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Final Fantasy XVI Review: An Action-Packed Upgrade for a Beloved Franchise

Final Fantasy XVI Review:  In this Final Fantasy XVI Review, we’ll be taking a look at the latest entry to the Final Fantasy series which is developed by Creative Business Unit III and published by Square Enix. What does this game have to offer, what makes it stand out among the other Final Fantasy games, what is the gameplay, and what are the things you can do for both side and post-game content? We’ll answer these and cover your other questions in this Final Fantasy XVI Review.

Final Fantasy XVI Review: An Action-Packed Upgrade for a Beloved Franchise

  • Genre: Action Role-Playing Game, Adventure
  • Developed by: Creative Business Unit III, Square Enix
  • Published by: Square Enix
  • Release Date: June 22, 2023
  • Platform/s: PlayStation 5
  • Reviewed on: PlayStation 5
  • Price at the time of Review: USD 69.99 ~ 99.99

Final Fantasy XVI Review: Story and Setting

Storytelling and the fictional world of Final Fantasy XVI are well-realized, breathtaking, and compelling. As a player who finds story-driven games attractive, the game does its job of reeling me into the unfolding plot, making me fall in love with the characters, and imprinting itself in my mind even when I’m not playing it, leaving me wanting to come back for more. That is what Final Fantasy games are known for. Delivering a solid story with a cohesive world. Final Fantasy XVI is no exception, and Creative Business Unit III and Square Enix have nailed it.

Final Fantasy XVI Review - A Worthy Successor to the Final Fantasy Franchise
A Worthy Successor to the Final Fantasy Franchise

Final Fantasy XVI is set in a medieval period within Valisthea, divided into two continents, Ash and Storm. The land is scattered with Mothercrystals that provide people with magic and energy, driving civilization through the Aether’s power. In the present day, the nation is divided into six kingdoms that are fighting to gain control of their respective Mothercrystals, each with different goals of maintaining the alliance, conquering, and surviving the Blight’s corruption that continues to threaten and destroy Valisthea.

The key components of the story heavily revolve around the political aspects of the different kingdoms, their military, leaders, and the Dominants: humans who have been chosen as hosts to the different elemental Eikons. These Dominants can use magic without the crystals and can transform into their respective Eikons, making them the ultimate weapons used in war. However, excessive use of their gifts can lead to serious implications for their lives and ultimately result in death.

Final Fantasy XVI Review - Twists and Turns in this Political Thriller
Twists and Turns in this Political Thriller

The game follows the story of the protagonist, Clive Rosfield, the firstborn son of the archduke of The Grand Duchy of Rosaria. He is also the dedicated “Shield” to his younger brother and successor to the throne, Joshua Rosfield who happens to be the Dominant of the Fire Eikon, Phoenix. As we witness Clive’s life in his teenage years, a series of unfortunate events unfold. The Grand Duchy of Rosaria falls, a battle between two Eikons emerges, and a tragedy befalls the Rosfield brothers, setting Clive on a path of vengeance.

Throughout your journey as Clive, you’ll experience the different phases of his life and learn more about the game’s lore through story progression, interactions with different NPCs, side quests, and the game’s unique feature, the ATL or Active Time Lore. We won’t spoil too much in this review since we want everyone to enjoy the story and the revelations that unfold.

Meet Clive Rosfield - FF16 Review
Meet Clive Rosfield

Final Fantasy XVI has a darker tone, and we appreciate it. It may not be how we are accustomed to a traditional Final Fantasy game, but for this installment, the Game of Thrones inspiration and grittier vibe seemingly work. Video games, in general, are another form of storytelling, and overall, the story and setting of this game are among its strongest features. When combined with superb voice acting and a well-written script, it definitely leaves both new and veteran fans of the Final Fantasy series in shock and awe. One tip: you might want to keep a box of tissues beside you.

Final Fantasy XVI Review: Gameplay

As I sat down to play for this review, I was worried that the pacing would slow me down and eventually bore me since there are a lot of cutscenes and dialogue, especially in the prologue. However, with patience and the fact that the game starts off with a bang, I was unaware of the amount of time I’d spent playing and how drawn I was as the tension of the story started to build. More gameplay mechanics eventually became accessible to me as I progressed. Yes, it can be slow during the prologue, but it immediately opens more once you start in the present day, and there is a generous amount of content when it comes to the key features and combat mechanics of the game. Let’s talk more about it.


Let me start by clarifying that Final Fantasy XVI is not an open-world game, and this could divide players since the open-world setting was already done in Final Fantasy XV. So why not make it possible here? Honestly, it doesn’t need to be for this installment. It reminds me of classic Final Fantasy games, and it feels like the developers decided to “go back to their roots,” which works for this game. In Final Fantasy XVI, locations to explore become available through the story progression. You’ll gain access to the World Map, and from there, you do have some freedom to travel to different areas, provided they are unlocked and can be accessed during certain parts of the main story. 

Final Fantasy XVI - While Not Open World, You Get to Roam Around Large Areas
While Not Open World, You Get to Roam Around Large Areas

The locations you explore are divided into sections and are mostly linear, starting from Point A and ultimately reaching Point B, which is your objective. As you traverse these areas such as forests, ruins, village settlements, the desert, and more, you’ll encounter enemies that vary from beasts to humans, including flora and fauna. You’ll discover different loot and fight against bosses. Some areas may feel large in terms of space, but they can easily be cleared out by consulting the location’s map.

While tackling Main Quests, you are not obligated to go directly to the location where the objective of the main quest takes place. Instead, you can always go back to other explored areas and the main hub of the game to engage in side quests, bounty hunting, equipment upgrades, training, or simply exploration. Yes, it might feel underwhelming for some due to the limited space available for exploration, but I still admired the design of each location and interacting with the different characters. Personally, I didn’t feel overwhelmed or distracted by larger spaces.

Final Fantasy XVI Review - Situation Maps Give You the Lay of the Political Landscape
Situation Maps Give You the Lay of the Political Landscape

In areas that require more exploration, sections can be easily traversed by discovering obelisks. These allow the player to easily fast travel from one obelisk to another, as long as it is active. The world and characters change through story progression, so it’s important to revisit pivotal locations like the hub to discover new items in shops, unlock new crafting recipes, find additional side quests, engage in more NPC interactions, and more.

Overall, the exploration aspect of the game, searching areas as I progressed while fighting enemies and bosses, including interactions with the environment and characters, left me satisfied. I appreciated how easy it is to use both the world and area maps, as well as the convenient and simplified features for fast traveling.

Combat Systems

Final Fantasy XVI excels in three areas: the story, visuals and sounds, and combat. When you start the game, the pacing of combat might be slow for some, but this won’t matter since more options become available as you progress through the main story. Be patient, learn the basic maneuvers, and experience Clive’s journey as he unlocks his full potential as a skilled warrior.

Final Fantasy XVI Review - Dramatic Combat Options Open Up Later On
Dramatic Combat Options Open Up Later On

Clive has the capability of wielding different Eikonic powers, as heavily featured in trailers, and this is where the combat shines. Without a doubt, the combat reminded me of a combination of games such as Stranger of Paradise and Devil May Cry. You can execute different combos that involve melee attacks and abilities, as well as switch Eikons on the fly to unleash unique elemental skills. The fluidity of combat enhances the experience, allowing me to instruct Torgal to jump in and attack, heal, and launch enemies in the air while simultaneously using combos of melee and magic, ultimately finishing them off with a cheeky little mortal blow finisher.

FF16 Review - Swap Powers On-the-Fly
Swap Powers On-the-Fly

During minor and major boss battles, I found myself in awe of the smooth transitions between fighting and cinematic moments that involve Quick Time Events (QTEs). The exhilarating experience of Eikon vs. Eikon combat, reminiscent of Kaiju battles, left me picking up my jaw from the floor. The action role-playing game (ARPG) elements in this installment fit perfectly, and it felt rewarding whenever I perfectly dodged, parried, staggered, and executed combos using different combinations of Eikonic Abilities.

Final Fantasy XVI Review - Heart-Pounding Combat
Heart-Pounding Combat

Eikon combat in Final Fantasy XVI plays a pivotal role in the game due to its breathtaking and majestic sequences. As you embody an Eikon, you’ll have access to their unique controls and mechanics. For example, Ifrit is capable of lunging toward the target, delivering heavy blows, and throwing fireballs from a ranged distance, while Phoenix is agile, flying in the air, evading attacks, and shooting a barrage of flames. However, summoning or embodying an Eikon does not work like in traditional Final Fantasy games, where you can summon these powerful creatures at any given time in battle. Instead, it only happens during pivotal moments in the game.

As mentioned, you’ll need to progress the story to unlock Clive’s full combat capabilities. But early in the game, players have access to a set of basic combat skills and the Eikonic Abilities of the Phoenix. Abilities in Final Fantasy XVI are unlocked by spending Ability Points (AP), acquired by defeating enemies and completing quests. You can learn these abilities and improve their effects or potency by “Upgrading” and “Mastering” them in exchange for more AP. For each equipped Eikonic power, Clive can choose two abilities mapped to the Square or Triangle buttons. Pressing R2 with Square or Triangle unleashes the Eikon’s Ability. These abilities have cooldowns and will refill over time.

Final Fantasy XVI Review - Eikon Fights are Quite the Spectacle
Eikon Fights are Quite the Spectacle

While the combat sounds exciting, it’s important to note that you’ll need to get used to using combos effectively. Yes, it is an ARPG, but it doesn’t mean you can just keep mashing buttons and hope for the best. I had to learn through the training mode and constant battles that chaining combos while giving commands to Torgal and switching between Eikons requires timing and situational awareness. The number of combos you can perform on the ground and in the air is exciting, and it’s refreshing to see in a Final Fantasy game. The game also features a recommended string of combos, which you can view in the ability details by pressing Triangle, making it easier to try a variety of moves and abilities.

Like any other Final Fantasy game, Clive has access to equipment such as weapons, armor, and accessories that improve his offensive and defensive stats. Once you unlock the forge, you can ask Blackthorne to craft new weapons or reinforce existing ones to increase their level and stats in exchange for materials. Alternatively, you can purchase equipment and items from general merchants like Charon’s Toll. While I do wish they added some cosmetic items like costumes to change Clive’s or the party members’ clothing, I’ll let it pass since there’s still a touch of customization where each weapon available for Clive has a unique appearance, which is a staple in Final Fantasy games.

Regarding party members, you only get to control Clive, and throughout the story, you are joined by different characters who act as AI companions in battle. These companions cannot be controlled directly, nor can you switch between them; they act of their own free will. AI companions do not have health bars, which means they won’t die, but they can get hit with attacks that interrupt their actions.

Final Fantasy XVI Review - Who Wouldn't Want to Pet Torgal
Who Wouldn’t Want to Pet Torgal

However, you do have some control over the greatest companion in the game, Torgal. Torgal is a hound who is your trusty companion most of the time. He has access to three moves: Sic, a basic attack that can be used to extend combos; Heal, which recovers Clive’s HP; and Ravage, which launches small enemies into the air. If Torgal accompanies Clive during battle, his Pedigree level improves, increasing the potency of his attacks and effectiveness in combat.

My only gripe is that these AI companions sometimes react slowly when I need them to follow up with attacking a staggered enemy or even help with healing the party. I also wish I could customize their equipment to improve their effectiveness in combat. However, this is a minor issue that doesn’t significantly affect my overall experience. I hope future patches or updates will allow us to control and customize other party members, similar to Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy VII Remake.

Side & Post-Game Content

In addition to the main campaign, Final Fantasy XVI offers a considerable amount of side and post-game content. While we can’t disclose the exact number of side quests available in this review, there is a generous number of them. There is also an “Arcade” mode, bounty hunts, collectibles to find, and a New Game Plus mode that introduces further challenges. Let’s delve into the different side and post-game content:

  • Side Quests: As you progress through the game, side quests become available and are marked with a green exclamation point on the area map. These side quests are important for your journey as they provide additional lore, unlock features or upgrades, and offer useful rewards. Certain side quests may become temporarily locked during specific points in the game and will only be available after progressing through the main story.
  • Collectibles: The lore of Final Fantasy XVI is compelling, and you’ll want to stay updated on the events. As Clive progresses, he can interact with Loresman Hapcrates to find a comprehensive compendium of Valisthean lore. The compendium covers basic information, persons, geography, history, and past ATL entries. By sharing stories of Clive’s adventures with Hapcrates, the Thousand Tomes gets updated, and more topics become accessible as the Loresman’s level increases. The hideaway also includes an Orchestrion that provides background music for the hub. The tracklist expands as you acquire more orchestrion rolls from completing quests, purchasing them from merchants, or finding them as loot.
  • Bounty Hunts: As you progress through the main campaign, you’ll unlock the Hunter Board, where you can select from a group of elite enemies that need to be slain in exchange for hefty rewards. These unique enemies can be challenging to fight, depending on their rank, so make sure you are prepared before taking on the hunt.
  • Arete Stone: The Arete Stone is unlocked as you progress and offers replayable elements to hone your combat skills. The Hall of Virtue serves as a training mode where you can adjust parameters and try out different combos. Arcade Mode allows you to replay any previously cleared stage and awards a score based on performance. Stage Replay, like Arcade Mode, lets you replay a cleared stage at the current level to gain experience points (EXP) and obtain random loot.
  • New Game Plus: Upon completing the game, you’ll have the option to start a New Game Plus (NG+) playthrough. In NG+, you can carry over certain progress and items from your previous playthrough, allowing you to experience the game again with added challenges and benefits.

It’s worth noting that side quests and post-game content provide opportunities to gain additional experience points, AP, and items, which can be beneficial for tackling more challenging battles, optimizing your character’s abilities, and unlocking achievements.

Final Fantasy XVI Review: Design, Audio, and Visuals

The design of Final Fantasy XVI is undeniably beautiful and well-suited to its medieval setting. As I explored different locations, each one felt unique and I found myself admiring the lush green forests with dangerous fauna, towering medieval castles and ruins with impeccable details, bustling cities surrounded by market stalls, and small, quiet towns where citizens lived their lives. Even areas that were once vibrant had been consumed by the blight, turning lifeless.

The characters, including NPCs, are well-crafted and each has their own unique wardrobe. The Dominants are dressed to reflect their personalities and Eikons. For example, Jill, the dominant of Shiva, wears a conservative battle robe with hints of blue, while Benedikta wears a more provocative outfit with feather accents to represent the wind Eikon, Garuda. The representation of different magical elements is stunning, with vibrant colors that pop when magic is cast, making combat visually satisfying.

Final Fantasy XVI Review - More Exploration
More Exploration

The audio in the game is exceptional, thanks to the work of music composer Masayoshi Soken. The orchestral score he created enhances the adrenaline during combat and suits the different locations you explore. The intense drums, violins, brass instruments, and angelic choir voices adapt and build tension according to your gameplay, immersing you in the experience.

Visit Exotic Locations - FFXVI Review
Final Fantasy XVI Review: Visit Exotic Locations

Voice acting in the game is available in multiple languages, including English, Japanese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish (Latin America). I initially played with Japanese voices but found it distracting that the words didn’t match the characters’ mouth movements. Switching to English felt more natural, but both Japanese and English voice acting were delightful to listen to. The actors delivered splendid performances, fully realizing their characters.

Final Fantasy XVI is currently exclusive to the PlayStation 5 and offers the choice between Frame Rate or Graphics Mode. I predominantly played in Frame Rate Mode for the fast-paced action and over-the-top scenes and effects, aiming for a smooth 60 FPS experience. Graphics Mode, on the other hand, enhances visual clarity with higher quality at the expense of a lower 30 FPS frame rate, which can affect fluidity in battle sequences and input responses.

The game transitions seamlessly between combat, cutscenes, and cinematic quick-time events. Loading times are virtually non-existent, and fast traveling is nearly instant. Overall, the game performs exceptionally well, with the only minor issue being a few seconds of frame drops during a specific cutscene in one of the early chapters. However, I believe this can be addressed through post-launch patch updates.

Final Fantasy XVI Review: Replayability & Price Point

According to game director Hiroshi Takai, completing the story of Final Fantasy XVI will take around 35 hours, and including all side and post-game content could extend the playtime to 70-80 hours. In my opinion, starting New Game Plus (NG+) in the harder mode could potentially add another 90 hours, as it adjusts enemy and boss behaviors and increases combat difficulty.

FFXVI - Shiva with Her Diamond Dust
Final Fantasy XVI Review: Shiva with Her Diamond Dust

After finishing the main story for the first time, you’ll unlock New Game Plus, which introduces Final Fantasy Mode (Hard Mode) and other game modes accessible through the Arete Stone, such as gauntlets where players can upload scores and climb online leaderboards.

In Final Fantasy Mode, enemies become tougher, their placements are adjusted, combat difficulty is increased, and better rewards are available for gear upgrades. Completionists will likely benefit from experiencing NG+ features, while most players may choose to end their journey after completing the game once.

The physical and digital Standard Edition of Final Fantasy XVI is priced at $69.99 USD, while the physical Deluxe Edition costs $99.99 USD and includes pre-order DLCs, a cloth world map of Valisthea, and a steel book case. The Digital Deluxe Edition on the PS Store is priced at $89.99 USD and offers digital bonuses such as an art book and soundtrack.

Considering the exceptional quality of gameplay, storytelling, audio, and visuals, the $69.99 USD price point is reasonable for Final Fantasy XVI. If you have been eagerly anticipating this game, were convinced by the demo, or are simply a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise, I believe it’s a fair price. However, if you’re still unsure, you can download the demo on the PS5 to experience and gain a better understanding of what the game has to offer.

Final Thoughts

Initially, I had reservations about Final Fantasy XVI due to my preference for traditional turn-based combat mechanics and my mixed feelings towards previous entries like Final Fantasy XV, which leaned towards an action RPG approach. However, after playing the demo and experiencing the full game, my perspective changed. I accepted and embraced the new direction Square Enix has taken to appeal to a wider audience.

Final Fantasy XVI Review - Final Fantasy At Its Finest
Final Fantasy XVI Review: Final Fantasy At Its Finest

Whether you’re a new or veteran fan of Final Fantasy, I highly recommend this game. Final Fantasy XVI combines new features with the core elements of the franchise. It boasts a refreshing, grittier, and darker tone, with storytelling that consistently builds tension and reveals intriguing revelations. The gameplay is satisfying, featuring different types of action sequences and fluid combat mechanics, fully utilizing the power of the PlayStation 5. Final Fantasy XVI has become one of my favorite entries in the series, winning me over with its well-crafted story and breathtaking gameplay.



Story & Setting 9.5
Gameplay 10
Design, Visual & Audio 10
Replayability 8
Pricepoint 9


Final Fantasy XVI is a marvelous game and successfully makes the element of ARPG work for a Final Fantasy game while maintaining its roots. With the absence of an open-world setting, the game makes up for it through storytelling, gameplay, and overall sound & design that fully immerses the player into the world of fantasy that we know by heart.

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2 responses to “Final Fantasy XVI Review: An Action-Packed Upgrade for a Beloved Franchise”

  1. I disagree with both the article and the first comment. 1. Ng+ will not add 90+ hours to the game unless you watch the cinematics. Who watched them on a ng+? Second as far as this is the game adult FF fans have been waiting for I completely and wholeheartedly disagree. While a good game, this is not final fantasy AT ALL. They have completely and utterly went away from the RPG aspect of the game which is what FF was built on. The game does not allow for multiple party controllable characters or outfitting of weapons/armor. It does nothing with MP. Elemental strengths and weaknesses mean absolutely nothing in this game. There are no challenging fights at all. I’m on a ng+ at the moment and still have not found one yet. I have yet to die. Therefore no grinding is needed, which is essential to a FF game. Equipment is purchased/upgraded in one location and is horrid at best. There is no having to travel from town to town to buy things. There is really no exploration to the game. It is strictly a linear based game. I could go on and on but you get the idea. It’s strictly an action game no rpg to it at all. They are trying to compete with games like dark souls (enemies not responding until you reload the area), devil may cry (gameplay), Telltale series (QTE), etc and they don’t need to. This is NOT Final Fantasy.

  2. I started the game tonight and I agree 100%. I just posted on Reddit how this is the FF game adult fans have been waiting for.

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