The long-awaited Final Fantasy XVI is finally here, and it is – to say the least – a lot. As of writing, I’m about 40 hours in, which the PlayStation 5’s interface says is the 75% mark. I will be publishing a full review of the latest Final Fantasy once I have completed the story, as I do not score and review games I have not finished. While some may argue three-quarters of the way through is enough to give it a definitive score, there is still too much up in the air for me to make a final decision.
Final Fantasy XVI may be the most difficult game that I have ever reviewed. There is so much I enjoy about it, but an equal amount of things that make me want to rip my hair out. It’s like that dish on Chopped where the chef made something delicious, but forgot the most important basket ingredient and simply threw it on the plate. It tastes so good, yet it doesn’t hit the mark by a long shot.
One of the great things about Final Fantasy XVI is that it adds really useful resources I wish most RPGs had – a lore library, charts with character dossiers, and explaining the relationships called The State of the Realm. You may think “A game shouldn’t need that,” but there are multiple sides to that argument. Stories can be difficult to follow, and if you’re not playing the game all at once, these tools are great for needing a refresher (versus trying to look up summaries and cutscene videos online). The State of the Realm also has a timeline that you can navigate with L1 and R1 from the beginning of the game to the present day.
The influence of Game of Thrones in this game is heavy and impossible to miss. As we all saw in the demo, Clive and Joshua’s mother Anabella is clearly inspired by Cersei. In the character chart, it even states that Clive and Joshua’s parents are cousins. Anabella “knew from a young age that her purpose in life was to preserve her Phoenix-bearing bloodline.” In addition to the characters being similar to those in Game of Thrones, the environments are a lot less Final Fantasy and more medieval. The game’s only levity comes from one character that is introduced halfway through the story; the rest of the game is dark, depressing, and bleak.
However, I do applaud Square Enix for going the rated-M route. The addition of strong language, blood, and sex is done very well and makes the game feel very adult. There has been a lot of discourse about this on Twitter since the demo’s release, but this isn’t like any other Final Fantasy game. I think people will have similar issues with XVI as they did with IX. If you’re looking for an action RPG game, this is really a lot more action and a lot less RPG.
Where the game truly suffers is its pacing. Even more frustrating that the issue at hand was something the developers publicly promised wouldn’t happen. This game is mentally exhausting because of it; you have your home base so to speak, and you do a couple of the main story quests, and then a bunch of side quests pop up. If you don’t complete them before progressing with the main story, you can lose the opportunity to do them entirely, which also means you can lose out on items that you need for crafting, or items that enhance specific stats.
About 35 hours in, there was a scene that brought me to tears. Its execution was perfect and stood out from similar scenes in other Final Fantasy games. The ball was rolling, and I was ready to get to the next big thing. As the cutscene finished and I returned to the home base, I was prompted with seven long, grueling side quests. They’re all fetch quests. Every last one of them. At one point, they literally put me to sleep.
It’s unfortunate because the lore you’re given from said quests are interesting, but they play like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in the sense that all the dialogue is between two stiff characters standing there staring at each other, just going back and forth. There are really only a couple of minor characters I dislike; I genuinely enjoy most of the characters and their backstories. I just wish we could explore them with something other than fetch quests.
Stay tuned for the full review of Final Fantasy XVI, where I will be breaking everything down into four categories (story, graphics, sound and audio, gameplay), and elaborating on both the good and bad in detail. The game is published and developed by Square Enix and will be available on PlayStation 5 on June 22nd for $69.99 (regular edition) or $89.99 (digital deluxe edition).
This first impressions piece was written based on a Final Fantasy XVI review code provided by Square Enix.