Hello, Seekers! I (Jonathan) have been enjoying a respite from work travel and have taken full advantage of it by delving into the latest installment in developer Square Enix’s iconic video game series: Final Fantasy XVI (or FFXVI for short). Known for its beautiful scores, interminable boss battles, and hours upon hours of gameplay, the Final Fantasy franchise can be considered one of the most definitive in gaming history. FFXVI adheres to the formula that made past games successful while fully exploiting the Playstation 5’s (PS5) hardware and graphics capability. Read on for my full review of Final Fantasy XVI.

Genre: Action role-playing game (RPG)

Overview: The land of Valisthea enjoys magic and all its blessings thanks to the Mothercrystals that anchor its various city-states and the guardians bestowed with the crystals’ special powers. But a mysterious blight has begun to turn fertile lands into barren expanses and ignites a struggle to control what remains. The discovery of the reason the blight exists and the powers behind it will forever change Valisthea’s future.

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Final Fantasy XVI Game Review

Final Fantasy XVI promo artwork

Visually, FFXVI is absolutely breathtaking. It’s the first game in the series designed with the intention of being played on next-generation consoles like the PS5 and it shows. The cutscenes (more on those later) look and feel cinematic and epic with a gorgeous soundtrack accompanying them. The texture and depth of stone, water, and fabric are beautifully rendered. I showed the castle in Rosalith to my (non-gamer) roommate and his comment was “That definitely doesn’t look like the games I used to play.” Even the world map invites lingering over its gorgeous contours. Also noteworthy are the Eikons, which effectively replace the special summons performed in previous FF games and look amazing. Ever wondered what it would be like to fight as Ifrit? In FFXVI, you’ll find out.

On the subject of combat, Square Enix made much ado about this being the first dedicated action RPG in the FF series. FFXVI has abandoned turn-based battles like its immediate predecessor, FFXV. And thank goodness for that, because I for one do not enjoy that style of fighting on a console. The real-time combat is fluid and exciting and, perhaps most importantly, stable. Lightning and flames and tornadoes are exploding all over the screen at times and the game has never crashed. With that said, I sometimes feel like I’m watching a movie and not playing a game. I’d wager that when advancing the main story I’ve never spent longer than 5 minutes actually playing before a cutscene interrupts. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good cutscene, and FFXVI’s are stunning to behold. But there might be too many of them.

I also have mixed feelings about the characters and story. The setting has a lot to do with that. It’s medieval-like with swords and magic and dragons, but also in its portrayal of women and their roles in society. This is an entirely fictional universe, not a period drama. Why not break the mold? Similarly, enough with the forced, heteronormative romance subplots. The FF series reliably serves up delicious himbos, but there’s a serious dearth of actual LGBTQIA+ representation. There’s even a scene in FFXVI where Cid’s current incarnation tells the main character he’s “pretty but not my type.” Talk about a missed opportunity. Those quibbles aside, the main story is downright heartbreaking at times and, unlike some games (here’s looking at you, Elden Ring), it makes sense.

In summary, FFXVI stays true to the FF series’ core tenets for better or for worse while serving up a visual extravaganza. It’s also a truly standalone piece that could serve as the point of entry for gamers interested in checking FF out for the first time. And it will keep players occupied for many, many hours.

Have you played FFXVI? If so, tell us what you thought in the comments. (Also check out Jonathan’s Romancelvania game review here.)

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