Final Fantasy XVI Review

Final Fantasy XVI
Posted on August 7, 2023

The Final Fantasy franchise has always had a place in my heart, with Zack Fair from Final Fantasy VII being my favorite video game character and Final Fantasy IV being my first JRPG. However, the big disappointment of the fifteenth installment has made me hesitate to try on the latest XVI, especially when it is another action-based game. After having a try on the demo, I decided to give the franchise another chance.

Fascinating Intro, Weird Development Pacing

We follow the teenage Clive Rosfield, the elder son of Rosaria’s Archduke, through the event of the Phoenix Gate. We witnessed the ambush in Phoenix Gate and the downfall of Rosaria. System-wise, we get to play not only as Clive, but also as Joshua, the Dominant of Phoenix. The first Eikon Battle also takes place in the demo. In just two hours of the game, we are presented with a story fused with the intense battle system. Sadly, the pace of the game does not keep up afterwards.

After the intro, the game fast forward 13 years back to the present day, where we meet Cid, who is a skilled engineer would become the mentor of the MC. During this part of the game, the majority of game time focused on the relationship between the MC and Cid while other characters such as Jill and other companions are neglected. This is somehow understandable given Cid’s demise in a rather early stage of the game and other characters’ involvement has greatly increased after you reached the second timeskip.

However, the post timeskip story development basically follows the same formula for each city/ mother crystal/ summon. The story becomes dull and very predictable. A bit of a letdown in contrast to the intro.

Clive and Jill hugging
The romantic relationship between Clive and Jill is a little bit rushed and underdeveloped.

Action Based Battle and Summon Boss Fight

Unlike FFXV and FF7R, the game used a completely action-focused battle system. For this reason, throughout the game you can only control Clive (except for the Joshua part in the intro). The combat system itself is not complicated and easy to learn. As summons are a big part of the story, you also get to control Ifrit and Phoenix in some of the boss fights. Eikon battles are well designed with gorgeous visual effects and make good use of QTEs to improve player’s engagement.

However, the HP setting of normal enemies should be lowered as it hinders the gameplay a lot. Combined with the fact that the player can only control Clive with around fifty hours of gameplay, the battle system can become boring. In the later half of the game, I tried to avoid all the wild encounters and only used area attacks if I must fight so that I could end the battle as fast as I could.

Another big disappointment is that Odin was introduced as the most powerful Eikon in the game but you only get to fight Barnabas, Odin’s dominant. The fight between Ifrit and Odin only happens in cutscenes.

Odin, the Eikon of Darkness
The most fearsome and powerful Eikon in the game.

Poor Map Design and Discouraging Exploration

In the trailer we can see some grand city design. However in the main game almost all of them are just background and not explorable. You can only explore the closest villages near the big cities and the cities themselves are designed as dungeon-like levels before boss battles. There is not much the player can do in those villages except for picking up side quests and getting supplies. There are no unique characteristics to help you distinguish the differences in culture among countries.

Also, the game does not encourage players to explore the world. Pickable items are just too disappointing. There is not any remarkable landscape for taking screenshots. And most importantly, there is no conversation among companions when the player is wandering around the world. If nothing engaging is going to happen when the player goes from point A to point B, then why not choose a linear map design instead?

Mother Crystal blossoming
Mother Crystal blossoming and destroying the city down below which we don't get to explore.

Side Quests

Side quests are supposed to be optional but some gameplay features are only unlockable through them. However, the stories and rewards are again, not very encouraging, which makes it feel like the game is forcing its player to do those quests. If that's the case, then why not just put it into a part of the main quests? Also, most side quests are "fight these" or "collect those", it would be better to focus on the quality rather than the quantity to leave an impression on player.

Mid and Clive working on aircraft model
Some companions' story are only explorable through side quests.


Final Fantasy XIV managed to deliver a new gameplay style to the Final Fantasy franchise with a compelling story. However, the game is not without flaws as many parts of the game’s mechanics are not well developed. I did enjoy most of the game but would not recommend getting it at its full price.