Final Fantasy 16 Review: A Bold Evolution of the Legendary Series

FF16 a vibrant tapestry of memorable characters, thrilling battles, and a story that grips your heart, setting a new bar for the franchise.

By GamesRecon

Let me tell you, Final Fantasy 16 is a total beast! It’s a crazy ride, totally going beyond the limits of what I thought a FF game with a focus on action could deliver. We’re talking about a major pivot for the series here. They’ve done away with turn-based tactics and active-time conflicts in favor of a fast-paced, combo-heavy system that’s truly revolutionary. And man, did it get even better during my fantastic gameplay of hours after hours.

The whole thing has a kickass linear action vibe to it, and that’s honestly the crown jewel of the game. But then, you’ve got your regular RPG stuff and mechanics, and an open-world thing going on outside the main dungeon quests. It kind of slows down the main plot, which is like a firecracker with all the godly battles, Eikons, crystals, and debates about free will. But even with that, FF16’s top moments are some of the gnarliest in the series and in action games, hands down.

With Final Fantasy 16, it’s like they’re trying to keep the old-school vibes, but with a fresh coat of paint. The story is where you’ll notice it the most. What starts off as a simple revenge tale with our boy Clive Rosfield turns into this massive quest to return power to the people. The story’s got its fair share of badass heroes and villains, all happening in a world with a deep and rich past. There are obvious nods to Game of Thrones in the storyline, but it still keeps that unmistakable FF flavor. For example, in-game Summons have been reimagined as gigantic, terrifying beings called Eikons, and a special class of characters called Dominants can assume their form.

FF16 Clive Character

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In FF16, these Dominant dudes are as rare as a shiny Charizard. But in our main guy Clive’s timeline, there are more of them than there’ve ever been before. These Dominants, and their transformer-like Eikons, they’re the muscle of any nation that’s got ’em. But, what goes down when that power isn’t exclusive anymore? Picture this, every Tom, Dick, and Harry walking around with a nuke in their pocket? This intriguing concept adds a wild fresh degree of richness to the Final Fantasy 16 setting, and it’s packed to the gills with fantastical backstory and fantastical detail. Without the game’s absolute genius Active Lore System, you’d be as lost as a non-gamer in an esports tourney. But the epic tale of Clive and his gang keep you hooked from start to finish. And let me tell you, Final Fantasy 16 nails the integration of the main characters’ personal journeys into the broader conflict in some pretty sick new ways.

Final Fantasy has always been about flipping the script, and this latest entry in the lineup is probably the series’ biggest plot twist yet. The combat system takes a hard left from FF15 or 7 Remake and drives straight into Devil May Cry territory. It’s a blazing beacon of what an action role-play game should be. Those Eikon battles, which might look like just some flashy fireworks at first, morph into these powerful narrative-driven moments that are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for the soul. There were many moments during the game’s breathtaking combat and emotionally wrenching cutscenes that left me wondering, “Really, that just happened in this game.” While the game’s sick beats echo in my mind. Sure, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, there are some old-school design choices that stick out like a low-res texture in a 4K game, leading to some slower moments in my solid 60-hour playthrough. But man, FF16’s memorable power moments, those shining diamonds in the rough, are why it’s a standout in the legendary Final Fantasy series.

At the epicenter of this whirlwind tale is our main man, Clive Rosfield, top prince of the kingdom of Rosaria and bodyguard of his bro, Joshua, who’s rocking the title of Dominant of Phoenix. Clive’s a beast of a protagonist, fully fleshed-out, and brought to life with absolute dynamism by the superb Ben Starr. This dude’s journey twists and turns through the game’s decades-spanning story, but he’s always sticking to his roots – super chill, easy to relate to, and a complete wrecking ball when the gloves come off, which they do, a lot.

Jill is Clive’s closest companion from the beginning.

Enter stage left, the rest of the squad, who are equally stellar. Jill, given depth by the talented Susannah Fielding, is Clive’s closest companion from way back when. She’s an awesome ride-or-die who really gets Clive, connecting with him on a deeply emotional level. The softer moments between these two are pure gold, showcasing their evolving bond. Now, let’s talk about Cid. This guy’s fast becoming my numero uno Final Fantasy character. He’s kinda got this young Liam Neeson swagger but with a voiceover by Ralph Ineson that’s on point. Cid is a natural leader who is full of passion and charisma, and his purpose is so approachable that you can’t help but root for him and his band of outlaws as they embark on an action-packed adventure.

We kick things off in Valisthea with a classic revenge tale set against a backdrop of some dark stuff – slavery. In this world, magic users, known as Bearers, are chained up, traded, and sold like commodities. Now, FFXVI tries to tackle this, but it kinda drops the ball, not bringing anything fresh or hard-hitting to the table. This is especially glaring when you notice the main cast is mostly white, which is a bit of a mess when they’re talking slavery. However, don’t bail out just yet! The story takes a sharp turn, leaving the slavery issue to dive deep into the complexities of Valisthean society, and this is where the tale really gets cooking. Sure, it’s got a bit of a Game of Thrones vibe, but the killer voice cast gives their all and totally pulls it off. You’ll enjoy how Final Fantasy XV develops if you’re an admirer of the series who enjoys clichéd love stories whether romantic or bromantic.

The gameplay felt more like an action-packed character game. Well, the series has ditched its turn-based old-school roots for a high-octane approach. You’re in control of one character, and there’s no fiddling with party management or constant buffing, debuffing, and healing allies. Even if some of the older elements remain in fights, rest assured that they have been refined so as to keep the action moving at a breakneck clip and to offer you greater agency when the stakes are high. It’s all about keeping you in the thick of it.

Final Fantasy 16’s combat looks like a straightforward hack-and-slash, but man, it’s like an iceberg! There’s so much more going on underneath. You’ve got Clive’s rad Eikonic Abilities, plus a whole armory of sword skills that work on land or mid-air. It’s like the devs dumped a box of toys at your feet and said, “Go nuts!” At first, you might just mash whatever dishes out the most damage, but soon you’ll be chaining together sick combos. I’m talking Phoenix popping an enemy into the air, Garuda launching you both even higher and then WHAM! An Ifrit fire spear sends your sword drilling through your airborne enemy. Now that’s what I call a sky-high BBQ.

A beautiful scene of Final Fantasy 16

Visually, FF16 is a mixed bag. Sometimes it’s a stunner, and sometimes it, well, isn’t. The plastic-looking NPCs, for instance, stick out like a sore thumb next to the main characters. But when FF16 nails it, it really nails it. The user interface, atmosphere, and spectacular battle animations all work seamlessly as a beautiful composition for your eyes, giving the game a traditional feel of the Final Fantasy series. Yes, it can become somewhat frantic occasionally, but that’s all part of the excitement.

For the open-field areas, they’re kinda meh. Big, sure, but mostly just forgettable empty spaces, aside from the occasional side quest or enemy mob. And this ties into my biggest gripe with FF16 – it’s a wicked action game, but it falls a bit flat as an RPG. They have an abundance of resources for crafting things, yet doing so seems like an afterthought. And forget about customizing your weapon for specific builds. You just craft the powerful weapon and move on. Thankfully, the game gives you the materials you need if you’re doing story missions and side quests. It’s the same deal with other gear.

The sidequests in FF16 aren’t really the game’s strong suit. I’ve gone through every single one of them, and while I still think they’re worth tackling—mostly because they help you understand the folks on a deeper level—there are just a few that actually make a big difference. These quests give you key info about your main personas and their bonds and reward you with some truly touching scenes. However, outside of those shining moments, you’ll have to endure some clunky conversations and challenges that don’t make the most of the game’s charms. The content can also get awkward at times, which is especially disappointing given the high standard set by the core quest’s narrative.

Now, where FF16 really goes beast mode is with the Eikon combats. These are the game’s best parts where the Dominants go all Super Saiyan and duke it out. There aren’t a ton of these boss fights, but trust me, the ones you’ll find from the mid onwards are some of the most mind-blowing showdowns you’ll ever see in a game. These battles aren’t just a series of rapid-fire events or key bashing, but the game rewards you with new abilities as you play. And even when it does go the QTE route, it gives you a spectacle of raw power that’ll have you shouting “Oh snap!” at your screen. When it comes to video games, I’m typically not impressed by the visual flair, although Final Fantasy 16 has a number of truly breathtaking instances that are only enhanced by the game’s impressive technical abilities.

Fighting with boss in Final Fantasy XIV

No Final Fantasy game is complete without a killer soundtrack, right? It doesn’t matter whether you’re going toe-to-toe in intense fights, tearing up during the emotional scenes, or just strolling across the expansive landscape of Valisthea – the music is there, and man, does it hit home. This time, the musical maestro Masayoshi Soken and his squad bring their A-game, and they seriously prove that the tunes of the Final Fantasy universe are managed by true legends in their field. You’ve got the echoing piano tracks creating this peaceful, kind of nostalgic atmosphere as you take in the epic views, which are reminiscent of Final Fantasy XIV’s overworld soundtracks. Then there are the big, bold orchestral and choir pieces that amp up the bar in important battles.

But Soken, being the musical genius he is, also knows when to shake things up. He adds these unexpected electronic beats and gnarly guitar riffs that somehow feel just right. I was so proud of myself for laying waste to my foes that even the generic boss music got me pumped up. The memorable melodies and stirring themes truly get to you, conveying feelings that the words can’t do justice to. They mirror what the characters are going through and how you’re feeling as the player. When it comes to the narrative in Final Fantasy, music is like the lifeblood, and FFXVI does a fantastic job with this. It’s a tradition that’s carried through the series and they’ve hit it out of the park again, guys.

Final Fantasy 16 might feel a touch different from the FF you’ve got locked in your hearts, but remember, this beloved series is a many-splendored thing. Some of you are here for the awe-inspiring tales of sword-brandishing heroes going toe-to-toe with overwhelmingly powerful adversaries – the game delivers that in spades. For those who enjoy head-scratching battles in which you must devise improvised strategies and deploy dazzling skills that threaten to break your screen, Final Fantasy XVI has you covered. Of course, Final Fantasy XV also has you covered if you simply want to take a leisurely stroll, strike up conversations with the locals, and immerse yourself in the vibrant world that the expert team at Square Enix has crafted. This is Final Fantasy for the modern audience, but traditional fans need not worry; the series’ spirit is still very much intact.

Final Fantasy 16 has something unique from original series

Now, when we look back, FFXVI might well stand as the game that turned the tide for the Final Fantasy titles, pushing the combat into pure, unadulterated action territory. But, let’s not let that chat drown out the darkly enthralling story, the characters that’ll etch themselves into your memory, and the clever-as-heck ways the game keeps you on top of the narrative. The Active Time Lore feature? Seriously game-changing stuff – ought to be a standard for every story-driven game from here on out. And while the combat might not scale the dizzying heights of the top-drawer character action games, it’s still gunning for the podium among action RPGs. Add to that one of the year’s hottest soundtracks, performances that’ll knock your socks off, and visuals that are nothing short of breathtaking, and you have a game in your hands that merits a full-fledged FF triumphant hymn, complete with the symphony.

Detailed Final Fantasy 16 Review
Final Fantasy 16 Review
Amazing 9
Our Score 9