Final Fantasy 16 Review

Clive Rosfield on Final Fantasy 16 art
Image: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 16 is the latest mainline entry in Square Enix’s long-running JRPG franchise. With 6 years between it and the previous mainline Final Fantasy game, fans have been eagerly awaiting Final Fantasy 16’s arrival. The pressure was on for Final Fantasy 16 to deliver an experience that justifies the long wait we’ve had to endure since seeing it’s first reveal back in 2020, and boy does it deliver.

The world of Final Fantasy 16

Capital of Oriflamme and Drake's Head in Final Fantasy 16
Image: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 16’s world of Valisthea is a magic-filled world consisting of two continents, Storm and Ash. Within this world reside Bearers, people who are born with an affinity to magic and cast as slaves, and Dominants, royal people who wield the power to transform into the magical beings known as Eikons. Clive Rosfield, son to the ruling archduke of the kingdom of Rosaria, being the next in line to inherit the Eikon, Phoenix, has failed, with the power being instead granted to his younger brother, Joshua. In result, Clive turns to becoming a shield, tasked to protect Rosaria, eventually gaining the title, First Shield, with the sole duty of protecting the Phoenix – his brother, Joshua.

After one fateful night, Clive’s home of Rosaria suffers a ruinous fall, spurring him onto a journey of revenge and justice. During Clive’s journeys, you meet a sizable cast of characters, which in many cases, despite the game’s dark themes, retain that signature Final Fantasy cheesiness. The game does a great job at getting you to like and hate characters where it sees fit.

Regarding the world, there is an enormous amount of information to remember about it, which sounds like a bad thing, but is helped by the addition of the Active Time Lore feature. This feature allows you to stop gameplay or a cutscene at any moment and refresh your memory on what’s going on in the story. I frequently used this feature even just to gain more info on the history of Valisthea.

The most mature Final Fantasy we’ve seen

Benedikta from Final Fantasy 16
Image: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 16 is, without a doubt, the most mature Final Fantasy we’ve seen. Aside from this being the first game in the franchise to see characters utter swear words like “f**k”, the game is not afraid of graphic and unexpected deaths, and even includes a few erotic scenes, making its world feel that much more real and dark.

This maturity feels natural in Final Fantasy 16, though, and is only ever used to serve the story. In a game about slavery and a dying world, it makes sense to have dark themes and undertones. Everytime a character swears, it feels earned, and when a character suffers through a brutal death, such as a beheading, it never feels forced. All of this works together to make you feel immersed in the world and to feel Clive’s emotions – his frustration, passion, and relentlessness.

Exploring Valisthea

Fields of Sanbreque in Final Fantasy 16
Image: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 16’s Valisthea is a semi-open world, meaning the kingdoms that you visit are sectioned off from each other, but each kingdom is a vast land with multiple towns and open land to explore. Within these lands are various monsters to kill, people to meet, and beautiful views that kept me in photo mode for much longer than I needed to be.

Aside from the main scenario quests (MSQ), there are a multitude of side quests to take on around Valisthea. I recommend completing most of the side quests that you come across as some of them unlock key items that will help you in your journey. For example, one side quest I did on a whim gave me a chocobo mount that allowed me to get to places faster, while another side quest increased the potency of my potions. Additionally, some of these side quests feature rather interesting storylines that further immerse you into the world and into Clive’s shoes.

What I found to be most fun, though, was bounty hunting. As you progress through the MSQ, certain high-level threats will be found around Valisthea that, if killed, will earn you a large sum of money and EXP. These targets can be some of the toughest enemies to kill in the game, which only adds to the fun, as combat is truly the most satisfying and enjoyable part of the game.

Final Fantasy 16’s action resembles anime fight scenes

Ifrit from Final Fantasy 16
Image: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 16 is an action game in the truest sense. The game parts ways with the turn-based combat and full party control of most of the previous mainline entries into the franchise and opts for a full-on action combat style that revolves around Clive, and I had a blast with it. There are so many different abilities that you can equip Clive with, combining multiple elements like fire, wind, and lightning, in order to create incredibly cool combos with anime-like effects. Seriously, if you’re looking for a game with combat that resembles that of anime fight scenes from shows like Demon Slayer or Fate, this is it.

In addition to combos, counters are a significant part of combat that allow you to stagger and take down enemies quicker and more effectively. It’s not extremely easy to master, but once you learn each opponent’s moveset and get the timing right, you can take down most foes without taking much damage, which didn’t take me long at all. Up until the last 10 or so hours of the game, I was rarely using potions, save for major boss fights.

Final Fantasy 16 also features Eikon battles, epic set pieces that take place at various points in the MSQ where you fight in the form of an eikon (this game’s version of summons) against another. Eikon battles are extremely fun to play through and were immensely powerful at firing me up and getting me emotionally invested in the fights that took place, partly because of how epic they were and partly because the music goes so hard, which is a fact for every boss battle.

Final fantasy 16’s performance

Clive looking at the horizon in Final Fantasy 16
Image: Square Enix

I didn’t run into any real bugs while playing the game. The only minor annoyance was that if I was fighting an enemy in the open world and our battle got too far from where it originated, the enemy would walk back to its spot and regain all of its health, restarting our battle. This only happened a couple of times to me, though, as it probably won’t happen if you’re playing more aggressively.

As far as visuals go, I played on the Frame Rate mode, which is supposed to target 60fps. This target was, for the most part, only met during combat, whereas exploring the world was noticeably less smooth. Aside from that, though, the scenery, character models, and faces are more than impressive.

In conclusion

Clive from the Final Fantasy 16 trailer
Image: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 16’s action-packed combat and deep world building make for an extremely fun and immersive experience that sucks you in from the moment you begin the journey. Every fight is epic and every boss battle is legendary. Exploring Valisthea offers pretty views while exhilarating fights await at every corner. While a couple of signature Final Fantasy features are absent from this title, this is definitely not a game to miss out on, as it left me feeling utterly invested in its characters through an emotional story and invigorating gameplay.

Final Fantasy 16 is available now for PS5.

Clive Rosfield on Final Fantasy 16 art
Final Fantasy 16
Extremely epic and satisfying combat
Exhilarating boss fights
Deep and interesting world building
Captivating story
Brilliant soundtrack
Beautiful visuals
Struggles to hit 60fps in Frame Rate mode
Exploration can be a little bare bones