Final Fantasy XVI: A Flawed Rebirth of a Beloved Franchise

The first fully fledged action RPG in a mainline Final Fantasy…for good and bad.

Final Fantasy is one of the oldest game franchises, spanning for over 35 years, and remains one of the most beloved – always held on a pedestal. The title alone grants it a power few other established IP can truly hope to grab. Even if people don’t play the game, they’ll surely be seated for what a new entry has to offer. 

It’s a franchise that’s, almost historically, been ‘turn-based RPGs’ – or at least maintained a resemblance to that style of play… until the newest installment, XVI, produced by Naoki Yoshida, the man known for leading the revival of the once considered failure Final Fantasy XIV as well as the head of Square Enix’s Creative Business Unit III. Final Fantasy XVI forgoes the turn-based aspect entirely while also practically letting go of the RPG element too, instead pivoting to being a third person action game. Does that succeed? Does it work? Well…

The end result is flawed. It’s messy, but you can tell that they tried a lot to make it work. The end-result is still Final Fantasy, but not the kind you’re used to – which is both a good and a bad thing. 

This review will contain spoilers, but if you wish to avoid all that, here’s the takeaway:

If you like character action games and want a Game of Thrones-ish story that eventually turns into a plot you’ll likely be following based on the vibes without actually making much sense, then you’ll have a blast. There’s a lot of depth in the combat system to exploit, so if you’re into that alone you’ll still have a lot going for you, even as the story goes on in the background. That being said: the story is good, mostly, and while the side quests have good stories too, the rest of the content leaves a lot to be desired. The game shines with its boss battles and big action set pieces, as well as the music. If that’s something you’re interested in (and even if not,) I highly suggest at least trying the demo. There’s three and a half hours of gameplay in there, and it gives you a small feel of what it has to offer.

Final Fantasy XVI


One of the big marketing pushes of this game was the combat, which was led by Ryota Suzuki, also known as the combat director of Devil May Cry 5, Monster Hunter World and Marvel vs Capcom 2. He regards it as his personal masterpiece – and while I don’t fully agree, you can truly see why. There’s a lot of depth here that allows for a lot of player expression depending on your playstyle, with around8.97*1010 combinations of abilities available to you.

The system operates as follows: You equip a sword, a belt, gauntlets, as well as three accessories, and then three Eikons (the large monsters that we see from the very beginning, like Ifrit) – along with two abilities assigned to each Eikon. These abilities can be upgraded and mastered through the skill tree – upgrading gives them a bonus, such as more attacks or more targets, while mastery allows you to assign an ability to any Eikon and not just the one it originated from. This skill tree can also be refunded at any point without any caveats, allowing you to respec as you wish and try new builds. I’m a big fan of this; it allows players to experiment with newer skills without ever being forced down one path, and lets them try out new Eikonic skills – which are obtained as you progress through the story – without ever feeling locked out of them. 

Once you do, you’re free to use them in combat or even try them out in the training room so you can practice without any risks of any kind. Unlike in previous entries where the ‘cost’ of using skills or spells was MP or an ATB gauge (or both!), here the cost is purely a cooldown timer that varies from ability to ability, and can be reduced through accessories. 

Combat revolves mostly around dealing with groups of enemies, along the occasional boss thrown in along the way. The beauty of the ability system lets you quickly switch out abilities on the fly, depending on the situation. But I was left wishing for a way to create ‘loadouts’ so you wouldn’t have to spend so much time resetting and re-upgrading, depending on the situation. It’s why, until the very end, whenever I made a build, it was mostly the same build throughout, with small adjustments made if i needed to, but never anything too drastic. 

Combat takes full use of every single button on the controller. I used Type A, which meant that I was attacking with square, using Eikonic Feats – the latent powers of an Eikon that don’t require a cooldown – on circle, shooting projectiles with triangle, jumping with cross, left bumper to lock on, right bumper to evade, left trigger to cycle through my Eikons, and right trigger to ready my Eikonic abilities. When you hold the right trigger, your basic attacks will be replaced with Eikonic abilities assigned by you, and you can use them if they’re off cooldown.

You can also Limit Break by pressing the L3 and R3 buttons together, which makes you faster and allows you to deal more damage to the enemy. This bar fills up whenever you attack or get attacked, and while it starts at a base of 2 bars, you can upgrade it to a maximum of 4.

For the vast majority of the game – I stuck to Phoenix Shift (which allowed me to dash to an enemy regardless of if they were in the air or on the ground), Deadly Embrace (which allowed me to pull enemies away from me and pull half staggered enemies to the ground to stun them for a while) and Titanic Block (which let me block and parry attacks) along with a variety of abilities depending on if I was fighting a crowd or a boss. The accessories I used along the way were two that gave me bonus exp and ability points, as well as one that gave me extra damage when I did a perfect dodge and attacked the enemy. It did the job well enough, but it wasn’t until the late game where I experimented and really had fun with my build. Weaving in and out to charge and shoot a level 4 Megaflare and defeating bosses with a level 5 Zantetsuken gave me a kind of euphoric high I haven’t experienced through the combat of a game in a long time.

Final Fantasy XVI

Accessories also add to this – giving you various benefits such as a boost in health or attack or even a boost for a specific Eikonic ability or lowered cooldowns. Other than that, there are special accessories designed to help with accessibility or to make the game easier – such as one that slows the game down and gives you a QTE to dodge an incoming attack, or one that automatically commands Torgal, the wolf companion, so that you don’t have to. 

While I do appreciate their inclusion, I wish the accessibility accessories were in a separate slot or a toggle-able option altogether instead of being relegated to a choice in the accessories like described above. I understand that when you’re making the game ‘easier,’ you don’t really need extra accessories; I still think it’d be a better choice regardless to let every player have free choice. Furthermore – the lack of a customizable control scheme sucks. There are six different control schemes, three added in a recent update, but just letting players customize outright would have been better for everyone. 

That being said, it is unfortunate that this is where the RPG elements of it all end, so much so that I can’t help but wonder why that is the case. Why is there the option for us to choose, craft and upgrade swords, belts and gauntlets if all they contribute is stats and nothing more? 

The crafting system is barebones, not annoying in terms of resource collection, but annoying in terms of the fact that it exists. As you traverse the lands, killing monsters and collecting loot, you’ll naturally be coming across resources which are only used for crafting and the occasional side quest, but even then, side quest items are only accessible once you’ve activated that specific side quest. There are also special resources only obtainable through killing bosses in the overworld that you can locate through the Hunt Board that let you craft good gear. 

But that is where the problem lies. The crafting system serves no purpose; it has no real value. After an excursion to one of the four different semi-open world areas, you’ll return to the hub, where you can talk to the blacksmith to trade those resources to craft that gear. The problem is – that gear only offers a stat boost: swords offer increases to attack and stagger damage, belts and gauntlets to health and defense. There are no additional benefits like there were in the previous entry in the franchise – Final Fantasy VII REMAKE, such as weapons for specific purposes like more magic damage or a higher critical hit rate, nor is there a variety in the attack animations. The only change is a visual one, as you can see Clive carrying that new sword on his back and in attacks, but the visual doesn’t matter much anyway when you’ll be using the weapon with better stats, irrespective of how it looks. You can’t even see the new gauntlet and belts, or if you can, I personally didn’t notice it, and given they barely add anything, it’s just useless. Why bother making the player return to the hub, where the walking speed is slow as is, and talk to the Blacksmith and go through a menu to upgrade? It’s just a waste, and if this was the route they wanted to go through, I wish it was cut outright. Ideally, I’d want a system akin to FF7R, where Clive has a handful of ‘main swords’ with different utility that you could upgrade through their own branches.

It also makes the weapons part of the shop a waste. There were only two times when I bought weapons and upgraded them; otherwise, sticking to the main sword you get – which is upgradable, worked just fine, and a sword you obtain in a later side quest ended up being my main sword through the end. It’s an odd system, especially when you get a really cool looking sword only to replace it with another because of better stats, which is what happened with me and Excalibur. The same happened with the gauntlets and belt; in a later side quest, I had obtained a gauntlet that was meant to be given to Clive by his late father, but because my current gauntlets were already better, I had no reason to use them, especially when I couldn’t really see them either.

I feel similarly about having to buy potions and such. They can be found in the overworld, and in story dungeons you’ll be given a free potion or high potion after every encounter. Even past that though, they’re so cheap that buying them seems like pocket change, and if you die during an encounter, you’ll be reset with full potions, so to me it feels like another useless set of menus that could have been relegated to cooldowns or something.  

This game also effectively gets rid of the party system. There is a party members option in the menu with cute pixel art sprites, but it doesn’t really amount to much, especially when you don’t control any of them or give commands to any of them except for Torgal. This, to me, was a bad choice – both narratively (more on this later) and from a gameplay standpoint. Clive’s moveset got a lot of work put into it, and while I wouldn’t expect them to do the same for more characters, considering that FF7R, as well as DMC5, had multiple characters, I don’t see why more time wasn’t given there. Or at least give us the ability to command them or customize their kit / what they do. During mob battles, they help thin the herd, but during boss battles, them being there doesn’t make any difference, as you’re the main damage dealer, and you’re always the target of aggression.

There is also no elemental weakness / resistance system. I understand that for the combat to work the way it does, you need to let every skill be viable, but also, given that Clive’s whole thing is being able to channel different Eikons, it…makes no sense? You very much can mix and match and have a skill from every Eikon in your arsenal (whether you should is a different debacle altogether), on top of being able to reset and invest into different abilities at any given moment without any consequences, so I don’t see why they’d remove it altogether, unless the point is to just slowly leave the RPG nature of the franchise behind with this.

Which.. That’s absolutely fine! But it’s because of this that the game feels lost in its identity and cannot make a decision on what it wants to be – it so clearly wants to be a different kind of Final Fantasy, yet it is so beholden by certain Final Fantasy gameplay mechanics that it can never be that and is thus held back. 

Final Fantasy XVI

Level and Scenario Design

This game has two types of “levels” – if that term can be applied here: semi-open world sections and linear story mission arenas. The vast majority of this game takes place within those semi-open world areas, while the story heavy missions all take place in the linear areas.

Main Story Levels

Structurally, all the main story missions are essentially the same, few and far between as they are. Combat arenas are connected by a series of “corridors,” where you’ll be tasked to slay groups of enemies. As you progress, occasionally, you’ll have to deal with a mini-boss or a mini-boss along with a group of foes before eventually leading to a final boss. Sometimes, these final bosses will also lead to an Eikonic Battle, where both characters awaken their Eikons and go on an all out cinematic brawl.

Visually, they’re all distinct from each other for the most part. Sometimes, you’ll be fighting through the capital of a Kingdom, sometimes through a cave system, sometimes through a long forgotten lost temple. It’s always cool to see them keep things fresh, even if structurally they’re essentially the same.

Considering the style of gameplay they’re going for – along with who the combat director is – it makes sense that it’s just corridors of combat and nothing else. After all, that’s what we’re here for, and the combat is fun enough where I never found myself complaining about the endless combat that kept happening.

It helps that every encounter did feel hand crafted. When they wanted to feel like you’re fighting through fodder, it felt that way; when a mini-boss or boss encounter’s intent was to make the player feel like they fought to the brink, it felt that way, too. It also helps that, after big fights, there are drops with potions and high potions, so you could quickly restock and be on your way to the next big thing.

Semi-Open World Sections

The vast majority of your time in the game will be spent here. A lot of the more ‘unimportant’ main missions and all the side quests and hunt board encounters all take place here. There are four semi-open world sections, each with their own unique atmosphere, hubs, optional bosses, and side quests to discover.

Sometimes, these areas are also just ‘corridors’ with some combat sections. Sometimes, they’re a wide field to run around and explore, but I never felt an itch to go out and explore those wide fields. Main quests, side quests and boss hunts would lead me to the various points of interests on the map anyways, so I never quite had that incentive to go and explore on my own volition – except for when looking for S Rank bosses on the Hunt Board, but the descriptions on the board, combined with the way the map is designed, easily gave away where they were anyway. You can also unlock fast travel points as you explore, making it easier for the player to get to side quests / hunt board bosses.

Like the Main Story Levels, though, I love the vibes. The Grand Duchy of Rosaria is bright and sunny, The Holy Kingdom of Sanbreque is more gloomy, The Dhalmekian Republic is a straight up desert, and the Kingdom of Waloed is just the deadlands, deserted and left with mutated monsters and corrupted humans. They all have their own musical themes to go along with it, too, all of which really highlight what the area is like, thanks to Masayoshi Soken’s masterful score. 

What I don’t love, though, is the quest design. Most of the time, these involve just running from point A to B, talking to someone, going from B to C, talking to someone, and occasionally you’ll have to go and fight a small mob. The fights are so short in relevance to the running and talking that it just ends up being frustrating, regardless of if the stories within are good. Even with how many cutscenes there are in this game, at one point, I ended up wishing the running and talking to people segments were also cutscenes. 

I did enjoy the boss fights in the hunt board. These are harder versions of bosses you face in the main quest, with difficulties being defined as ranks, C being the lowest and S being the highest. For bosses in the C to A tier, you’re given the region they’re in, as well as the location they’re in, but for S tier, you’re just given the region as well as a description for where they might be. 

The argument can be made that the semi-open world is fluff, and in some regards, it is, but the worldbuilding and storytelling we get through the side quests there make up for it, to me.

Final Fantasy XVI


This game’s story is…rough, to say the least. The game took me 55 hours to beat, since I did every main quest, every side quest and every optional boss, but based on howlongtobeat, it looks like the time to beat the main story is 35 hours on average. 

The opening segment of the game does a few things. You start with a fight between the two titans, Phoenix and Ifrit, playing as Phoenix, but it treats it as a QTE segment. Yet, it’s an immediate taste of how cinematic and intense the game can get. Just as the fight reaches its climax, it transitions into a fire, a fire our protagonist, Clive Rosfield, is looking at. When we’re first introduced to him, we don’t even know his name is Clive. He’s called Wyvern, with a tattoo on his cheek. Soon enough, we’re greeted to his three companions, fellow soldiers of the Kingdom, and he’s referred to as Branded, a term that we’re not fully introduced to yet. As Clive and co. walk through, the scene shifts to two parties arguing about lending soldiers, and it gives us a tease of another thing the game is about – politics. From there, after it cuts back, Clive and co. continue to walk forward, and it’s there where we get a sense of scale. Two armies are going to war against one another, and all of a sudden, we see two Eikons, Shiva and Titan. As Titan walks, crushing soldiers in his path regardless of the fact that they’re allies, and places his hand on the cliffside the party is walking on, we get a taste at just how big those Eikonic Fights can get. From there, some chaos occurs, Clive passes out, and we get a flashback to his days as a teenager.

His days as a teenager are where we get some context as to who he is. We find out his name is Clive Rosfield, first son of the Archduke of Rosaria, and that he’s training to be a shield for the Phoenix. We also meet Joshua and Jill, his brother and a girl under the care of his parents. As this progresses, we find out his mother has a disdain for him since he was born a bearer – someone who can use magical abilities without a crystal – and not a Dominant – someone who can summon an Eikon. Acting as a tutorial section, all of it seems fine and dandy until we head to the Phoenix Gate, and it’s there that they’re attacked by soldiers from Sanbreque who have infiltrated their ranks. At the end is the first of many tragic scenes in the game, where Clive transforms into Ifrit, but he doesn’t know it yet, and we need to play as Joshua, who has transformed into the Phoenix in a cinematic boss fight, until the end where Ifrit punches the life out of the Phoenix while a voiceover of Clive begs it to stop. 

From there, we’re thrust back into the present, where only Clive’s commander remains alive, and the two run to kill the Dominant of Shiva, who’s being dragged around in chains by the Iron Kingdom. After a fight, Clive recognizes that dominant to be Jill from his past and kills his commander, only to be saved by Cid. Once they return to the hideout, the game finally introduces some systems and slowly opens up to the player. 

From here, they go on a journey where they meet a wide cast of characters, deal with a lot of sacrifices, have a whole romance arc, and it has an entire time skip in the middle. It’s a long story, where you’ll be travelling back and forth from many different areas to destroy the Mothercrystals – big crystals located by the Capital of the major Kingdoms, which are mined so that regular people can also use magic and save the world. It’s a story that promises to be an interesting character driven tale, with politics and explorations of Eikons and magic driven into the mix, but therein lies the problem…

The politics nor the explorations into the Eikons are as interesting as they could be, and to top that off, the character beats aren’t that interesting either, except for if you’re the protagonist. 

To kick things off, the politics in this game are so poorly defined. The Dhalmekian Republic is essentially run by traders, with a man in charge of the army who also controls the entire region. The Holy Kingdom of Sanbreque is a kingdom with a monarchy, but the small towns we explore are also places run by the people. Both places treat their Branded like slaves except for people who aid the protagonist, the only one who didn’t was Rosaria, thanks to its Archduke, but with his death they started being treated the same way anyway. There’s never a difference between people from different regions, different agendas. The game very clearly sets off being an “us and them” story, and remains that way to the very end. Of course, there are good individual stories within them, but on a macro level, there’s barely any difference between the areas apart from aesthetics. 

Throughout the game, there’s sprinkles of a mystery behind the Eikons, the Mothercrystals, and the magic that governs this world, but none of it truly kickstarts until… 75-80% through the story. Part of the problem is this introduction is after what is arguably the game’s best set piece and mission, where it finally builds on a character that we’ve barely seen throughout the game as the big bad of the whole thing. Even so, it leaves you in mystery until the final mission, right before the boss fight, where it dumps a large amount of exposition onto you within the span of a few minutes, so you really need to scramble to make sense of it all. At that point, though, with the frankly boring politics and the messy explanation, the fuel you’re running on in terms of plot is just vibes, but the vibes don’t amount to anything if there’s no significant amount of backdrop into it.

The character based stuff, while the strongest part of the story, isn’t perfect either. The glaring issue off the bat is that the writers of this game do not know how to write women. Jill, one of the leading cast members of the game, barely has an active role in the story beyond the chapter where they go to destroy the Mothercrystal, aside from being Clive’s love interest. Benedikta, the game’s only female villain other than Clive’s mother, is literally the first boss you kill in the game. Both have similar backstories, where they’re implied to have been sexually assaulted, and then their quest for revenge is in large part fuelled by this, and never explored again. It’s quite cheap to use something as heavy as that to pretend your characters have any depth, but ultimately, if you look past the surface, they all end up being one-dimensional. Jill ends up being shelved at the very end of the game before Clive, Joshua and Dion go off to fight the final boss, Ultima, even though she is still a Dominant. There’s literally a joke in the game about how Clive never spends time with Tarja, the person in charge of the infirmary at their base, but it never earns that joke because we barely know anything about her, just that she exists. 

Jill’s treatment in this game is so bad that unlike the other supporting cast, who gets tons of side quests to flesh out their world, she only has a few, and both are in service of her relationship with Clive rather than anything to strengthen her character. I like the relationship for what it is, purely because those scenes of them together are nice, but there’s no depth into it. It feels like the romance is there purely for the sake of it rather than adding anything important to the story.

Dion, prince of the Holy Kingdom of Sanbreque, is the only gay character in the game, and while I’m glad he exists, its funny to see any kisses he has with his partner to never be the focus of a scene, always quick, while scenes of characters like Benedikta seducing the Dominant of Titan, Hugo, are given a lot of screen time as awkward as they are. Glad that there is gay rep in this, but it is super shallow.

There’s also a problem with the allegory of the Bearers inherently. When you’re portraying the marginalized as slaves with powers, there’s baggage automatically in there. However, that allegory falls apart when, aside from one supporting cast member, all these bearers are straight white people. On one hand, I understand why they wouldn’t show any people of colour as slaves, but it’s worsened when one of the game’s only non-white characters is literally a major villain (Hugo), and funnier when they’re both from the Dhalmekian Republic – a place very obviously a mirror to the real world’s Middle East, apparent through how it’s the only place in the game that’s in a desert, and how the music is that same type of Arabian music you hear in any media that portrays Arabian culture. It’s, frankly, a bad at best, horrible at worst, attempt at creating a marginalized group, and they should have done better. 

The game also has a villain problem. Throughout the entire runtime, there’s only two villains that have any resemblance of charisma, that being Benedikta and Hugo. Benedikta, of course, dies early on, leaving us until the time skip to face off against Hugo, and that’s because both of these villains are ones that have personal ties to our core cast of characters. There’s a drive there, instilled within us as players to face off – for Benedikta it’s because of her past with Cid; for Hugo it’s revenge for destroying the Hideout. 

Between Benedikta and Hugo, there’s no real villain, just the motivation of destroying the first Mothercrystal, and trying to find the truth behind Joshua before finding out he’s alive anyway. There’s a lot of story stuff here; the first half is all about showing you aspects of the world and the supporting cast that populates it. It’s the second half where things get real. 

However, after Hugo, there’s no one there nearly as interesting. Clive’s mother is there, and there’s certainly a really fascinating potential plotline that exists there, given how if you read the lorebooks in the game, you find out that her purpose is literally to give birth to a dominant – which explains her disdain for Clive, but the game barely utilizes that, which sucks because the end of the time period where he’s a teenager certainly sets up more. The main plot after that point is to destroy the remainder of the Mothercrystals, after which we’re introduced to Barnabas and Ultima. The game really tries to push Barnabas as this insane villain at the very end, but it’s hard to take him seriously as the puppeteer of the puppeteer, the man trying to manipulate Clive, when he barely has a presence in the entire game. Sure, his two boss fights are cool, but his presence sets in, again, after the best mission and set piece of the game, so it never hit the same way. Ultima is a character we don’t even understand until the very last mission of the game, and at that point the game’s basically almost lost all its steam, and it’s hard to even care.

The ending of this game is fascinating, simply because while the main ending is fine, there’s a post credits that just made the narrative worse. In the ending of the game, after the boss fight, we see Clive on a shore by the beach, having fallen from the skies. The implication, per my reading, is that this is his death. He led the life he wanted to lead, and now he can die peacefully. HOWEVER, there’s a post credits scene. Here, we see two kids in a world without magic, play-acting and recreating the beginning moments of the game until it pans to a book named Final Fantasy, written by Joshua Rosfield. The problem with this is how it makes the sacrifice and tragedy of those last moments meaningless. Joshua’s death right before the fight with Ultima means something, the same way Clive’s death at the end of everything means something, especially as it’s up to interpretation who even wrote the book. A lot of hints in the game point to Clive, but there’s nothing been confirmed yet.

Boss Fights

The boss fights are the most fun encounters in the game, especially because you really get to show your build off and get to work. Most bosses have two meters – a health bar and a stagger bar. All of your Eikonic Abilities (except one) do a specific amount of damage to the health bar and the stagger bar, as indicated by stars in the abilities menu. It’s up to you, the player, to use your abilities in order to bring the stagger bar down in order to inflict more damage.

This stagger bar is broken into two halves. Once you deplete the first half, they’re stunned for a very short moment, but if you have Garuda equipped, you can use its Eikonic Feat to pull the boss down to the ground to leave them stunned for an extended period of time. Once the entire bar is depleted, a damage multiplier is applied onto the enemy, that can go up to 1.5x. The ideal strategy is to get this multiplier to 1.5, before unleashing all your special moves on the boss to deplete as much of their health as possible before re-doing the cycle once more. 

The optional bosses, encountered through the hunt board, are harder variants of the bosses you fight in the main quest. While they’re all fun, given that you fight them at an appropriate level with the right skills, none of them provide much of a challenge. The only boss I had a hard time with was Ruin Reawakened, the dragon Svarog

In the main quest, bosses are broken down into two types. There’s the regular boss battles, where your objective is to bring down their stagger meter, bring down their health, and repeat. Then there’s the Eikonic Battles, where two Dominants transform into their Eikons and go on a large, cinematic 1v1. 

These Eikonic Battles are honestly the highlight of this game. It’s where they go all out, with such breathtaking spectacle that’ll burn into your mind and just stick to your head days after you’ve beaten them. There are a total of seven of these in the game – one of which where you have to play as Clive, one as Phoenix, and the rest are all Ifrit

Eikonic Battles aren’t all QTEs though. Ifrit has his own set of abilities you can use during battle, along with being able to jump, dodge, attack and shoot. They start off “small” at first, simple 1v1s, before evolving into battles encapsulating large portions of land and even space. Even so, with the way the game marketed these Eikonic Battles, I was expecting more, especially when the scale kept getting bigger, but unfortunately after a certain point, they didn’t.

This certain point is when the party goes to infiltrate the crystal at the Holy Kingdom of Sanbreque. After a long series of fights through the streets of the capital, Clive and Joshua join forces as Ifrit and Phoenix to face off against the holy dragon, Bahamut. It’s an amazing fight, one that just gets bigger and better and cooler, climaxing in a fight in space that you’d think it’s the finale, and it might as well be, given it’s the finale of the political plot of the game and the close of one of the game’s long lingering plot points – Clive’s conflict with his mother.  

After this, it’s two boss fights with Barnabas, and one with Ultima. While both fights with Barnabas are cool, and difficult 1v1s, it’s hard to feel invested emotionally in the fight when we never had any sort of insight into Barnabas in the first place. On top of that, the real fight, the second one, keeps promising a bigger spectacle, and you expect it too, given that we see how threatening Odin as an Eikon is, but instead we’re treated to a short QTE between Ifrit and Odin before going back to the 1v1. It doesn’t help that immediately after the fight there’s a moment where Clive talks about how Barnabas wouldn’t have gone bad if it wasn’t for Ultima’s manipulations, yet this is something that is barely talked about and never has any story importance since. 

Ultima does have an Eikonic Battle as a phase of a long boss fight, but it never reaches the high of the spectacle that Bahamut provided. Sure, on an emotional level you’re connected, but that’s purely because of your connection to Clive throughout the entire game, and nothing for the foe. Naturally you’ll be more inclined towards the protagonist who’s fighting for Free will than the antagonist who’s fighting to reset the world so the gods can live while everyone else dies. The problem is, I don’t give a shit about Ultima, or that Free will vs Predetermined fate bullshit, because everything does it – the difference is how well it portrays the character struggles behind it, vs here there’s none of it. 

The thing is, it’s not impossible to make “god” a compelling antagonist, this franchise has literally done it, look at Sephiroth in the original Final Fantasy VII (and hopefully they can continue working their magic in FFVII REBIRTH). He’s involved in the plot of the original, even if we barely see him, because of the whispers, the stories, and if Ultima had that going on through the game, maybe I’d be interested in him more, maybe I’d be more interested in that final fight beyond “okay this is Clive’s big moment, whatever.” Even as character driven stuff goes, a singular character alone cannot carry a narrative, which is what FF16 tries. During that final mission, it’s like the game is going “Oh wait, we didn’t actually explain anything surrounding Ultima, here’s the powerpoint presentation”, and then gives you a huge exposition dump. That’s not good storytelling.


Ultimately, while I had a good time overall, the problems are so apparent that as a complete package, I can’t in good faith recommend it for full price. Maybe if you’re a huge fan of action games, or Final Fantasy XIV, you’ll get a kick out of it, but I can’t fathom recommending it to just about anyone the way I could with VII Remake, especially when, on top of a mediocre story, the game struggles with it’s own identity throughout its runtime, and is unsure of what it is, when it could be so much, and it’s a shame that it doesn’t meet it’s own potential.

By Zero

Big fan of storytelling through the B-Theory of time.

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