Final Fantasy 16 review

by on June 21, 2023
Reviewed On
Release Date

June 22, 2023


There wasn’t a single second during my time with Final Fantasy 16 where I wasn’t in awe of it. It seldom happens when a game comes out and blows you away for a multitude of reasons, yet the sixteenth entry in Square Enix’s long-running series manages to do so in almost every way imaginable. Whether it was the frantic and layered combat, the photo-realistic environments and delicious character animations, the engrossing and, frankly, epic story, or the sheer range of content available to you, FFXVI is a masterpiece in every way.

There’s such a rich lore that runs throughout Final Fantasy 16. You are enamoured by the past and the present, and Clive’s own tale is more than enough of a reason to keep on playing, however, he is only a drop in the ocean of Square Enix’s George R.R. Martin-esque world. To understand what is at stake, you’re given constant details to everything that surrounds you, from the six realms within the land of Valisthea to the large cast of characters, to the implications of their actions and those who are capable of wielding the magic of the Mothercrystals.

It’s staggering how much there is to take in, whether through the easily accessible lore at your hideaway or the Active Time Lore feature that lets you check out key information during cutscenes. I’ll try and do it justice and give you a rough outline, but playing is the only way to appreciate how good this vast and expansive story really is. The Mothercrystals are great sources of magick and have blessed the people for years, yet the Blight has begun to take hold on the land, sending realms to war against each other, striking fear into people’s hearts at the thought of the aether no longer being there to offer comfort and peace.

Final Fantasy XVI Clive

You play as Clive, the First Shield of Rosaria and protector to Joshua, your brother and Dominant to the Eikon of fire known as Phoenix. After a tragedy befalls you and the blight begins to spread further, you and your friends make a choice that will affect the land forever. These Eikon’s are huge creatures that are attuned to the natural elements, and Dominants are those who are home to these powerful beings. Rarely do they wage war against each other, but with what is at stake, it’s becoming more and more frequent as the realms are in a constant state of war.

There are so many twists and turns that you’re always on the edge of your seat, and the inspiration taken from Game of Thrones is obvious. Not just in the story, but in how no-one is safe. Countless times when I started to like someone, they met a brutal death. It’s wonderfully written, and the characters are all brought to life by the hard work of the actors. There are certainly more northerners in FFXVI than Game of Thrones, once more showing the effect the books and the show have had on the developers. It’s by no means a negative, as the familiar Final Fantasy tropes start to appear, especially when it comes to the gargantuan Eikons.

I could gush over the story for another four or five paragraphs because it is so good. I was enraptured by Clive and the nuances of his performance, suddenly flipped on its head by overwhelming emotion during pivotal scenes, or Jill’s sweet and humble shell, cracking as you find out about how she was treated when she wasn’t in the company of Clive. There are layers to everyone, and even the enemies are fascinating, especially that of Kupka. Oh, and Cidolfus is a god-damn hero of mine, period.

Final Fantasy 16 side quest

As you play through the story and start to encounter new Dominants, Clive learns new abilities that can help you in multiple ways when slaying soldiers, monsters, and other various enemies. These Eikon attacks can be switched quickly in combat, with each one having a cooldown before using again. By progressing, you’ll naturally start to learn all the combinations that work for you, and while you may think you’ve got a rather hefty arsenal of magic to choose from, Final Fantasy 16 keeps throwing new elemental abilities at you. There’s an ability tree which makes all of your skills more effective, along with the option to unlock new ones that are more powerful. You can also reset any spent ability points in case you want to try another approach out.

These Eikon attacks can launch waves of flames at enemies, send lightening bolts at direct targets, or fire a flurry of punches at enemies by harnessing the power of Garuda, a wind-type Eikon. There are loads of skills available, along with other abilities via Eikons that help you get closer to targets, pull them towards you, summon a large rock shield, and more. One of the big features of battle is staggering, allowing you to break a tougher enemy’s Will Gauge or boss which renders them helpless for a short while. Not only does it stop them in their tracks, it also lets you dish out punishment without interruption from them.

Then there’s the Limit Break Gauge, a powerful ability that, when pressing the two analogue sticks together, unleashes a flurry of fire attacks in quick succession. Clive is imbued with variety in how you approach every battle, and it never becomes too complex or overwhelming thanks to how every attack and concept seems to work together in order to get the most effective results. You can also parry, and dodging at the right time allows you to return a strike without being blocked. There are many layers to combat and there’s never a dull moment as far as battles are concerned, with constant improvements and additions help to keep fights exciting.

Final Fantasy 16 Clive, Jill, and Torgal

Throughout Final Fantasy 16, your party might change from time to time, with each member having their own range of abilities. You’ve also got your trusty hound, Torgal, that is there to help dish out attacks whenever entering combat. He’s the Ghost to your Jon Snow, ever reliable and trusting, never afraid to get stuck in the throes of battle. Equipment can be picked up from bigger battles along with resources to reinforce armour and weapons at blacksmiths, and there is a range of enchanted gear from necklaces to rings that can be equipped to give you specific bonuses which affect the difficulty of the game.

While FFXVI doesn’t exactly let you choose between easy, normal, and hard, these items of jewellery affect the game massively. One will allow you to pull off all of your moves off by hammering Square, although you can also choose them in tandem, even if it becomes a little awkward when doing so. Another replenishes health, or makes Torgal attack without you needing to do a thing. There’s a wealth of gear and I love how you can chop and change them to suit your playstyle. I’ll forever be in debt to the one that highlighted an enemy attack which allowed me to dodge because, as incredible as the visuals are during a fight soaked in magic, it can be almost impossible to see where enemies are at times.

Throughout the campaign, you’ll gain access to various merchants in Valisthea who’ll sell you potions, tonics to allow temporary buffs to attack and defence, music tracks that can be selected at your hideaway’s tavern, and resources needed for certain upgrades. The bulk of your time between missions will be spent at your hideaway, and as the story progresses, new things get added to it such as Monster Hunts (essentially Witcher Contracts) ran by a Moogle; an encyclopaedia featuring all the characters you meet, and information about the ongoing war, and all other important information to make up a stunning visual glossary of your travels; a renown system whereby you’re rewarded in resources for your hard work; a blacksmith where your armour and weapons can be improved; a bedroom to read letters from your friends and acquaintances; a training room to brush up on skills and replay missions, and other various outlets.

Final Fantasy 16 Clive and Cid

Nothing feels arbitrary and everything has its place. You become fond of Charon’s surly nature and Gav’s positivity. You get excited to return in case of a new mission to expand your knowledge, skills, or benefits. It feels like a home, and that’s something Clive so desperately needs as he risks his life to help those in need. He’s been through so much and has spent so long torturing himself, yet his penchant for helping other branded (those with natural magical abilities) individuals remains at the forefront of everything he does. Touching on the story once more, the way branded are treated depending on where they reside is another fascinating part of the story. Some are heralded as lords while others are treated worse than dogs, adding even more layers to FFXVI’s overarching narrative.

Both the story and the world of Final Fantasy 16 is brought to life by the phenomenal graphics. Each realm you visit and the areas within are remarkable, impeccably designed and life-like, blurring the lines between computer animation and realism. The way characters move and act outside of cinematics are phenomenal, especially in some of the bigger set pieces. In a majority of the big boss fights, Clive channels his Eikon, and you’ll end up fighting other Eikon’s throughout the story, the intricacies of these fights are detailed to the last pixel. They left me floored every time, and when you’re watching cutscenes, there’s nothing else like it. FFXVI is perhaps the nicest looking game I’ve ever played.

These cinematics play out throughout the game, and there’re are a lot, however, you never feel like they outstay their welcome, and they do a fantastic job of fleshing out the story. Some of these scenes are highly emotional, and I didn’t realise how connected I was to certain characters until I felt the warmth of a tear on my cheek. This world, beautifully crafted by Square Enix, is filled with wonder, passion, beauty, and pain, and throughout it all, the art of it left me amazed. Each town has its own personality, whether you’re at Martha’s Keep, Lostwing, or Eastpool. You see different economies and politics affect the flow of things. You’ll agree and disagree with a range of characters and how they act, yet you’ll appreciate how the scope of war has affected this world.

Final Fantasy 16 Chocobo feather

While not quite open world, you’ll be able to fast travel via Obelisks located around Valisthea. Each area has a local map with various side quests to complete, chests to find, and other points of interest. The running mechanic is a little unreliable, and a small issue is not having the ability to press something to start sprinting. This is ironed out later on with the inclusion of mounts, specifically the chocobo, a Final Fantasy stalwart. Ladders, blockades, and chasms are automatically traversed by walking up to them, which takes away the need to press buttons as well, further emphasising the focus on FFXVI’s story. Each biome, whether a desert, forest, or volcano, is fascinating to explore and beautiful to look at, making every location a sight to behold.

Final Fantasy 16 is gigantic and ambitious, but rarely puts a foot wrong. Its story consistently moves and amuses you, with a wealth of interesting characters to befriend and mourn. Clive is an excellent protagonist, and his circle of friends become friends you want to protect with every fibre or your being. The combat is layered in so many ways, and you’re always learning something new to help you in the battle against the evil lurking in the shadows. Despite some combat clouding the screen with a lot of moving parts and an awkward camera angle here and there, there’s really little I can say that borders on the negative. Square Enix has outdone itself, making one of the richest Final Fantasy games of all time. And yes, that includes FFVII.


Phenomenal Story
Enjoyable and layered combat
Wonderful characters
Loads to do
Beautiful visuals
Boss fights are spectacularly animated


Sometimes a lot going on, on-screen
Sprinting is unreliable

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Final Fantasy 16 sets a new benchmark in action-RPGs, featuring a rich and fascinating story, and a layered and enjoyable combat system.