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Final Fantasy XVI - The future of Final Fantasy is here for new and old players - Game Review

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All views are that of the author and are not influenced by any copies of games provided by publishers for review purposes.

Final Fantasy XVI is a huge turning point in the franchise, new gameplay dynamics, next generation hardware and competition from other well known RPG's. So I (CJ) thought I would ask two of our reviewers Chloe (New to Final Fantasy) and Chris (played previous Final Fantasy games) to share their thoughts and see if the game holds up for both new players and old.

About the Game
FINAL FANTASY XVI is a brand-new standalone title in the iconic FINAL FANTASY franchise, welcoming both new players and existing fans alike into a high fantasy world where the fate of the land is decided by mighty creatures known as Eikons and the men and women who control them—Dominants. The story follows Clive Rosfield, a skilled swordsman and First Shield of Rosaria, tasked with the protection of his younger brother Joshua—Dominant of the Phoenix. Unexpected events, however, set our hero on the dark and dangerous road to revenge.

Currently only available on Playstation 5. 

Gameplay / Story
Chloe: As a newcomer to playing Final Fantasy games, this latest installment has set a high bar with a complex cast of characters and a sprawling story that gave weight to the main conflicts of the world and offered plenty of immersion when it comes to the unraveling of the politics in the various kingdoms. It's been a while since a game commanded this much attention from me, keeping me invested in the story and the characters and making me reluctant to put the game down even for a moment. 

The story is pretty much standard fantasy fare with protagonist Clive Rosfield suffering a tragedy as a teenager that puts him on the path to becoming an outlaw driven to save Storm from an otherworldly threat but there's just enough spark and style in the setpieces to keep it interesting and the more emotional scenes are never just for shock value, with the heavy hitting parts of the story sending shockwaves through the rest of the narrative. 

It helps that the gigantic cast of characters keeps things from getting stagnant. It's a move that could have had the risk of making the game feel overstuffed but each character earns their place in the narrative and the host of random NPCs met across the world add extra depth to the lore of Storm and Ash. The breakout star of the game has to be Cid, the leader of the outlaws that Clive falls in with early on in the story. Clive, Joshua Rosfield, Jill Warrick and Dion Lesage are strong characters as well, bringing gravitas and complexity to their roles in the story that plays well off the generally rather creepy factor the villains bring to the table. 

As far as gameplay is concerned, the combat keeps you on your toes with the Eikon abilities that are mastered throughout the game. It's a lot of fun, experimenting with all the different moves to find a playstyle that suits you though melee attacks can often end up being a fallback while you're waiting for ability cooldowns to finish while the ranged attack is nigh on useless for dealing damage. The boss battles however are the greatest highlight of the game and there was nothing quite like hitting the button for a cinematic combat move and watching the Eikons clash in their elemental fury.

Chris: Game demos almost never win me over (see: Forspoken), often causing more damage than intended, but the Final Fantasy XVI demo grabbed me and demanded my attention for 30 minutes straight, eventually forcing me to play the full game--and what a wise choice that was. 

One of the most prominent things about FFXVI is the shift away from turn-based RPG combat. This time, it requires quick reflexes and strategic thinking to string together combos, parry and unleash powerful attacks. It helps that the story proves to be extremely engaging and cinematic with a charming and well-developed main protagonist. While the RPG elements are missing, it's still exciting to follow Clive as he makes his way through a world filled with rich history and lore. The main quests are action-packed and the boss fights are all unique in their own way, and despite the somewhat lackluster side quests in Valisthea in the first 20 or so hours, I was hooked onto the emotional and gripping story from start to finish. I love nothing more than a game that brings its story to life in fun and inventive ways, and Final Fantasy 16 introduces the Active Time Lore button that brilliantly allows players to look through the bios of all the characters in that particular scene as well as relevant locations and terms. Perfect if you're tired of going through the Wiki every hour or two!

Chloe: Video games like these always make me feel like a tourist as I just stop to take a screenshot of every cinematic moment or random section of landscape. There was a great range of locations in this game from the early scenes of woods and rivers in Rosaria and Sanbreque to the deserts and dusty cliffs of Dhalmekia later on in the game with a great level of care and detail going into each backdrop. The cinematic cutscenes also delivered of a high quality though the minor talking cutscenes with NPCs in quests outside of the main story beats were a little stiff in comparison.

Chris: There's no denying that FFXVI is visually breathtaking. The cinematics are some of the best I've ever seen in a videogame, ranging from epic battle scenes to character introductions, all of which are truly a feast for the eyes and very story-driven. It's hard not to gush over how stunning the game looks at every moment, which feels even more impressive given the dark and grim undertones of the world it's set in, and one particular standout scene for me was the Clive/Ifrit spectacle that is brimming with gorgeous visuals and incredibly rendered features.

Chloe: Plenty of effort plainly went into making Final Fantasy XVI's soundtrack as atmospheric as possible with rousing combat music and a wide range of orchestral pieces conveying the mood of the story as the game progresses while also capturing the feel of every location you visit to make the experience as immersive as possible. The Orchestrion is a nice little touch to allow players to enjoy their favourite soundtrack pieces while at the Hideaway, the main hub for the player character and his companions, assuming that is that you go to the trouble of collecting all the rolls hidden throughout the world.

The voice acting meanwhile is impeccable, with all of the actors bringing each character to life with plenty of personality and vigor. Logan Hannan did as great a job as Clive Rosfield's younger brother Joshua as he did when he voiced Hugo in the Plague Tale series, proving the young actor has a bright future ahead of him. Ben Starr voices Clive, providing a rich and steady performance with Nina Yndis (Benedikta Harman), Ralph Ineson (Cid) and Stewart Clarke (Dion Lesage) also putting in notably powerful performances that enabled the characters to feel real and grounded in the world of the game.

Chris:The soundtrack is an absolute banger, there's no doubt about it. From the sweeping orchestral piece that perfectly sets the tone for the game's epic story, the epic battle music that compliments the fast-paced combat, and the incredible voice acting that bring these characters to life, I haven't felt quite as moved by music in a game as I have in Final Fantasy 16. It is truly outstanding and, similarly to the visuals, a feast for the ears.

Chloe: So far, I've logged over 50 hours of time in the game and had one crash. It runs well and the load in times from fast travel are quick and seamless, never breaking the immersion of gameplay. I have the game set to prioritise frame rate over graphics and whether that makes a difference or not in terms of how smoothly the game runs I couldn't say but I've experienced very few problems. It's refreshing after so many game releases with bugs and glitches on day one and it's relieving to see that Square Enix put in effort to make sure the game was as good as possible for the players who preorder or purchase on release day

Chris:I often find it difficult to critique the performance of a console game, particularly a PS5 game, because most of the ones I've played since the console's launch have run very well (we don't talk about Cyberpunk 2077). FFXVI runs exceptionally well, even as I prioritized Quality Mode, but I'm not one to complain about 30 vs 60 FPS. I had absolutely no qualms with the frame rates and graphic mode I ended up choosing, and instead felt very impressed with the smooth sailing of a game that is heavy on stunning visuals, detailed character models and rich environments.

For those wondering about Accessibility option for Final Fantasy XVI, there is not much to wonder about unfortunately. There is the common place size of text for subtitles and menus in place but nothing more than that unfortunately, especially for a game of its size and popularity. They do however add a new feature which can aid in gameplay which is the five rings which can aid you in attacking, defence, party member support etc, however you are limited in how many of these you can equipment and is more a difficulty support than accessibility. 

One of the best new Final Fantasy’s since Final Fantasy X. With gameplay that will be appealing to both old and new players of Final Fantasy, 16 is a step in the right direction for the long-running franchise. With a great story and likable characters, you are instantly drawn in. With exciting action sequences and music to match, this new iteration will not disappoint 

Gameplay: 9/10 
Visuals: 9/10 
Sound: 9/10 
Performance: 9/10 

Overall: 9/10

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