Final Fantasy 16: A Contender for 2023s Game of the Year?

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Ashley_Buckwell
edited August 2023 in Gaming

Final Fantasy 16, slated for release on PlayStation 5 on June 22 of this year, is the latest installment in the long-running Final Fantasy series, a storied franchise with 35 years of history. In this article, we will go over the gameplay and story details of the upcoming title, along with development info, release dates, and more. 

Final Fantasy 16 is returning to the medieval roots we remember from the earlier games in the series. The numerous thrilling trailers we have seen show plenty of medieval castles, swords, shields, and sorcery. However, the game’s combat mechanics look to be a far cry from the turn-based battle mechanics of the previous titles. Instead, it looks like this will be a frantic third-person action experience, reminiscent of Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Final Fantasy 15.

Development of Final Fantasy 16 is being handled by the same in-house studio at Square Enix Games that was responsible for Final Fantasy 14. It is notably a separate division from the one that worked on the most recent entry, Final Fantasy 15. Therefore, it is unsurprising that Final Fantasy 16 is shaping up to be quite tonally different from the series’ recent single-player output, with its more traditional high-fantasy setting than most of the series’ later titles.

Final Fantasy 16 storyline

As is usually the case with the Final Fantasy franchise, Final Fantasy 16 is not expected to directly tie in with other titles in the series in terms of either setting or characters. This time around, the game takes place in a world called Valisthea. Six powerful nations within Valisthea have each risen up around a different Mothercrystal. The Mothercrystals, which have existed for centuries, bestow blessings and mana on their surrounding lands, and the denizens of the nations rely on them for their survival.

The six nations in the game are as follows:

  • The Grand Duchy of Rosaria 
  • The Holy Empire of Sanbreque 
  • The Kingdom of Waloed 
  • The Dhalmekian Republic 
  • The Iron Kingdom 
  • The Crystalline Dominion

Each nation views the world differently, and although this has led to some minor political disagreements in the past, they have lived for years in relative peace. However, the emergence of a mana-draining force called the Blight, which is spreading across the land and ravaging everything in its path, is making these nations desperate. The Blight is starving the world of resources, forcing the nations into war against one another.

Key to this war are Eikons, colossal monsters that—if you are a Final Fantasy fan—you may know better as “summons.” In most previous games in the series, these deity-like creatures were effectively elaborate magic attacks, but in Final Fantasy 16, they are vital components of the plot and act as major boss battles. Certain individuals known as Dominants have the special ability to possess certain Eikons and master their powers.

The protagonist of the story is Clive Rosfield, who is the firstborn son of the Archduke of Rosaria. Clive has sworn to protect his younger brother, Joshua, who is a Dominant. Jill Warrick, meanwhile, is a close friend to both. This trio has been detailed, but to what end is not yet clear. It appears that some form of tragedy has sparked a quest for revenge led by Clive.

The journey begins in the Grand Duchy of Rosaria, where Clive is joined by a series of AI-controlled companions who follow him as he ventures forth into battles. The story unfolds across three distinct periods in Clive’s life: his teens, twenties, and thirties. As Clive explores the world of Valisthea, he encounters various Eikons and learns to master their powers. Because Eikons are so powerful, each nation seeks to find the other nations’ Dominants to obtain or destroy their Eikons.

Final Fantasy 16 graphics

Square Enix’s signature vibrant special effects are on full display in Final Fantasy 16, with stunning new designs and a strong emphasis on spectacle. Regular combat is beefed-up with cinematic camera movements, and the attack animations combine Final Fantasy’s bright particle effects with the grittier style of a game like Dark Souls. The battles also grow larger in Final Fantasy 16, introducing Eikon versus Eikon fights in which the two fighters transform to wreak havoc in kaiju-style combat.

Characters and magical objects are covered in glowing marks, colored particles fill the air with every attack, and sometimes the screen is covered entirely by special effects.

Final Fantasy 16 gameplay mechanics 

The latest trailer dropped at 2023’s PlayStation State of Play event and offers a 25-minute long breakdown of Final Fantasy 16’s gameplay. The trailer is massive and covers the battle system, loadout customization, side-quests, world exploration, and more.

With a fusion of real-time action and RPG features, Final Fantasy 16 has been developed as the first true action-RPG in the series. Combat will focus more on real-time action sequences, representing a departure from older games in the series, which feature turn-based combat.

Eikons are integral to the gameplay and combat system in Final Fantasy 16. Clive wields Eikon-related abilities in battle, giving him different elemental powers with which to beat down foes. Players can use ability points, collected by defeating enemies, to unlock more abilities or upgrade existing ones. In the gameplay footage, Clive is shown juggling enemies with midair combos using the wind-based powers of an Eikon name Garuda before slamming the foes down with Titan’s earth-based Eikon abilities. These Eikon powers have cooldowns, but can be swapped mid-combo to create chains of staggering high-damage output.

For players accustomed to the more sedate turn-based approach of picking attacks from a menu, Square Enix has made some unique accommodations in Final Fantasy 16. Rather than difficulty options, a collection of five rings are provided that bestow combat-easing effects. The Ring of Timely Evasion, for instance, will make Clive automatically dodge most incoming attacks, and the Ring of Timely Strikes will perform elaborate combos with just one tap of the attack button. Utility-focused rings are available, also, including one that issues commands to Clive’s dog, Torgal, who can provide attack and healing assistance. With the combat already sufficiently layered, even skilled players are likely to appreciate being able to automate some of Torgal’s actions.

Navigation is driven via a World Map, with all manner of locations across Valisthea being added and updated as players progress through the main narrative. The World Map can be opened at any time.

Final Fantasy 16 release date

Final Fantasy 16 will release on June 22, 2023, exclusively for PlayStation 5. Square Enix is likely to release a PC version sometime in 2024. As of yet, a future Xbox release has not been confirmed, but it is hard to imagine they will not eventually launch on Xbox. In any case, be sure to check out the Xbox Game Pass and see why Acer is an official sponsor.

Final Fantasy 16 will see players take on all manner of enemies, from smaller foes to big, colossal Eikons. When taking on bigger foes, expect to have large-scale battles with cinematic quick-time events that require hitting a button input in time to keep the battle flowing. Although this is the 16th mainline title in the series, experience playing any of the previous games is not necessary to be able to jump right in, and the Timely Rings will hopefully mean fans of varying skill levels will all be able to enjoy Final Fantasy 16’s dramatic clashes. 

Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.

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