and in the moment.
The performances by the voice actors were great. Ben Starr killed it as the main character, Clive Rosfield. I would say that Ralph Ineson’s performance as Cid was the show stealer. The other cast members did a solid job, but those two were the standout of this game.
The enemies in the game feel bullet spongy without the bullets. You will find yourself walloping quite a few enemies for some time due to their large health bar and the nature of the Devil May Cry hack-and-slash combat. While many like this type of action, it felt repetitive and boring especially when you are facing any enemies outside of the boss battles.
I know this might seem a bit controversial, but I don’t think the areas and the environments look great in Final Fantasy 16. The hype set pieces look amazing but everything in between those big boss moments is mundane and muted. No areas of the game stand out and I often thought that areas of the game looked like they belonged in games from previous generations.
Some gameplay mechanics don’t seem well throughout. For example, it’s egregious that you have to wait until past midway through the narrative to get your mount. Walking around each location often felt tedious and having the mount was a Godsend that felt like it came way later than it should have.
Additional Cons Part 2:
Another aspect that feels lacking is the RPG elements of the game. It barely has any RPG aspects, with its subpar skill tree, and its bland items. You can buy and upgrade the weapons and equipment, but even that feels so inconsequential. In RPGs, especially in the fantasy genre, these things matter and it appears like no effect was put into that part of the game. As a result, I had no investment in what I equipped throughout the game.
This game feels way longer than it had any right to be. Perhaps the story would have come together better if the game was split into a part 1 and part 2. Or maybe the middle could have been condensed down considerably. Final Fantasy 16 is a good example of the lesson that a longer game doesn’t always equal a better game.
Overall/Should you Play Final Fantasy 16:
I went through FF16 feeling ups, downs, and slogs. I found myself conflicted while playing the game and that feels like the theme of the game as a whole, it feels conflicted and lacking identity. It falls short of greatness in most things that it attempts. In many ways, it reminds me of Starfield. You get to experience seldom highs and bombastic epic battles, that are surrounded by quality-of-life decisions that brings down the whole experience.
For everything positive that I can say about the game there’s also a negative, with the exception of the game’s amazing score and soundtrack. The RPG elements, the empty locations, the pacing, the sidequests, and even some aspects of the combat are aspects that are painfully disappointing considering the pedigree of the franchise. Thankfully the game possesses masterful positives, such as, its epic boss battles, its sensational orchestral soundtrack, and the highs of the story. Unfortunately, it’s debatable whether or not those positives outweigh the game’s onslaught of negatives.
Where Should Final Fantasy 16 fit in your video game backlog:
Here at the ProNerd Report and on the Single Player Experience Podcast, we practice the 10 games backlog rule. In this practice, you log down 10 games, those games are gonna be your video game backlog. To be as productive as you possibly can be, we recommend that you only play three games at one time. One single player narrative game, one game that’s gonna be your chill and relaxed game, and another game that’s going to be your palate cleanser game, which is a game that you play when you’re not in the mood for your other narrative. When you complete or get tired of one game, it leaves the backlog list. Then you decide which new game is added to the list, and which game on the list advances to your active three games.
Final Fantasy 16 – Final Fantasy 16 should be on your backlog list if like Devil May Cry’s combat system and the bombastic elements of Final Fantasy. If you like anime-esque action games then Final Fantasy 16 is worth you trying out. Honestly, I’d recommend you try out the demo and see if this game is for you.
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Reviewed on PS5