Final Fantasy XVI is a deep RPG approachable for any audience, layered with smart systems and grindy activities

The pressure to create a successful, enjoyable numbered installment for Final Fantasy is about as big as it gets.

Few franchises command the same level of expectation outside of Nintendo, frankly. But such is the legacy of a series that’s produced so many iconic characters, pieces of music, and memorable moments.

On the site we’ve been looking back through all the Pixel Remaster games and honestly, even back then, this series was an outlier. It dared to be different, it pushed boundaries, set expectations and essentially defined the words RPG. Everything that followed tried, in some way, to get on a level.

So when you are presented with making Final Fantasy 16 in the 21st Century, looking at what RPGs are out there, how they’ve evolved, what they’ve turned into, is it possible for Square Enix to still make something that sets a template and defines the kind of games we’ll be playing over the next ten years? Have they achieved that once again and continued to make this series a benchmark?

The simple answer is no, but that doesn’t mean they’ve made a bad game either. Final Fantasy 16 has, in fact, followed the example of many games before it with its MMORPG style quests, the focus of completing side missions for companions to deepen a bond and unlock new options, and a combat system that feels more attuned to a button masher than a turn-based strategiser.

In true Final Fantasy style, Square have created a cast of memorable characters we’ll reflect upon and look back on favourably. Cid, naturally, being a bit of a headliner in his own right, but Clive’s struggles over time make for an intriguing story to follow, Charon really giving Resident Evil 4’s Merchant a run for his money, and Gav being your best Geordie mate who you know will always give you a reason to laugh. Not to mention Torgal being the absolute best boy.

Are any of them on the level of a Cloud, Yuna, Sephiroth or Vivi? Debatable, and once the credits roll, despite some unresolved moments, I’m not exactly in a rush to see more from the story.

Other than that, perhaps a Cid spinoff would be nice, but what I will say about FF16 is that some of its best characters don’t get nearly enough time in the spotlight. Or their arcs end up being a bit unsatisfying.

Jill, for instance, has some intriguing moments during her story which I would have loved to explore further, but once you reach a certain point in the game, she kind of feels pushed to the side in favour of the bigger picture. Others, without naming names, we needed to spend more time with and they’re gone before their time, frankly.

I think the biggest challenge FF16 faced, however, is that it never really got better than the Prologue demo we’ve all had a chance to play. That Game of Thrones esque beginning was captivating, gobsmacking, and made you want to see what happened next. Once Final Fantasy 16 starts diluting itself with side quests however, and some of those initial story beats reach a certain point, the final third feels very by the numbers and generic.

Part of that, I feel, is the game lost a lot of what made it different. This was the first Final Fantasy with swearing, with real blood, violence and even partial nudity. This was the push toward an 18 game set in a fantasy world, but somewhere about halfway in, that ended up just being the occassional ‘Fuck’ from Clive, with some blood on his chin.

To me, that speaks to a game that was tonally challenged, got confused by what it wanted to be, and didn’t have the same level of intricate writing George Martin was able to put together for his masterpiece. It’s understandable.

And again, I want to stress I do not think Final Fantasy 16 is a bad game. Far from it. In fact, it’s the first game in years, I’ve made the effort to complete all the side quests, optional hunts and uncover all the hidden details of the story. And even dipped into the post game to play some parts over again. Last time I did that was probably The Witcher 3, honestly.

What Square have built is easy to pick up and dive into. The combat seems basic but actually offers up some exciting, interesting combinations between the different Eikon abilities the deeper you go, and features some people find off-putting about RPGs – levelling up certain attributes, finding right items for crafting – is hugely simplified.

Going back to my original point, I guess you could say the way Square Enix have lived up to the franchise’s lofty expectations and set a foundation is by building a mainstream RPG experience, easily making this the most approachable Final Fantasy game yet. Perhaps, in so doing, it might alienate and frustrate those of us who’ve been playing the games since the beginning, but it’s also opened up an entire genre to a whole new playerbase. Which is even more exciting to me.

And from a story perspective, most Final Fantasy games tend to go a bit off-the-rails about halfway in as the narrative opens up and things get really complicated. Final Fantasy 16 lets you pause at any time during a cutscene by pressing the touch button and lets you review key story beats and breakdowns so you can get mini-refreshers on what’s happening where but also who the characters are talking on screen and what they’ve done in their journey so far.

Even further, there’s a historian who records all of your activities and keeps a record of key characters, places, enemies in easily digestible forms. And an overseer who gives you a general explanation of the warring factions, what political struggles are happening in the world and who the key players are, whether you want to go right back to the beginning or to the present day.

Sure, RPGs are often full of lore books and massive blocks of text that give you an overview, but no RPG in recent memory has done such a good job as Final Fantasy 16 as making that content digestible and easy to get to grips with. The presentation here is key and it’s beautifully put together to make sure you can keep on top. The only other implementation they could have added in was a previously on when you boot up a save file, but there’s enough context within the game that you can soon get up to speed.

Even through that, the characters are good at giving you a bit of a TL:DR without it seeming too in your face and obvious. This is helped, massively, by one of the best localisation efforts I’ve seen in a Final Fantasy game. It’s fair to say some of the dialogue in past games has been a bit clunky or seemingly forced. FF16 comes across naturally with colloquiums, timed reactions, and off-the-cuff lines you know have been added in specifically for an English-speaking audience.

There’s also no way the voice actors haven’t been purposefully picked, led by masterful performances from Ralph Ineson and a suitably Final Fantasy esque performance from Clive Starr. Let’s just say he certainly has some vocal moments that might make you forget all about the Tidus laugh. Everyone plays their part of course, but their back-and-forth was so wonderfully done.

I also appreciate the way the game handles and manages time as you play as Clive through various moments in his life, from youth through to adulthood, and the way it keeps up, maintains pace, but equally adds more context and impact to some of the reveals in the game really makes the story stand out and feel mostly well-rounded.

It’s also a very interesting choice to find some of the game’s best features are hidden behind side quests, like a Chocobo mount to help you get around quicker and increased bag space to name a few. You’ll also only be able to get the game’s best weapon by performing the hunts and killing certain creatures.

But it’s also true to say, this is a game that also comes with far too many grindy fetch quests, it does dabble a lot in repetition, there’s not a whole lot of fun, side activities to lose hours of your time in like the fishing in Final Fantasy 15, and some of the features we’ve come to associate with the franchise just feel a bit watered down.

Final Fantasy 16’s story, while it builds up and it makes sense throughout, does suffer with some plot holes. It does a disservice to quite a few of its characters at the expense of others, and you feel, at times, there’s quite a bit of padding, with some of the villians actually feeling more imposing and intriguing than the game’s overall big bad.

In any other year, were the competition not so fierce, were there not so many other big games still to come, and other great games launching out and around it, Final Fantasy 16 would have a good shot at being Game of the Year. Despite the above misgivings, I stuck with it for over 80 hours, I didn’t drop off and I came away from it having shed a few tears, feeling fulfiled by my battles with many of the great hunts, having enjoyed most of the systems and even wanting to dive back in again. It’s a good, solid game.

It’s not the best Final Fantasy in the series. It’s not the best game this year, but it is a triumphant installment that potentially does more for the future of the franchise than any other game has to date and maybe helps make the genre more approachable to wider audiences. RPGs have always been about a deep, enriching story, with combat that anyone can dabble with, and familiar characters that stand out and help you stay engaged. Final Fantasy 16 has that and thensome.

How Square tackle Final Fantasy 17 will be very interesting indeed, whether they decide to go back towards their core base or continue in the direction they’ve set here. Regardless, the importance of this game cannot be understated and those Eikonic battles in 4K are about as good as anything we’ve seen or played this generation.


Final Fantasy 16 is sure to split fans down the middle as it pushes toward a more mainstream audience, watering down some franchise staples, while removing others entirely. It is, however, a great entry point if you’ve never played the series before and one of the most spectacular-looking games so far this generation, accompanied by an enjoyable core loop that kept me invested for over 80 hours and some of the most memorable characters the series has produced in years. The localization is the best I’ve seen in FF history, with some incredible performances, and its breakdown of world history and character development is sure to be emulated and studied for years to come.

Perhaps not the strongest instalment by its own huge expectations, with story that gets tonally confused, grindy quests, and some characters getting sidelined, but it is a remarkable achievement all the same. 


+ Brilliant localisation with stunning acting performances and memorable characters
+ Smart systems ensure players stay on top of the story and all the goings on within the world
+ A healthy amount of content that never gets too overwhelming
+ Eikonic fights, epic scenes and battles are absolutely stunning in 4K
+ Combat surprisingly deep and can be mixed up just enough to stay refreshing throughout


– Story tone gets mixed up over halfway through
– Would have wanted to explore or spend more time with some characters
– Fetch quests and going back on yourself can get a bit repetitive and grindy

Final Fantasy XVI is out now on PlayStation 5

Code Kindly Provided by Square Enix for review purposes

Skip to toolbar