When I had the opportunity to play a demo of Final Fantasy XVI earlier this year, I was immediately struck by the game’s fast-paced and intense combat. It brought to mind the action-packed gameplay of Devil May Cry, a departure from the traditional Final Fantasy formula. However, that brief glimpse left me with many unanswered questions about the game’s story and world. Thankfully, I recently had the chance to experience the first three hours of the game, which is set to launch on June 22. It was during this hands-on session that I delved deeper into the tragic tale of Clive Rosfield, the game’s protagonist, and the war-torn nation in which the game takes place. Let me share my impressions with you.
A Pitch-Black Dark Fantasy
If you’re expecting Final Fantasy XVI to be a classic installment in the franchise, you may be in for a surprise. This new game takes a darker turn, reminiscent of Game of Thrones and even The Last of Us. If you’re open to this change, you’ll be treated to an engrossing political drama complemented by visually stunning battles against towering titans. However, it’s worth noting that the game’s explorable world feels more compact compared to the sweeping cinematic scenes. It’s truly a tale of two games.
A Tragic Begining
The story begins with Clive Rosfield, a member of a royal family, during a military operation in the desert. Although I initially found Clive to be a generic and stoic character, the first two hours of the game gave me insight into his background. Through a series of flashback sequences, I witnessed the transformation of a once bright-eyed and cheerful Clive into a hardened soldier. The storytelling in these moments can be slow-paced, requiring patience as it sets the stage for the emotional impact that follows. Final Fantasy XVI strikes a delicate balance between larger-than-life mythology and deeply personal stakes.
A Familiar Path
At times, Final Fantasy XVI shows shades of The Last of Us, particularly in its opening moments. Clive’s journey follows a familiar trajectory of a sword-for-hire navigating a world filled with revenge and redemption. While it may seem like well-trodden ground in the gaming industry, the true test lies in how the game develops this revenge story. I hope it will delve deeper into the thought-provoking theme of privilege that arises in early conversations between Clive and his younger brother Joshua. Additionally, I’m curious to see how the game addresses issues of diversity, considering comments made by Producer Naoki Yoshida.
Epic Battles and Linear Design
One aspect that continues to impress me is the game’s portrayal of Eikons, awe-inspiring creatures reminiscent of Godzilla. In the opening moments, I witnessed a colossal titan engaging in an epic battle against Shiva, showcasing the power of the PS5. Later, I even had the chance to control Phoenix in a glitzy 3D shoot-em-up sequence, a visually stunning experience. However, there is a noticeable difference in scope between these grand battles and the exploration within the game. Whether exploring castles or traversing forests, the level design feels sparse and lacking in personality, akin to the original Nier.
As I’ve experienced only the first few hours of Final Fantasy XVI, it’s important to note that this is just the beginning. I expect the game’s complexity and scale to gradually unfold as the adventure progresses. The combat system, for example, starts off simple but grows more nuanced and engaging as Clive gains new powers and spells. While I still have some reservations about the game’s design and pacing, the potential is evident. Final Fantasy XVI has the opportunity to deliver a captivating fantasy tale, complemented by breathtaking visuals and thrilling combat. I, for one, am eager to embark on this new journey when the game releases on June 22.
Final Fantasy XVI launches on June 22 for PS5.
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